Hedda Gabler, Richmond Theatre, March 2010

If we as humans are motivated by sex, money and power, then Rosamund Pike’s Hedda shows a complete absence of interest in the first two, and her twisted use of power is what produces the final bang in this well-judged production by Adrian Noble. Pike portrays a beautiful, unbalanced, quick-witted but somewhat vacuous young woman, bored after a five month honeymoon, and opposing the attitudes of those around her. Her husband, Tesman is well played by Robert Glenister as a generously enthusiastic academic, apparently oblivious to his wife’s nasty streak, and Tim McInnerny portrays an engagingly Machiavellian Judge Brack, who would use his power to coerce Hedda into a sexual ménage-a-trois for his own pleasure, while Hedda herself cannot use her own power for anything, either useful or self-indulgent. Then we have Colin Tierney’s Loevborg, a brilliant and creative man with an addictive personality, inspiring Hedda to destruction rather than creation as she secretly consigns his masterpiece to the flames.

Hedda’s feminine characteristics are shown to be strikingly opposite to those of the three other women in the play. Anna Carteret is a bustling and sympathetic Auntie Juju, quite different from the lazily cold Hedda. Janet Whiteside is quietly self-effacing as Bertha the maid, where Hedda is an attention seeker, and Zoe Waites is warily friendly as Mrs. Elfsted, whose warm enthusiasm has helped Loevborg to recover from his alcoholism and create a book length manuscript that will stun the intellectual world. Hedda can do nothing to inspire anyone to intellectual creation, and her sadistic suggestion of burning Mrs. Elfsted’s hair off, as she once threatened to do as a schoolgirl, shows how little she has matured in becoming an adult. She is still her father’s daughter, fascinated by guns, and incapable of bearing the child that Aunt Juju intimates she is carrying.

This is a Hedda who can only oppose and destroy what others create, and the whole cast works together perfectly to give Rosamund Pike a role she fills with languid sparkle and cold beauty. The designs by Anthony Ward help create exactly the right atmosphere, and Hedda’s costume reminded me of the glorious silk dresses seen in one or two of Vermeer’s paintings. Congratulations to the wardrobe department, and of course to the way she wore it.

This production continues its tour to the Royal Centre, Nottingham on 22nd – 27th May, the Oxford Playhouse on 29th May – 3rd April, and is later expected to transfer to London’s West End.

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