Hedda Gabler

Theatre, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(10user reviews)
 (© Jan Versweyveld)
© Jan VersweyveldRUTH WILSON (Hedda Gabler)
 (© Jan Versweyveld)
© Jan VersweyveldRUTH WILSON (Hedda Gabler), RAFE SPALL (Brack)
 (© Jan Versweyveld)
© Jan VersweyveldRUTH WILSON (Hedda Gabler), EVA MAGYAR (Berte)
 (© Jan Versweyveld)
© Jan VersweyveldKATE DUCHENE (Juliana), RUTH WILSON (Hedda Gabler)
 (© Jan Versweyveld)
© Jan VersweyveldCHUKWUDI  IWUJI (Lovborg), RUTH WILSON (Hedda Gabler)
 (© Jan Versweyveld)
© Jan VersweyveldRUTH WILSON (Hedda Gabler), RAFE SPALL (Brack), EVA MAGYAR (Berte)
 (© Jan Versweyveld)
© Jan VersweyveldCHUKWUDI  IWUJI (Lovborg), RUTH WILSON (Hedda Gabler)
 (© Jan Versweyveld)
© Jan VersweyveldSINEAD MATTHEWS (Mrs Elvsted), CHUKWUDI IWUJI (Lovborg)
 (© Jan Versweyveld)
© Jan VersweyveldRAFE SPALL (Brack), CHUKWUDI IWUJI (Lovborg), RUTH WILSON (Hedda Gabler), KYLE SOLLER (Tesman)
 (© Jan Versweyveld)
© Jan VersweyveldCHUKWUDI  IWUJI (Lovborg), RUTH WILSON (Hedda Gabler), KYLE SOLLER (Tesman)
 (© Jan Versweyveld)
© Jan VersweyveldKATE DUCHENE (Juliana), KYLE SOLLER (Tesman), RUTH WILSON (Hedda Gabler), RAFE SPALL (Brack), SINEAD MATTHEWS (Mrs Elvsted)
 (© Jan Versweyveld)
© Jan VersweyveldKYLE SOLLER (Tesman), RUTH WILSON (Hedda Gabler)
 (© Jan Versweyveld)
© Jan VersweyveldSINEAD MATTHEWS (Mrs Elvsted), RUTH WILSON (Hedda Gabler)
 (© Jan Versweyveld)
© Jan VersweyveldCHUKWUDI  IWUJI (Lovborg), RUTH WILSON (Hedda Gabler)
 (© Jan Versweyveld)
© Jan VersweyveldRUTH WILSON (Hedda Gabler), CHUKWUDI IWUJI (Lovborg)
 (© Jan Versweyveld)
© Jan VersweyveldRUTH WILSON (Hedda Gabler), KYLE SOLLER (Tesman)

Ruth Wilson is magnificent and upsetting as a nihilistic Hedda in Ivo van Hove's NT debut

'Hedda Gabler' will screen in cinemas from Mar 9 as part of NT Live

Starring an incandescent Ruth Wilson, Ivo van Hove’s modern production of Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Gabler’ rejects the usual, comforting, proto-feminist reading wherein its heroine does the terrible things she does because she is a victim.

Here, Wilson’s Hedda is rarely oppressed by men per se. Certainly you can sympathise with her boredom at affable lecturer husband George Tesman (Kyle Soller, whose all-American pizzazz brings an enjoyable flavour), and even her annoyance that her former wild-child lover Eilert Lovborg (Chukwudi Iwuji) has sobered up and written a brilliant thesis with her old school mate Mrs Elvsted (Sinead Matthews).

But the scale of her reprisal is difficult to see as reasonable or justified. And yet – in this year of all years – it’s at least familiar. This Hedda destroys not because she is a woman or oppressed, but because she feels alienated by the smug academics and their dry certainties. She wants to take back control.

