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05 November 2012


Hedda Gabler
Old Vic Production
The Old Vic, London
Monday 5th November 2012

A far cry from the last production in which I saw Sheridan Smith - Legally Blonde at the Savoy - Ibsen's iconic creation, a role described as the "female Hamlet", is the latest character explored by this exceptionally versatile actress.  Captivating from her first entrance, she enthrals throughout.  Shades of different character traits - a feminist, a victim of circumstance, an idealist - but overall she is a manipulative villain, set against the world, hungry for a power she can control.  Her acts are that of a madwoman, but she never portrays madness - only a dedication to a personal motive driven by her frustration - responsible for her actions, never irrational.  Complex and fascinating, Hedda is played with intelligence and a keen understanding. 

Adrian Scarborough is never upstaged however, in a wonderfully buffoonish characterisation of the soft academic husband Tesman.  Soft and weak, it is immediately clear how a headstrong young woman would become bored in such a marriage.  A sprightly and joyful performance. 

With a strong supporting cast including Anne Reid and Fenella Woolgar, the production is slick, and powerful, with a drama building throughout to a climactic final scene.

An exciting and enthralling piece of theatre, made unforgettable by Smith's stunning performance.

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