Hedda Gabler @ Greenwich Playhouse, London

cast list
Alice de Sousa
William Ludwig
Brooke Hender
Christopher Raikes
Jane Stanton
Vicki Welles
Doris Zajer

directed by
Bruce Jamieson

The Greenwich Playhouse continues its love-affair with Ibsen with a reprise of Hedda Gabler, which enjoyed considerable success when it was staged here in 2001.

Producer Alice de Sousa resumes the title role, and again under the direction of Bruce Jamieson. Theirs is a long-standing relationship, responsible for a number of memorable evenings. The most recent of these Sttau Monteiro’s Thankfully There Is Moonlight! left an indelible impression on me. In terms of scale, that production exceeded its mandate, bursting through the constraints of its cosy host. Ironically enough, given the title, I walked out of the theatre into a lunar eclipse. It all seemed rather profound, the paint bleeding off the canvas and onto the street, the burnt sienna of dried blood.

But that’s an awful lot to live up to, and awful lot to expect; sadly Hedda doesn’t quite manage it. It’s a robust play and commands the interest, but it lacks a real pulse.

There are moments that quicken the blood de Sousa is certainly in touch with her character’s sinister side but the pressure too quickly subsides, and there’s often a long wait. There’s more ebb than flow.

This is all the more unfortunate when one considers that the original run was applauded for its lack of restraint, its exuberant passion and tension. Things seem to have receded, the lid of the theatre presses down.

But then this is a play about extinguishment, the suffocation of a wild extrovert amongst musty furniture and musty values. Galleon have done this well, the set functional in scope but atmospheric. Robert Gooch and Lucy Minyo have conspired to sculpt shadows.

Their efforts are offset somewhat by the choice of music, which compensates too vociferously for that otherwise lacking on stage. Grave, sweeping and elemental, it injects rather than reflects gravity.

Not that the cast fail to give a good account of themselves, or of their characters. This is an engaging work by a playwright of stature, delivered straight. But being a second crack of the whip, a lap of honour, perhaps the text could have been approached more obliquely? Perhaps there’s a touch of complacency here, of over-familiarity with a dear old friend. Fondness presides, platonic love is palpable, but no passion.

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