Jeff James returns to the Rose with another fantastic re-telling of a classic- ‘Shooting Hedda Gabler’ which explores the classic story in a very twisted and modern setting, written and adapted by Nina Segal. Antonia Thomas as Hedda is flown to Oslo to film ‘Hedda Gabler’ and there she meets Henrik (Christian Rubeck) the director with high ambitions and unwavering dedication to getting what he wants out of his actors. Also, on set we meet Berta (Anna Andresen) the AD and possibly the closest character to normality for Hedda as she is pulled into a collapse of self-belief, loss of identity and shame. Henrik believes the separation between actor and character should not exist and therefore creates situations to morph Hedda’s world together: so he hires her Ex to film with her, Ejlert (Avi Nash) causing Hedda to choose between destruction or power. Ultimately the war between Hedda and Henrik for apex predator is the downfall of the fragile life Hedda had created outside of the acting world and left her with no other options.
This writing showcases an extremely interesting view on Hedda as a person, Thomas has created such a beautiful, in-depth version of Hedda whose shame overrides every happy ending she could ever make for herself. She is doomed from the start and still with knowing her end, I really wanted her to win. Opposing, electrically with Rubeck’s Henrik, the energy was bubbling from the second they entered the stage. His command as he toys with his actors really sinks into the bottom of your stomach, fascinating shared moments between lead actress and director highlighting the abuse of power within our industry and the consistent fight to be heard.
If Hedda wasn’t already having a difficult time, her cast make her life no easier. On screen hubby ‘Jørgen’ (Joshua James) finds it harder to hide his envy for never playing the roles reserved for ‘movie stars’. An effortless performance, remaining quiet and full of thought until having the opportunity to rise on the ladder. Hedda’s younger competitor ‘Thea’ (Matilda Bailes) being the new actress ‘straight from academy’ has joined the cast playing the ‘ex’s new wife’. Outside of the filming, Bailes is an energetic, bouncy presence on stage. She is cutting and cruel before recovering into a sweetheart. Representing the harsh realities that women often have to degrade to climb, both these characters showcase our own worst traits in begging to survive this cruel industry. My only wish is that I got to see more of these characters and with Hedda’s collapsing world, what do they lose – or win?
The set was simplistic and completely pleasing to watch the actors go about as if on set with them, a very beautiful design by Rosanna Vize. Lighting (Hansjörg Schmidt) was colourful, again simple but had grand impact in moments of panic.
I left feeling frustrated with the industry: exactly how I should feel. It is a big theme to explore in a matter of hours, but it was devastating to see a woman beginning a show with hopes of rebirth but ends in destruction. I felt like this theme could have been nurtured more from the eyes of the other cast; perhaps seeing how this environment affects them more than just being the device to which tortures Hedda. Is there maybe room to see their vulnerability too?
Playing until 21st October.
Reviewer: Alice Rose
Reviewed: 5th October 2023
North West End UK Rating: