A Guide to Modern Playwrights, Plays, and Productions
 
 
 
 
Hedda Gabler

Henrik Ibsen, to whom Arthur Miller acknowledges a debt in his Introduction to the Collected Plays, is represented in London by what must the best production of Hedda Gabler in recent memory.  Miller admired Ibsen’s ability to “dramatize what has gone before” to achieve “a viable unveiling of the contrast between past and present” and his “insistence upon valid causation.”  These qualities are admirably present in Richard Eyre’s production.  With Eve best in the title role, Hedda is a woman with no outlet for her emotions, taking refuge from boredom by manipulating others, and lacking the  opportunity or inclination to attain the freedom that eludes her.  As her boundaries close in upon her, realizing that she will be forced to submit to the advances of Judge Brack (Iain Glen), the neighbor she encourages but detests, she takes the only path open to her. As in all Ibsen’s plays, the end is inevitable. 

Miss Best as Hedda is an incarnation of “The Scream,” the most famous of all Norwegian painter Munch’s masterpieces.  Her ability to display the many facets of Hedda is phenomenal : the surface of cool disinterest concealing a boiling frustration within; the malicious jibes at her husband’s beloved Aunt, the envy of golden-haired Thea (Lisa Dillon) who has done what Hedda lacks the courage to do – walk out on the security of her home – and the cruel disdain for her eager-to-please husband, scholarly Tesman (Benedict Cumberbatch), all build up to her destruction of the life and the work of the one man she might have loved.  Not only does Ms. Best act with great economy, every detail adding to her characterization, but also she reacts brilliantly to the actions and dialogue of other members of the excellent ensemble cast,  reactions that reveal much about the character. By the end, we know Hedda better than we know many who are close to us.