In her first stage role in yonks, Wilson is phenomenal: her Hedda is part sneering hipster, part destructive zealot. We always second-guess her – sometimes she says something funny and normal (Patrick Marber’s adaptation brings a fair number of chuckles) and it feels like a relief, but we’re always nervous about what she’ll do next. Her behaviour is that of a terrorist, and while her ideology often seems twisted, there is a purity to it. When she’s cornered by lunkish alpha-male Judge Brack (Rafe Spall, a bit miscast) over her destruction of Lovborg, her final act of defiance is, at least, impressively ballsy.

She is a terrorist, a revolutionary, a demagogue, a priest, a gun, a bomb. She sees the smug, educated, complacent male order, sees that she has no place in it and she destroys. It is horrible and magnificent.

Making his National Theatre debut, van Hove’s production is ravishingly, chillingly atmospheric. The large, bare, chic room of Hedda and Tesman’s house is slowly bleached and drained by Jan Versweyveld’s extraordinary lighting, and befuddled by the nagging ersatz electro of Tom Gibbons’s sound design. The only relief is the ironically deployed strains of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ that delineate each scene. There is a sense of great separation and disorientation, the production wandering ever further into Hedda’s isolation.

It’s a triumph for Wilson and a reaffirmation of van Hove’s greatness. But it’s also a reminder of what a great year the NT has had, and the sort of world-class, global talent it is now bringing together. ‘Ma Rainey...’, ‘Cleansed’, ‘Les Blancs’, ‘The Deep Blue Sea’, ‘The Threepenny Opera’, ‘The Red Barn’, ‘Amadeus’, ‘Peter Pan’ and now ‘Hedda’ - this theatre is looking untouchable. 

Average User Rating

3.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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We went to see Ibsens fantastic tragedy but instead were forced to endure yet more of  Ivo van Hove's masturbatory self indulgence. Some walked out - some did not return after the interval, the curtain call was short. A totally ill conceived production from a director with absolutely no respect for the script or interest in letting actors tell the story. It is time for Directors Theatre to be killed off.  It stinks.of something nasty!!


This was my first experience of Hedda Gabler and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The material feels so modern yet it's a timeless tale of unsatisfied souls. What at one time was a problem only the most wealthy had time to wallow in, now seems like a familiar theme throughout the Western world. Having not seen it set as period piece I can't really relate to reviews saying it didn't suit the modern period.

Ruth Wilson's performance was stunning, every look, every word felt natural and true to the character. Yes she's a horrific human being but it feels as if she is bringing to life all of the horrors that lie inside us all - that we manage to conceal, from ourselves and the world.

The stark set worked well. Highlighting the mental issues being play out on the stage. I was struck at how all the characters seemed to be experiencing both having a hold over another and being very much in another's hold. They were all pretty detestable in their own ways. There were moments where I felt like some of the other cast members were overacting a bit though.

I saw this as part of the NT live cinema screenings program. Having missed out on getting a theatre seat I'm thrilled to have been able to still see this production.

Am i meant to care about these people? I felt no connection at all. Too shouty and "theatrical'. Why use Hallelujah? Lazy populist choice.

Loved Rafe Spall but otherwise could easily have walked out.

- Made a great play seem like a clunky bygone

- van Hove makes his scenes full of swingeing emotional inconsistency: not the actors' fault, I guess.

- The repeated Joni Mitchell interludes are vapid and intrude into, rather than build, emotional intensity

- Hedda was ridiculous: everything way too over the top and disconnected.

- Van Hove is a repeat offender (Lazarus, View f t Bridge): turning drama into some kind of expressionistic performance art.

- We left (the screening in Shropshire) at the interval, cursing.

- UPDATE: I've just read The Guardian review, mentioning the effluvia that Hedda encounters at the play's climax. Hilarious and depressing, as we were mordantly wondering when the 'Van Howe Fluid Experience' would arrive. Will someone please have a nice word with this man?


