Hedda Gabler @ National Theatre live- Review

So this review sort of has two parts, I want to talk about the play itself and the way that I saw it.

The play itself:  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I am very very familiar with Ibsen’s works having studied a good few during my A-levels and I was fortunate enough to see Hedda Gabler live a few years ago when Sheridan Smith was leading lady. The two adaptations of the play differed greatly, one sticking to Ibsen’s naturalistic roots in a classical interpretation of the play and the other pulling the play into the modern era and applying its message to feminist themes and social issues of the day.

The new version of the play brought to us by Patrick Marber and directed by Ivo Van Hove takes a modern look at themes of entrapment and social suffocation. Ruth Wilson gave a creative and unique portrayal of the title character and was not afraid to embrace that not all great roles should be likeable characters. Her acting was honest and sincere, underplayed in places but purposefully. While there were creative liberties taken that I felt detracted from some of the beauty of the original script, you cannot deny that the play was moving and thought provoking.

Staging and costume were appropriately minimalistic, there were, however, details to props and set design that was an affectionate nod to Ibsen’s original naturalistic style. One of my favourite elements of the play was the director’s decision to have Hedda present on stage at all times, a trapped housewife, while the play progresses over days, others come and go her constant visibility to the audience presented the themes of the play in a subtle yet effective manner.

Overall the play was excellent, while I can be a purist when it comes to the adaptation of classic works, there was reason and intent behind every detail from Marber and Van Hove and each of these details worked to motivate the social messages presented in the play.

The way I watched it: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

So forgive me if I am late to the game with this, but this was my first experience of going to see live theatre in my local cinema. I love the play Hedda Gabler but failed to get tickets when I was home in London. To my good fortune, it was showing in my local cinema for one night. I absolutely love that this is an up and coming trend with theatre. Moving to Dublin one of the things I miss most is not being two trains away from the West End anymore. While going to watch theatre in your local Omiplex isn’t quite the same as popping to the half price ticket booth to look for cheap tickets, it makes theatre accessible to a far wider community of people and at a much more affordable price.

My ticket was €17.50, so a heck of a lot cheaper than going to see a play in the West End, a bit pricier than your standard cinema visit but still excellent value. Now it wasn’t quite as exciting as going up to London to a show, but I could go in my comfy clothes, eat popcorn and was home 20minutes after the bows so I really can’t complain.

A couple little things I didn’t love, the camera angles were very directive, following people around the room and offering close-up, while this gave a nice view of the face acting, you lost some of the atmosphere of the staging, you miss reactions of other actors and it felt a little led at points. For watching theatre I would much rather the camera have been stationary with a full view of the stage, allowing me to watch not just the acting but also the reacting of the cast. Additionally, when I booked the ticket I was under the impression that it was going to be live streamed from the performance that night, instead, it was prerecorded with what was quite obviously a paid audience, laughing and clapping in all the right moments. While this is perfectly adequate, I think it detracted from the atmosphere in the cinema, if you are going for the feel of the theatre, I want it to feel like I’m at the theatre.

Overall, I think this new National Live is an excellent idea that makes great theatre available to a far larger market. I am a great believer that we should all be soaking up as much theatre as we can, so I love that this is making theatre possible for people it wouldn’t have been for before. It is a little pricey still so I will have to be a little picky with what I go and see, but it won’t be my last trip I know.


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