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Hedda Gabler


The Maltings Theatre


Hedda Gabler

The Maltings Theatre

Reviewed – 16th November 2021



“The direction of the ensemble is excellent with characters naturally filling and moving in the space”


OVO presents Ibsen’s classic tragedy from 1890 in a version by Richard Eyre.

The onstage action throughout all four acts takes place in the same set – the living room of Tesman’s house (Set Design by Simon Nicholas). Minimal furniture – a table, chairs, chaise longue, all rather unassuming, is enough to set the scene and the period. A backlit gauze at the rear of the stage allows us to see into the back room of the house and provides the opportunity for some effective and dramatic projection, not overdone. (Lighting Design by Matt Dugee). With the audience sitting closely on three sides, we are brought as witnesses into the heart of the domestic drama.

Before the start of Act One, we get a first glimpse of Hedda as she rises from bed and looks around her new home. It is clear she disdains all she sees except for a white piano which is at odds with the remainder of the dark furniture. A soundtrack of piano music here and in preludes between the Acts (Composer David Podd) foreshadows what is to come. A similar entr’acte at the start of Act Three is enacted by Thea – a near balletic scene, again showing prophetic movements.

The direction (Director Janet Podd) of the ensemble is excellent with characters naturally filling and moving in the space, never looking harried or hurried. All characters have their strengths and the fluency and pacing of the production will improve with further performances.

Hedda’s husband of six months, George Tesman (Lyle Fulton) with a near-permanent inane grin fumbles and bumbles about and is closer to buffoon than university professor. His nemesis Eijert Løborg (Diljohn Singh) is played in a gentle sweet manner. His final words to Hedda as he uses her maiden name of Gabler rather than Tesman is a rare moment of poignancy. Judge Brack (Marc Ozall), his hair black and brilliantined, is stiff and imperious, a dangerous sort to play with. I would have liked to see his deviousness more overtly from the start, but Hedda must be bored in her marriage indeed if she is willing to entertain notions of “forming a triangle” with this tedious man. Thea Elvsted (Jane Withers) is broken and bowed, close to tears and, with one exception, movingly sotto voce throughout.

The production revolves, as it should, around the moods of Hedda, and Faith Turner is superb: disdainful, condescending, enigmatic and cruel. Hedda wants to play all the men she meets and yet she says she cannot condone infidelity. Neither, it seems, can she abide her husband’s touch. The disastrous touchpaper is lit as soon as Hedda admits, “For once, I want to control a man’s fate.”

Janet Podd writes in her programme note that Hedda has been brought up by her father in boyish ways, learning to ride and shoot, and to be in control of her own destiny. As a woman she is deprived of this until the final moment when she opts to take it back. At the end of Act One, when Ibsen allows his main character to play with a pair of pistols, it is a fair sign that things are not going to end well.



Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Pavel Gonevski


Hedda Gabler

The Maltings Theatre until 27th November


Also reviewed this year at this venue:


Vinegar Tom | ★★★ | October 2021


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Twelfth Night

Rose Playhouse

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night

The Rose Playhouse

Reviewed – 24th April 2019



“Energetic music and some incredibly talented actor-musicians stop this production sinking”


“And we’ll strive to please you every day,” sings Feste in the closing scene of Shakespeare’s gender-swapping comedy of errors, and it’s certainly a maxim adhered to by OVO and director Adam Nichols in this entertaining production of ‘Twelfth Night’. A 1920s nautical setting relocates the play to the ‘SS Illyria’, where washed up music hall stars and famous actresses bump uglies and drink cocktails. Energetic music and some incredibly talented actor-musicians stop this production sinking, but it never quite sails along as smoothly as you would hope.

Viola (Lucy Crick) arrives on board having lost her twin brother Sebastian (Joshua Newman), so she of course dresses up as a man to enter the service of lovelorn Orsino (Will Forester), captain of the ship. Rather than wooing Olivia (Emma Watson – no, not that one) on Orsino’s behalf, Viola, now Cesario, becomes the object of Olivia’s affection, just as Viola realises she’s in love with Orsino. Cue mayhem. Alongside the main plot, the antics of Sir Toby Belch (Anna Franklin) play out in admirably foolish fashion.

Personally, I could watch ‘Twelfth Night’ all day long. It’s a cracking comedy that becomes richer for every watch. Director Nichols has vamped up the fun factor, replacing the original tunes for 1920s-style remixes of pop classics. Music is obviously key here, with each actor dexterously picking up different instruments throughout the night, and there are a couple of amazing singers in this cast, most notably Hannah Francis-Baker. However, the comedy value of hearing characters like Viola singing the likes of ‘Oops I Did It Again’ grows old quickly, and the singers need to own their songs more to convince us they are worth hearing.

The ship-based setting is also confused and underused. Forcing all these characters into a small, confined space could lead to some amusing quick-paced comedy capering, but in the end it just distracts from the storytelling. Decent cuts and some nice wiggling around of scenes keeps things short and snappy, but I did miss Antonio and Sebastian’s presence, and a cruel twist on the ending leaves Malvolia (Faith Turner) singing ‘Creep’ looking very forlorn in her yellow stockings.

Taken altogether, this is a fun and frothy take on Shakespeare’s comedy that certainly entertained this audience. Some unsteady songs and shaky acting almost take this production of course, but it picks up a pace and energy halfway through that means it makes it to dock safe and sound.


Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Lou Morris



Twelfth Night

The Rose Playhouse until 5th May


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Macbeth | ★★½ | February 2018
Love’s Labour’s Lost | ★★½ | March 2018
Will or Eight Lost Years of Young William Shakespeare’s Life | ★★★★ | March 2018


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