There’s quite a bit of attention to detail in the Brian Friel’s version of Hedda Gabler, directed by Anna Mackmin. Lez Brotherston’s beautiful grey drawing-room gives off an impression of grim decadence and the feeling is rather cinematic. Although from an utterly different era, the atmosphere is not unlike Elia Kazan’s film version of ‘A Streetcar named Desire’.
As the focal point, actress Justine Mitchell plays the role of Hedda, a 19th century frustrated housewife who through boredom wishes to manipulate and destroy the lives of those around her. In an effort to appear cool and calculating the character suffers from being slightly one-dimensional. For me she’s actually not really cruel enough. If she were, you would feel something towards her, namely contempt or satisfaction at her ultimate demise. But in the end, which is rather dramatic, you end up feeling apathetic towards her. She’s not quite the larger than life character she is supposed to be.
She is manipulative but she could have been so much crueler. Her idiotic and naïve husband George, played here brilliantly by Peter Hanly, is, on the surface at least, so trusting and loving that he could have been twisted into all sorts of shapes. Instead he is allowed to come and go; and although he is in the play quite a lot, it is only really for comic effect, which at times-although always funny-runs on a bit too long.
John Light as Eilert Loevborg, the focus of many ladies attention, doesn’t do much to demonstrate the reasons for their amorous consideration. And in many respects it is a pity that the sexual tension between Hedda and the Lawyer Brack, although at times somewhat adolescent, wasn’t developed more.
Andrea Irvine as Thea Elvsted is really the stand out performer here. This is in no small part down to her own talent and skill as an actress; but the fact that her character is the most complex of all the characters allows Irvine to play her part with greater depth.
The Gate is a wonderful space. This play is a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend two and a half hours and well worth going to. It just suffers from having too many characters whose complexities aren’t developed enough.