Ivan van Hove has some interesting choices in this modernised version of the Ibsen classic. From the youthful nature of Tesman (from the presumed aged old man of Ibsen's time) to the overt, terrifying way Rafe Spall portrays Judge Brack, there's plenty of hits and the occasional miss, such as the unfathomable decision to place servant Berte onstage constantly. However, this is a more than decent production of Hedda Gabler, with much of its success anchored in the performance value of Ruth Wilson in the title role, bringing across aching melancholy one moment and sociopathic tendencies in another. Kyle Soller as Tesman also brings a youthful vigor and enthusiasm that makes him a character one pities and not resents, and the marriage between Gabler and Tesman is devastating to watch at every turn. Soller shares a real chemistry onstage with Sinead Matthews as Thea, who in turn is an object of pity for the audience, seemingly unable to find solace in any of her failed relationships. Jan Versweyveld's sparse and bare minimal set brings out the poverty the new couple have found themselves in, and it almost eclipses the actors with how it dwarfs the whole stage in bareness, if not for the actors' capabilities. It's a gorgeous set that really brings across the emptiness of Hedda's existence. Being my first exprience with an Ibsen play, I have to say that I was enamoured and disgusted by Ruth's portrayal of Hedda, and overall, although not a happy play at all, it's certainly a decent modernised take on the classic.


Hedda Gabler is one of my all time favourite plays. I'm sad to say that this production did not quite live up to what I'd hoped. The attempt at bringing the play into the modern day was an interesting idea, but left me feeling a little disconnected from Hedda. In 2017 it is quite unlikely for a woman like her to be left alone bored at home or to have felt resigned to marry- these are less common troubles that the modern woman has! I also felt at times the acting was a little over the top and unnecessarily dramatic, particularly when Thea attacked Eilert for destroying the manuscript. Ruth Wilson however did a sterling job of playing g Hedda and thoroughly committing to the character. Her manic and desperate portrayal was exactly as I imagined Hedda to be. I'm not sure I'd rush to recommend getting tickets to this one, however if you are lucky (and young enough!) to qualify for entry pass tickets, I would definitely recommend for £5/£7.50 a ticket! If you can get one that is!


Just fabulous. I was offered a friend's ticket, so went along without any prior knowledge of the story, and I was gripped the entire way through. Wilson and Spall are both brilliant, and the design of the set and use of lighting are very clever. The best play I've seen in a long time, highly recommended.


Ivo van Hove directing Hedda Gabler at the National Theatre? Absolutely glorious.

Ruth Wilson as Hedda offered what felt like a totally new take on a very well known character. Her volatility made the piece seem new and dangerous, and she made the contemporary setting seem completely believable. Rafe Spall, meanwhile, was calculating and cruel as Brack, so his role in Hedda's downfall created an element of sympathy for her.

The unfinished set added an interesting framing for Hedda's mental state, but the magic came through a very clever use of lighting which transformed in line with her character development.

Overall, Hedda Gabler is a fantastic bit of theatre. I fully recommend it!


Hedda Gabbler is possibly one of the most well known female protagonists of the theatre world.  And this was expertly portrayed by one of the finest actresses of modern times - Ruth Wilson. 

The vile script and outrageous behavior of Hedda was played with such power by Ruth that it made it a pleasure to watch. 

The stylish set set the mood and suspense perfectly and the modern twist worked perfectly. The lighting was superb and the final scenes create powerful montage that I have never experienced at the theatre for a long time!

My only 2 issues was the maid - who was on stage at all times and I cannot work out why as she hardly had any line. At some points she was in the middle of a whole scene saying nothing! My other issue was the sound - at points it made it feel like a film rather than a play and I think the silence of the theatre can be as powerful as a roaring soundtrack. 


First visit of the famous director Ivo van Hove in the National Theatre. What a better way to introduce himself in the NT's audience. A difficult Ibsen classic play in a more modern approach. Excellent lighting design and minimalistic set design that absolutely serve the story. The amazing Ruth Wilson holds the central role of Hedda Gabler. National Theatre - Ivo van Hove - Ruth Wilson; the perfect combination.