This week, the National Theatre’s critically acclaimed new version of Henrik Ibsen’s play Hedda Gabler arrives at Milton Keynes Theatre on its current tour.
Patrick Marber’s stripped-back reinterpretation of the play which was originally penned in 1890 is set in a sparsely furnished apartment where Hedda and her new husband Tesman have just returned from their honeymoon, but she longs to be free. As the true relationships between the characters are revealed, the order gradually unravels.
This is a thought provoking and intelligent play about a young woman who feels trapped by her new life and relationship. She channels this marital discontent into a spiral of manipulative distruction for her own entertainment. There is a sense of confinement as everything takes place in the same bare room and the scenes are broken up by contemporary music such as songs by Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
In the title role, Lizzy Watts is completely convincing as the anti-hero Hedda. She is joined by a strong cast of Abhin Galeya as her academic husband Tesman and Richard Pyros who plays the writer Lovborg. Completing the cast are Christine Kavanagh as Tesman’s aunt Juliana. Annabel Bates who plays Hedda’s friend Thea, Adam Best as Judge Brack and .Madlena Nedeva as the housekeeper Berte,
There were some jumpy moments when a gun was waved around by one of the characters on stage which had me almost hiding in the lap of the stranger sitting next to me to stay out of the firing line but most of the audience seemed to be less fearful than me.
The theatre certainly wasn’t as busy as it has been for some of the recent jukebox musical shows. Perhaps audiences have been put off by thinking this is a ‘high brow’ play, but this is a genuinely engrossing and entertaining production with some fantastic performances and creative staging which I would recommend to anyone.
Hedda Gabler is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 3rd March 2018.