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REVIEW: National Theatre Live at the Leeds City Varieties – Hedda Gabler

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Leeds City Magazine columnist and TV producer Yyvone Francas-Mellor headed down to Leeds City Varieties to check out new venture into Live Streamed Theatre.

Leeds City Varieties dipped its toe in the water of Live Streamed Theatre with Patrick Marber’s adaptation of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, directed by Ivo van Hove at the National Theatre.  For those, like me, who haven’t seen a live streamed event, it does what it says on the tin  – a live video stream from a theatre far, far away – and is perfect for those who can’t get to the West End as often as they’d like. The City Varieties provides a fantastic venue for live streamed theatre – much better than watching in a sterile, multiplex cinema – and there’s a decent bar too for a pre-show and interval drink or two. From a purely technical point of view, the picture and sound quality were hard to fault. The play is filmed by a number of cameras at the theatre and the sound recording, in particular, was very good. The only slight issues were with the camera direction itself, which at times was a bit off the mark.

The play is an update of Ibsen’s work first performed in 1891. Marber seeks to bring it into the 21st century, but there remain remnants of the issues and foibles of ‘high society’ attitudes that one can imagine would have prevailed in the 19th century.

Hedda, played by Ruth Wilson, has returned from her honeymoon with Tesman, her fair to middling academic husband. It is fairly clear from the outset that she isn’t in love with him, or his Aunt, or the maid, or the flat that he’s just bought. Safe to say that Hedda’s not really too keen an anything at all really, until she hears news of her husband’s main academic rival, Lovborg. Recovering alcoholic Lovborg has straightened his life out and penned a best seller with the help of Thea Elvsted, an old school friend of Hedda.  Hedda and Lovborg are old flames and, envious of his success without her and his new relationship with Thea, Hedda sets about and succeeds in sabotaging their relationship, toying with the lives of Lovborg and Thea with tragic results for Lovborg and, ultimately, for Hedda.

Highly regarded new productions of Twelfth Night, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead and a stage adaptation of Visconti’s Obsession are scheduled for screenings at The City Varieties in April and May.

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