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National Theatre Live: Hedda Gabler (2016)

| Drama | 2016 (UK)
Hedda and Tesman have just returned from their honeymoon and the relationship is already in trouble. Trapped but determined, Hedda tries to control those around her, only to see her own world unravel.


Henrik Ibsen, Patrick Marber (adaptation)


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Credited cast:
Kate Duchêne ... Juliana
Chukwudi Iwuji ... Lovborg
Éva Magyar ... Berte
Sinead Matthews ... Mrs. Elvsted
Kyle Soller ... Tesman
Rafe Spall ... Judge Brack
Ruth Wilson ... Hedda Gabler


Hedda and Tesman have just returned from their honeymoon and the relationship is already in trouble. Trapped but determined, Hedda tries to control those around her, only to see her own world unravel.

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Release Date:

2016 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Hedda Gabler See more »

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National Theatre See more »
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Did You Know?


Written by Leonard Cohen
Performed by Jeff Buckley
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User Reviews

Modern day Ibsen
9 June 2019 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Anybody who has not seen or read Henrik Ibsen's 'Hedda Gabler', personally know him best by this and 'Peer Gynt', should do so. It has a compellingly real and emotionally rich story and one of the most interesting (as a character and to sink the teeth into) and difficult female lead roles in theatre. When done well, it does make for an intensely riveting and moving night at the theatre, or cinema in my case.

Have for a few years now gotten a lot of enjoyment going to see the National Theatre Live performances showing at the cinema. The same goes for seeing live streamings of opera and ballet, which have the same effect of feeling the full impact being in the actual auditorium but in reality seeing it for far less money and in a closer location. My thoughts on this production of 'Hedda Gabler' were mixed to mostly positive, which does sound like a good position to be in but part of me was somewhat disappointed considering how brilliant the play is. A lot of things are done right but there are a few misjudgements and touches that miss the point.

Beginning with what didn't work for me, updating it to modern dress has its issues. It's not in that it looks bad as such, thought that although not necessarily attractive it fitted the concept well and is strikingly designed and lit, fitting well with Hedda's state of mind. It's just that to me 'Hedda Gabler', and this is at the risk of sounding like a snob and apologies if it does come over that way, struck me as having a specific time period and setting in a big turning point period for women in this particular part of history and a large part of me didn't really see the point to the updating. Don't get me wrong, am open to things done differently and have seen and been in productions (opera) where there are different settings and interpolated touches. In my mind though, when there is a new touch or a concept rather than traditional it has got to be tasteful and there should be a reason for it.

While not distasteful as such, there are for my liking a few misjudgements that take away from the drama rather than add. Some may like that there are new touches to presumably draw in a bigger audience perhaps but one can see why Ivo van Hove is an acquired taste. He did a brilliant job with 'A View from the Bridge', there was nothing controversial about that production. Do think though that it was a mistake to not make Hedda aristocratic enough and more of a "husband's wife" than a "father's daughter", which kind of misses the point of the character and the title. More of a mistake was making Brack's brutish treatment too over-explicit and the omni-present Berte was initially formidable but then became increasingly confounding.

However, despite these caveats that seem to indicate that the production was terrible, much was done right. It is a beautifully lit production and does have a lot of atmosphere visually. Most of the music did fit and was haunting enough, not every placement worked but most did. Most of the staging is intense and moving as it should be, the ending is still unforgettable, and the character interaction is always believable. It is difficult to ruin Ibsen's dialogue because it is so good, and if there is something that the production does do right and solves a potential problem is making Tesman more interesting somewhat.

Not all the staging works as said above, but enough of it does and it didn't leave me cold at least. The performances are all top drawer, Sinead Matthews makes much of her role and Rafe Spall is suitably brutish. Kyle Soller's impassioned Tesman is hard not to relate to. The main reason to see this 'Hedda Gabler' is the quite mesmerising performance of Ruth Wilson as Hedda herself. She is not taxed at all by the demands the character has and throws herself into the role with abandon to intensely affecting effect.

Summarising, a lot of well done elements, especially Wilson, but some questionable ones too like some distracting staging. 7/10

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