A bare table and chairs sit in front of large, tarnished mirror panels which reflect and distort the action on-stage. Insistent drums, synthesized squeals and discordant piano announce the entrance of the cast, as maids prepare for the arrival of Jørgen Tesman and his recent bride, Hedda Gabler.
Ed Gaughan gives a wonderful performance as Tesman, the shambling, earnest academic who yearns to satisfy his demanding wife but whose mind is focused firmly on Dutch cottage industries. Victoria Elliott is also strong as Hedda, strutting around in a dressing gown as if at a ball, manipulating her companions as a means of escape from the tedium of married life.
Electric drones and red lights signal the start of ‘rage reveries’ in which Hedda vents her frustration at those around her: Donald McBride’s scheming Judge Brack, Rachel Denning’s nervous Thea Elvsted, the oblivious Tesman and his tiresome devotion to his ageing aunts. It is the return of Tesman’s reformed rival Eilert Lövborg (Scott Turnbull) to the town which gives Hedda her chance: in a world where women are refused control, she plots to take charge of Eilert’s destiny. Equating destruction with the beauty she seeks, she perpetuates his undoing and casts his manuscript into the fire.
Unfortunately, the production comes to a disappointing end when Hedda rises from the dead to heckle the rest of the company, tearing off her corset to reveal the slogan ‘Knowledge is power’. The abrupt ending of Ibsen’s play, where Brack, Tesman and Thea are left in total confusion at Hedda’s brutal suicide, is much more subversive: like Iago, she will never speak a word from that time forth. Neither logic nor insanity can explain her actions.
Hedda Gabbler runs until Wednesday 8th March. Tickets are available here.