Directed by Ivo van Hove
Starring the phenomenal Ruth Wilson, Ivo van Hove's adaption of Ibsen's classic play, Hedda Gabler, is modern, atmospheric, intense, and refreshing. It's a fierce look at a modern woman in a man's world.
The Hedda of van Hove's production speaks to a generation of pro-feminist women trying to find their place in this patriarchal world. What makes Hedda stand out in a sea of failed female characters is her lack of femininity. She's perfectly matched with her male counterparts, holding strong and powerful against the men surrounding her. Like a warrior, she uses her femininity as a weapon, but never as a crutch. Hedda is a terrorist, she's a fighter, she's a prisoner, a confidant, a bomb. She's the beautifully complicated and robust female heroin desperately needed in this male-driven world.
Ruth Wilson effortlessly brings to life every dimension of Hedda's spirit, making the character full of even more fire. Wilson is able to find a sadness and vulnerability in Hedda, that helps to bring humility to this intense character. But she is also able to spit fire and invoke range in Hedda's most horrible moments. Wilson's stunning performance allows you to sympathize with a character, who on paper, you ought to hate. She makes you feel every emotion towards Hedda and her situation throughout her marathon performance.
Rafe Spall also gives a standout performance as the alpha-male predator Judge Brack. His charming and good-looking exterior is the perfect juxtaposition to his controlling and passive personality.
Ivo van Hove triumphs brilliantly with this production. Known for his bold and masterful adaptations, van Hove proves yet again that his unique vision and creative execution is the perfect combination for creating impactful, and lasting, theater. His vision of Hedda's world is chilling and isolating. With the use of all the stage conventions, he creates a brooding and claustrophobic atmosphere that stays with the audience long after the curtain has fallen. The simplistic set- bare, bleached walls filled with mismatched furniture- closes off the stage leaving us and Hedda prisoners of this bland purgatory. Jan Versweyveld's extraordinary lighting floods the stage, making it seem like the characters are trapped in a hazy version of their own lives.
But what continues to be the defining brilliance of van Hove's direction of all his plays is his precise and beautiful staging. Every movement, every action, and every moment has a purpose on van Hove's stage. Not one action is forgotten in van Hove's mind. He is the master of creating tension and drama without the actors ever having to say a word. The final thirty minutes of the play are so intense and powerful, I found myself holding my breath, not wanting to even breath in case it broke the perfectly executed tension.
Van Hove's brilliantly haunting adaptation of Hedda Gabler is one of my favorite productions of all time. This forceful and passionate production, performed in a time of crisis, speaks to the power a woman can have in destroying the patriarchy. Between Wilson's powerhouse performance and van Hove's masterful directing, this production will stay with you long after it's over.
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