Seventeen-year old Archie McKeown is directing The Bench’s latest offering, Ibsen’s classic Hedda Gabler, at The Spring over the next two weeks.
And McKeown is a man clearly chock-full of interesting theatricality, most noticeably in the introduction of a black-clad ensemble, used to comment on the action of the play and – on occasion – to join in. On opening night I wished more courage-in-conviction from the director; if using an ensemble – use them more!
The actors occasionally appeared clunky add-on rather than intrinsic part of the action.
As the eponymous anti-heroine, Katie Watson conveys Hedda’s frustration with small-town life beautifully, but needs to focus on Ibsen’s subtext and live the situation rather than demonstrating it. This was particularly obvious in her conversation with an unknowing Thea (Frances Peters) about Hedda’s previous relationship with the writer, Loevborg. That said, her confrontation with the sleazy judge (Steve Burt) in which she realises she is, effectively, his slave was very nicely handled.
And as Loevborg, Stuart Reilly really gets the measure of Ibsen’s difficult text and convincingly presents us with a soul equally as troubled as Hedda’s. This is the stand-out performance of the evening, with Reilly making believable choices in his portrayal and playing them effectively.
Until April 21.