Legally Blonde's Sheridan Smith stars in the Old Vic's production of HEDDA GABLER by Henrik Ibsen, in a version by Brian Friel directed by Anna Mackmin. The production opened on 12 September for a run until the 10th of Novemeber.
Ibsen’s brilliant masterpiece on the conflict of the requirements of society and those of the individual explores the corrosive descent of Hedda Gabler into the treacherous void between expectation and reality. The general’s daughter has married the respectable academic Tesman - a husband she despises as mediocre – and now, driven by fear and loathing, Hedda’s despair goads her independent spirit to a rage expressed in the wilful contamination of life around her which eventually leads to disaster for her and all those beguiled by her.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Michael Billington, Guardian: Even Smith's admirable performance is affected by the idea of a psychological double-Hedda in that, in the first half, her affable social mask only slips in rare moments of total solitude. But her performance grows in power and what she shows, as Hedda finds herself increasingly trapped by Judge Brack's sexual blackmail and the drab realities of provincial life, is the character's entrapment and isolation. What Smith's fine performance shows is a woman slipping into total despair as her options narrow.
Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph: Anna Mackmin's staging is particularly good at creating an atmosphere of nervous unease. The action is at times accompanied with an ominous movie-like sound score, and Lez Brotherston's design of Hedas's luxurious new home, with its glass walls and billowing curtains, is also highly atmospheric.
Quentin Letts, Daily Mail: Anna Mackmin’s production has a sumptuous Lez Brotherston design. The Tesmans’ house has a central, glassed-off area which makes it feel beautifully summery. In fact it is September, a time when Scandinavian thoughts turn to melancholy.
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: She is simply thrilling in Ibsen’s portrait of a woman who rebels against a numb and rigid world. Hedda Gabler is often described as having the complexity and power of Hamlet: while that’s an overstatement, the part poses challenges to which Smith rises with assurance and considerable subtlety.
Michael Coveney, Whatsonstage: There’s a swing and facility to the script that might go better with the Irish inflections, but many of the great passages sound new-minted, and there’s a glorious elaboration of Tesman’s paean of praise to his own slippers that prefigures the burst of excitement with which he greets the discovery of the notes for Loevberg’s lost masterpiece.
Dominic Maxwell, The Times: Anna Mackmin’s superb production has fun - yes, fun - with a translation by Brian Friel that clarifies some motives and brings out the humour of a house full of people occupying their own private universes. Scarborough is boobyish, but never just a joke. Darrell D’Silva gives a witty swagger to Judge Brack, cheerily firing off new American slang before, finally, laying claim to Hedda with no hint of humour.