'A remarkable performance' in a challenging play which belies its age
- Credit: Pavel Gonevski
Hedda Gabler is without doubt one of the greatest dramatic roles for women ever written.
And now local audiences have a chance to see the play on their own doorstep as acclaimed theatre group OVO tackle the Ibsen masterpiece at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans.
And if you have any reservations about watching such a classic play 130 years after it was written, put them to one side.
For this is a stimulating and compelling production directed imaginatively by Janet Podd and with a first-rate cast.
Opting for the Richard Eyre version of the play, Janet choses to set the production at the time it was written, all swishing gowns, contrived bonnets and a chaise longue.
But it has an engaging modernity about it, particularly in the first half as the characters make themselves known.
The second half, as anyone who knows the synopsis of the play will recall, is far darker and the contrast between the two could not be more pronounced.
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Faith Turner as Hedda is almost skittish when we first meet her. Clearly bored with married life already, she is both a flirt and a bully.
Her coquettish manner hides the frustration of a women trapped by the mores of her time, not just in marriage but also through her upbringing and the expectations of society.
Faith gives a remarkable performance in the role of Hedda, determined to control all the other characters however she deems it necessary.
She is unafraid to manipulate everyone from her academic husband George to the bohemian writer Eijert and conventional Aunt Ju Ju.
Her facial expressions and body movements convey almost as much intensity as her words, particularly as she torments Eijert’s lover Thea, a woman whom she despises yet envies.
Lyle Fulton brings a beguiling naivete to the role of Hedda’s husband George. Infatuated with his wife, he is almost kittenish around her but still manages to demonstrate the superior role of the husband in society at the time.
Marc Ozall carries off the role of the upright but devious Judge Brack with aplomb in contrast to Diljohn Singh’s much more unconventional Eijert.
And Jane Withers’ blonde Thea, juxtaposed with Faith’s dark-haired Hedda, brings out every aspect of light and shade in the relationship between the two women.
OVO are never afraid to tackle classic plays like Hedda Gabler and when they’re good, they’re very good. This is very good indeed.
Performances can be seen until November 27 and for further details and to book, go to www.ovo.org.uk