After a run of Hedda Gablers in houses big and small, it is interesting to take a look at this avant-garde, surrealistic version reimagined for the cinematic stage.
Created and directed by Jen Hayes, this Hedda is accessible and thoughtful, with songs adding to the story of feeling confined and crushed, bothered and betrayed.
David Hoyle (once known as The Divine David) brings his queer style and dynamic stage presence to the Soho Theatre’s stage as both Hedda and Lovborg: in just under an hour, this brings a surreal and mannered performance into a world of digital overlays, projections, and a certain fidelity to the text.
“I am a very difficult person”, says this Hedda, with enough self-awareness to balance her obsession with position, paterfamilias, and past.
We are set in current times, in our century, where Hedda, “an individual, not a type” strikes out without bring shaped by an author. A conversation with Ibsen himself has the leading lady questioning her place, but asserting her right to be heard.
Hedda (after Ibsen) is “set in a Lynchesque inspired world of dream imagery, drama, bespoke sound design, music and chanteuse style singing”. The show is often cinematic, often voyeuristic – a keyhole effect introduces the presence of Judge Brack, who seeks to dominate and crush Hedda’s spirit.
Outside voices, and Hoyle’s playing of dual characters, can be a little difficult to follow, but the inherent selfishness and mysticism of Ibsen’s play is well captured. You may need a basic knowledge of Ibsen’s play, or at least to follow why Hedda is so driven by boredom and her sense of the beauty of sacrifice, but it isn’t essential to enjoy Hayes’s production.
What works here is Hoyle’s depiction of both charisma and obsession, and the original compositions by Tom Parkinson. The bespoke sound design, the filming choices, all add to an unsettling yet rich experience.
You can view Hedda in the Soho Theatre on Demand Film Festival from 4-13 February; it is the first in a series of films available until 13 March, including Mum.
Image credit: Lee Baxter / Sarah Hickson