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24 September 2014
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February 2003
Hard-hearted Hedda rules the roost
Poor Hedda Gabler had to make do with a brief five-month honeymoon.
Ibsen's manipulating newlywed gets up to her old tricks in a new setting.
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Review by Jenny Enarsson

When Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen wrote Hedda Gabler in 1890, he was already a man of international repute.

His previous plays had caused great controversy and heated debate about the role of women in and outside of the home.

He was fiercely attacked for suggesting in his work that some women might want other things from life than being wives and mothers.

Headstrong Hedda

In this latest production of Hedda Gabler - now finished at Oxford - the story was transposed to London and the time is September 2001.

The audience is invited to spend a weekend with a group of people coming and going in the house that forms the physical backdrop to the plot.

At the centre of things is Hedda, newly married to George.

Just back from their five-month honeymoon, they have barely had time to move into the house when we first make their acquaintance.

Acting vicious

Clearly not at ease with each other, they receive visitor after visitor – all of whom eventually turn out to carry more baggage than meets the eye.

During these two days, the relationships between the characters changes as uncomfortable truths unfold.

The deeply unhappy Hedda is aggressively manipulative and commits the most vicious acts as she plays the others against each other.

It finally becomes clear that all her behaviour stems from her blind desire to be, if only just once, a determining influence in another human being’s destiny.

Whether she ultimately fails or succeeds at this is for the audience to decide.

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