I went to see this adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler at Birmingham’s Old Rep Theatre this week, and knowing it had been set locally my main intention was to see how well the Norwegian’s play would translate to 1960s Birmingham.
The answer to my question was very well. The 60s setting gave a very Mad Men feel to the whole thing. Lots of pouring scotch and sherry, lots of smoking cigarettes, amid funky 60s costume and furniture. The Birmingham in-jokes helped to ground the piece and overall the adaptation was a great success.
The overall themes of power and control and their changing of hands as the story progressed were still well in situ so the essence of the play was truly visible. Undeniably Elisabeth Hopper as Heather stole the show, bringing the right amount of seduction and bitchiness to the role. As a protagonist Heather is captivating as her downfall unfolds slowly and to the seeming obliviousness of those around her.
Robin French’s adaptation began strongly and ended suddenly, in just the same manner, taking full advantage of foreshadowing, symbolism and irresistible self-destruction in more than one character. When I come away from watching an adaptation wanting to re-visit the original I consider it a success.
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