Edinburgh’s Lyceum is a beautiful Victorian theatre, and a delightful place to visit in its own right; it’s hard to imagine anyone could be unimpressed by the perfectly preserved intricacies of its decor; the sumptuous blues, golds and reds, redolent of old-fashioned luxury. It’s lovely.
If this, along with the choice of an Ibsen piece, suggests a staid, old-fashioned production, then nothing could be further from the truth. This version of Hedda Gabler (adapted by Richard Eyre and directed by Amanda Gaughan) is vivacious and sprightly; as fast and funny as it is heartbreaking and tragic. Nicola Daley, as Hedda, is never less than utterly engaging; she clearly revels in the role, and captures perfectly the awful attractiveness of Hedda’s reckless malevolence. By the end, we feel sorry for Hedda, but we never lose sight of how dangerous she is.
The supporting cast is strong too: I love Sally Edwards’ Aunt Juju – a real Miss Bates of a character – as irritating and vapid as she is charming and kind; Benny Young, as Judge Brack, oozes sly debauchery concealed beneath a layer of respectability so thin that only Juju is taken in. Jade Williams convinces as the outwardly naive – but ultimately hard-headed – Thea, and Jack Tarlton’s swaggering energy makes Loevborg’s wild dissolution a physical, menacing thing.
The set is marvellous too: the light, fresh, open design makes for a queasy juxtaposition with the suffocation Hedda feels in her home, her marriage, her social class. It underscores the point for us that poor George will never be able to give her what she needs; no open window will ever offer enough air.
I loved this play. I can’t fault it. I’m still thinking about the characters twenty-four hours later, contemplating their behaviours and their fates. A fabulous piece of theatre.