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Review: HEDDA GABLER, Glasgow Botanic Gardens

Hedda Gabler runs at the Botanic Gardens until 6 July

By: Jun. 22, 2024
Review: HEDDA GABLER, Glasgow Botanic Gardens  Image
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Review: HEDDA GABLER, Glasgow Botanic Gardens  Image

Opening this year's season of Bard in the Botanics is a new version of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, written by Kathy McKean. 

Hedda Gabler is staged in Glasgow Botanic Garden's Kibble Palace, which is a wonderfully atmospheric space. It's a very intimate setting with the performance taking place in traverse. The Kibble Palace also allows for a natural shift in mood during the play as daylight starts to wane through the glasshouse. 

It's a strong cast for this production with Isabelle Joss playing Julia Tesman and Thea Elvstead, Sam Stopford as George Tesman, Nicole Cooper as Hedda Gabler, James Boal as Judge Brack and Graham Mackay-Bruce as Eilert Lovborg. 

Hedda and George have just returned from a long honeymoon. George is an academic and his work bores Hedda. He is also unable to financially provide for her in the way that she had been promised. Mostly raised by his Aunts, George is loyal to his family and he starts at Hedda's rudeness towards his Aunt Julie when she comes to visit. Giving into societal pressure to marry and then looking ahead at the expectations that are facing her, Hedda isn't happy with her life. 

In less capable hands than Cooper’s, Hedda could come across as cold and callous. She's an incredibly complex character who is prone to moments of darkness but has a wicked sense of humour. She can be very playful and affectionate and then the next moment, flinch when someone tries to embrace her. Nicole Cooper's Hedda is a masterclass in nuance, a bright and outgoing young woman who is in an overwhelming amount of pain. 

The way the other characters respond to Hedda shows that they have a great fondness for her but don't necessarily understand why she behaves and reacts in the way she does. 

Bard in the Botanics is always a highlight of the year and Hedda Gabler might just be the jewel in this season's crown. With the intense, powerhouse performances on offer in the beautiful setting of the Kibble, Hedda Gabler is a unique must-see production.  

Photo credit: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan


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