This article is from 2006.
After a six-month honeymoon, spoilt and cruel Hedda Tesman (née Gabler) returns to her new, stifling family home. Her oblivious husband sets about ensuring all the necessary bourgeois trappings are in place, unaware that his new wife can’t bear his presence " let alone his touch.
When a professional rival, with whom Hedda has a ‘history’, appears, our bored and frustrated anti-heroine glimpses the excitement she’s missing. His suggestion of both romantic and intellectual authenticity illuminates the aridity of the Tesman household even further. In an electrifying clash of narcissists, she competes with the predatory, Mephistophelean Dr Brack in a poisonous game of manipulation and deception that leaves two people dead.
The Open Secret theatre company have brought Hedda Gabler so vividly to life that the production escapes the cramped and chintzy staging just as Hedda attempts to escape the dulling convention of her sexless marriage.
As Hedda, Josie Walker’s black-clad iceberg freezes all who come near with her seething bitterness. And Ben Caplan’s Tesman cleverly leaves us guessing whether he has also lost his love for his new wife.
Philip Bosworth is a suitably Byronic Eilert Lovborg (Tesman’s genius rival) and Lucinda Cowden (remember Melanie Pearson from Neighbours?) beautifully captures Thea Elvsted, his insipid muse.
But the production pivots, as it must, on one fascinating, subtle performance. Walker’s Hedda is truly mesmerising. Her brittle strength and self-obsession, cruelty and arrogance are all delivered with such quiet truth that the front two rows might suffer frostbite. (Paul Spratley)
Hill Street Theatre, 226 5322, 25 & 27 Aug, 7pm, £10 (£7).