The theatre is like a drug to me, and like any addict, well, I can't say no. But I'll admit: I was unsure about going to see this.
On one hand, it stars Sheridan Smith, whose performance in Flare Path last year made the show for me, and she deservedly won the Olivier for Best Supporting Actress. On the other hand, the response from my theatre group list had been quite lacklustre. It was going to be on a Wednesday night (the only night when I could get tickets close to the stage), and it was directed by Anna Mackmin, who was behind the wheel for the car crash that was The Real Thing.
But it turned out that I am glad that I went. In fact, I am very glad. It was a great play, and more importantly, it was a strong lead part for a woman, and quite frankly (and disgustingly, there are not enough of these around). The last time I saw such a part was in Masterclass, where Tyne Daly was a fantastic Maria Callas. And before that, well, I can’t remember, and I have a good memory and go to the theatre a lot. (Did I also mention that I also have a good memory?)
Indeed, Hedda Gabler has been described by some as one of the few, meaty roles for actresses to get their hands on. The story focuses on the newlywed Hedda and her academic (but limp) husband. She’s the kind of girl who could have had her pick of any of the guys in the room, but instead ends up with the last guy likely to be picked for the Tiddlywinks team. He was the safe port in a storm, but she soon realises that there is no storm. Instead of getting out of a bad situation and creating a scandal, she looks to fill her life with mischief that borders on hurtful and evil. (Idle hands...)
Smith is sublime in the role of Hedda and magnetic to watch, with a supporting cast that were truly supportive – no passengers here. Darren D’Silva was particularly impressive as the Silver Fox / Judge / Swiss Tony-lookalike, and I only hope that I can grow old as disgracefully as him. He also showed that grey hair is not evil but could be… Actually I can’t justify going grey; two grey hairs are enough. At no point did I drift off and wonder if I would have the honey and ginger ice cream at the interval. I was completely captivated throughout, and this was in part to the superb acting and also sharp directing from Mackmin (who is now 50% forgiven for the god awful Real Thing). Over the course of play, there were many thought provoking moments, as well as those that were quite funny.
If I had a criticism, it would be that more could have been done with the sound design. This was a production that had enough menace if you were close to the stage and could see Smith’s face clearly, but could have been enhanced with more use of music to convey Smith’s mood to those further back. A minor negative against what is truly a good show.
The view of my theatre group was that it was fantastic, with some insinuating that it was on par with a certain Mark Rylance play. It's solid theatre. Go and see this.
Second Degree paid for his own ticket.