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A CurtainUp London Review
Set in modern day West London, the characters wear skinny jeans, there is one scene in a nightclub and Eli's precious manuscript is consigned to a memory stick. Unfortunately, this is really the extent of this rather superficial adaptation, and Hedda is more a modern dress production than a contemporary reincarnation of Ibsen's drama.
The original's themes are not engaged with in any more depth, nor its implications translated into a newly relevant scenario. Hedda (Cara Horgan) is the kept daughter and then wife of an Oxford academic, so her situation can hardly be called the common lot of the modern day female, nor is it even particularly specific to the twenty-first century. By removing the strict pre-feminist society of nineteenth-century Scandinavia where women were actually imprisoned by social mores into unhappy marriages and pecuniary dependence, the sympathy of Hedda's plight, as well as her sheer powerlessness, is severely undermined.
Cara Horgan plays Hedda as irritable and caustic, only sympathetic to others in falsity when pursuing a selfish agenda. Although there is no substitute for the rigid restraints of the original's social setting to explain Hedda's feelings of entrapment, Cara Horgan's Hedda is still interesting to watch, in all her magnetic destructiveness and physical brittleness.
Tom Mison is the genial if geeky George Tesman, who lounges around in cardigan fashion disasters and works on the scintillating masterpiece Robotic Ants and the Mapping of Consciousness. Adrian Bower plays the darkly captivating Eli Longford as a rough, loose cannon of a genius and Alice Patten is the fragile, flap-prone Thea. Updating the character of Judge Brack, is Christopher Obi's cool solicitor Toby who is both sleek and formidable.
In addition to a convincing cast, the dialogue itself is naturalistic and speakable, with only rare moments of the mundane and the stilted creeping through. Moreover Carrie Cracknell's energised direction and a beautifully dilapidated set of the Tesmans' crumbling basement flat (designed by Holly Waddington), means that the evening is an engaging, if ultimately somewhat frustrating one. Watchable and fairly involving, the execution of this production is expert, so it is a shame that the adaptation does not grapple with Ibsen's text in a more exciting or intelligent way.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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