Review: Hedda Tesman, Minerva Theatre, Chichester - does an older, contemporary Hedda work?
There is always a danger when you transport classic plays to a contemporary setting that the difference in society's attitude destroys the tension of the original.
Ibsen's original Hedda Gabler is a young woman, newly married who sees no future, trapped into a life in which she sees little purpose.
Cordelia Lynn's modern take - entitled Hedda Tesman - follows the basic plot of Ibsen's but Hedda is now an older woman with a grown-up daughter living in contemporary England.
Hadyn Gwynne plays Hedda as a woman bitter and twisted by resentment and regret at the promising career she gave up to have a child.
Resentment and failure
Her husband George (Antony Calf) lacks creative flair in his work which adds to Hedda's resentment and her daughter's estrangement is a reminder of her failure as a mother.
We only get snippets of detail about Hedda's parenting but they don't paint a flattering picture.
She is a complex character seeking attention but pushing it away when she gets it, antagonistic, destructive and manipulative out of boredom and resentment.
Problems with Hedda
There are several key problems with this Hedda.
In a contemporary context, she has far more options open to her, she isn't stuck as a housewife like the younger Hedda of the original.
Why hasn't she picked up her career again?
She is pretty unlikeable and it does make you wonder why everyone has put up with her for quite so long. Only her daughter seems to dislike her, everyone else seems in her enthral.
And, as an older woman with more experience, maturity and freedom, I wasn't wholly convinced she would fall into her friend Brack's lecherous trap.
The last Hedda I saw was Ruth Wilson, directed by Ivo Van Hove who turned it into a noirish thriller (link to review below). I gave it five stars.
This version, while very well acted just didn't work for me. Hedda is so toxic with little to redeem her I wanted to spend more time with the other characters.
I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️. It's at Chichester's Minerva Theatre until September 28 and it is two hours and 30 minutes including an interval.
You might also like to read:
Fringe review: Black Chiffon, Park Theatre - emotional disturbances and family drama ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (until 12 Oct).
Interview: Director Harry Mackrill on his new play, working on Angels in America and his dream cast.
From the archive: Ivo Van Hove's noirish Hedda at the National Theatre starring Ruth Wilson (which was rather good).