Patrick Marber's Hedda Gabler is slick and streamlined (3 stars)

Patrick Marber's Hedda Gabler is slick and streamlined

credit: Hugo Glendinning

A chilling if uneven adaptation of the classic Ibsen play

Patrick Marber's modern adaptation of Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen's 1890 morality play is as slick and streamlined as the minimalist setting. Sex and power are parlour games, when Hedda (an impressive, capricious Lizzy Watts) tiring of life as a newlywed to dull but dependable Tesman (Abhin Galeya), draws out the poison of all around her.

There's noirish direction from Ivo von Hove, as her husband Tesman condescends to Hedda, lover Lovborg (Richard Pyros) engages in a battle of wills with her, and the dangerous, sexually predatory Brack (Adam Best) seeks to destroy her completely.

Props become symbols of thwarted ambition and dying romance – flowers are tacked to walls and a large piano which dominates the set has notes artlessly thumped out.

Yet Hedda, spoilt, spiteful and wilfully perverse, is rendered as a sympathetic, somewhat pathetic figure, even when first psychologically, then physically, bullying her 'friend' Mrs Elvstead (a not entirely consistent Annabel Bates). Gradually, van Hove teases out the tragedy of Hedda, a woman longing for life, romance and agency who is trapped by a society that has already mapped out her fate in a domestic prison.

By bringing into sharp focus the cycle of abuse, Marber's script and van Hove's production is timely and affecting, even if there are oddly discordant dramaturgical touches that veer from the naturalism of the characterisation and a more ritualistic, tragic grandeur.

Theatre Royal Glasgow, Mon 15–Sat 20 Jan.

Hedda Gabler

  • Directed by: Ivo van Hove
  • Written by: Henrik Ibsen, Patrick Marber (adapt)

Ivo van Hove directs Henrik Ibsen's portrait of a marriage in crisis.

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