Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Fire, flowers & firearms in indulgent production.

At the Sherman

Sherman Theatre- Hedda Gabler , Sherman Theatre , October 23, 2019
At the Sherman by Sherman Theatre- Hedda Gabler The Sherman continue their apparent renowned reputation with another bold take on a Scandinavian classic, Hedda Gabler. This new version by Brian Friel might not always be as compelling as it should be, yet it does help break down the play for new audiences.

Chelsea Walker’s staging is sparse, adding to the bleak themes the play dwells in. There is plastic furniture, heaps of vases filled with flowers and an upright piano, as a giant cage looms overhead. The play opens with Hedda playing said piano, in good need of tuning by any one’s standards. Hedda is an absurdly conflicting character, fraught with angsty vitality and a resounding disregard for others. She remains the character we love to hate and this play makes her the focal point of the plot, though you need to relish the misery within in order to take all this on board. Of course, this is in the usual vein of the dreary Norwegian drama, well known by todays standards.

There are fine performances here, though some work better then others. As the maid Bertha, Caroline Berry had projection problems, perhaps a statement more on the role of the character. Richard Mylan is terribly miscast as Judge Brack, evoking Carry On, with some of the lines not working well with his delivery. Thea Elvsted is here performed by Alexandria Riley, often fine footed in the roles she takes. Here, she gets some intense moments after the intermission, trying to pick up the pieces of her life and work with Eilert Loevborg. Here Eilert is tackled by Jay Saighal, a fine take on the part, filled with a miserable, academic persona leading to a pitiful end. I loath the glorifying of suicide in this play, “Make it look romantic” Hedda tells Eilert, so she can further her twisted, nasty plans.

Nia Roberts is decent as Juliana Tasman, the aunt who at times tries to keep everything together. It’s not the most sensational part to play, but Roberts does what she can with the material. Marc Antolin channels a lot of boyish bravado as George Tesman. The role is supposed to be annoying, quite funny in parts, but really he just sums up the ball and chain that he is for his wife Hedda. Heledd Gwynn feels perfect for the Hedda Gabler (even her name looks like a Welsh translation of the character). There is much ice and fury within and she often owns the stage.

Even with the good acting, there is something which does not add up in the show. The tacky remixes of Caravan Palace in the party scenes add to this uncertainty. Perhaps a more intimate venue or a less showy set might work in the show’s favour.

See if you fancy wallowing in the morbidness.

Hedda Gabler continues at there Sherman Theatre till 2nd November 2019.

Rating: 3 stars

Photo Credit: Mark Douet

Reviewed by: James Ellis

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