Shooting Hedda Gabler, Rose Theatre Kingston, 2023
Photo: Andy Paradise
  • Theatre, Drama
  • Recommended


Shooting Hedda Gabler

3 out of 5 stars

This imaginative transposition of ‘Hedda Gabler’ to a modern film set is pacy and full of ideas


Time Out says

Nina Segal’s new play is a reworking of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Gabler’ that’s set behind the scenes at the making of a Norwegian film version of ‘Hedda Gabler’.

Which sounds like a very on-the-nose bit of conceptualising, but in fact Jeff James’s production starts out far away from trad Ibsen, then cleverly converges. 

The protagonist of the drolly-titled ‘Shooting Hedda Gabler’ is an unnamed American actress played by Antonia Thomas, who is referred to only as Hedda, a name she refutes (everyone else has a name that corresponds with a role in Ibsen’s play). A former child star and current tabloid obsession, her career back home has taken a nosedive since she ran over a press photographer - possibly deliberately - and so she’s taken a gig playing Hedda in a movie directed by auteur Henrik (Christian Rubeck).

The early stages have a lot of sardonic fun with the idea of ‘genius’ European directors - Rubeck’s Henrik is manipulative and cult leader-like, with the show’s Norwegian cast and crew under his spell and hostile towards ‘Hedda’.

But there’s a jocularity to both text and production that stops ‘Shooting Hedda Gabler’ ever getting as intense as it might. I’ve a hunch that concepts like chippy young actor Thea (Matilda Bailes) also serving as the film’s psychologist and intimacy coordinator are meant to come off as deadpan surreal, but instead it feels like a throwaway sitcom gag. There’s an irony that it feels like James is himself aspiring to direct in the grandiose style of a European auteur director, but can’t quite pull it off: there’s some business with green screen body stockings that I think I get the concept behind but essentially looks too silly to really work.

Still, it’s satisfying how the pieces all come together and it goes from distantly toying with Ibsen’s play to entering lockstep with it. Thomas is extremely watchable as a brassy American star who has lost all sense of who she is, and is desperate to find it; Joshua James is excellent as her self-loathing co-star, Jørgen; there is some fine work from the Norwegian members of the company – it’s a co-production with The Norwegian Ibsen Company – notable Rubeck’s monstrous Henrik and Anna Andresen as the no-nonsense AD who Henrik abuses viciously.

An energetic, colourful take on a classic and if its bolder ideas don’t feel like they’ve quite paid off, better a swing and a miss than no swing at all.


£15-£40. Runs 2hr
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