Sheridan Smith 'thrilling' in Old Vic's revamped Hedda Gabler

Sep 19, 2012

Smith's daring performance as Ibsen's dainty demon marks her as a future star

Old Vic

What you need to know
Anna Mackmin directs the Old Vic's revival of Henrik Ibsen's late 19th masterpiece Hedda Gabler, often referred to as 'the female Hamlet'. The production features a new adaptation by Irish playwright Brian Friel, best known for his works Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Dancing At Lughnasa.
Ibsen's domestic tragedy is a portrayal of the cruel, headstrong Hedda Gabler, the spoilt daughter of a general married to a dull academic. When frustrated Gabler discovers that her former suitor has found love and success, she willfully sets out to destroy his happiness.  
Sheridan Smith, known for Olivier Award-winning performances in Flare Path and Legally Blonde and TV roles in Accused and Mrs Biggs, stars as Hedda Gabler. Daniel Lapaine plays Hedda's old beau, Loevborg.

Runs until 10 November.

What the critics like
This is a thrilling new production, says Charles Spencer in The Daily Telegraph. Friel's adaptation manages to add humour to a devastating story and Anna Mackmin's staging creates "an atmosphere of nervous unease". But the highlight is Smith, who brings both terrific poise and style to her role as well as "entirely credible malevolence".
There have been more pyrotechnical Hedda Gablers, says Dominic Maxwell in The Times, but Sheridan Smith's "subtle, insinuating, quietly daring performance" proves she's "an actress of rare skill and presence". Smith finds humanity in the trapped and spiteful Hedda, "but never softens the blow with sentiment".
The "fleetness and wryness of this radical production" is bolstered by a terrific cast, says Susannah Clapp in The Guardian. Sheridan Smith is a dainty demon as Hedda - "a future star".  

What they don't like
You have to be one heck of an actress to play the layers of madness, envy, sexuality the role of Hedda demands, says Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail. Sheridan Smith is a fine performer and "a sparkler on stage", but she is more petulant than wild. "The troubled, complex Hedda Gabler eludes her".

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