REVIEW: Hedda Gabler, Richmond Theatre, 25.03.2010

Rosamund Pike is as cold as ice as Hedda Gabler in Adrian Nobel’s superb production of Ibsen’s classic play. Ruthlessly manipulative, cowardly and cruel, Pike exquisitely expresses the inner turmoil of a character that craves absolute power over others whilst being helplessly trapped in the domestic sphere and inside her own pregnant body. In spite of her malicious treatment of her hapless and ultimately dull husband Tesman (Robert Glenister) and old school friend Mrs Elvsted (Zoë Waites), the audience is lulled into feeling pity for Hedda. Perhaps Pike could play on Hedda’s vulnerability even more to increase audience empathy making the tragic ending more powerful.

This production is beautifully staged with a functional simplistic set that conveys the luxurious living Tesman struggles to maintain to appease his snobbish wife whilst generating a claustrophobic and oppressive atmosphere that compliments the chill of Pike’s performance. Other than Pike’s gripping and terrifying turn in the title role, it was without a doubt the synergistic cast that made Nobel’s production such compelling viewing. Glenister brought out Tesman’s vulnerability and hopelessness marvellously, while Tim Mcinnerny leering and menacing portrayal of Judge Brack was mesmerising to watch. Equally Zoe Waites representation of Mrs Elvsted made for uncomfortable viewing as her emotional softness and desperation perfectly contrasted with the fiery despair of Lovborg. These well-rounded characters intensified the sense of devastation at the end of the piece where Hedda’s lifeless body is left sprawled across the stage with the lives of her companions in pieces.

Pike’s performance expresses the tragedy of a woman stifled by the ‘angel of the house’ Victorian maternal role she has unwittingly been thrust into. The final terrifying shot of the pistol signifies the only way Hedda feels she can escape from this world. It is without a doubt an incredibly well-executed and ultimately merciless piece of theatre well worth seeing.

Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Katie Meehan

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