The Argus: Brighton Festival Fringe launches today

Hedda Gabler is far from a people’s heroine but her unusual strain of manipulation and conniving ways has enough scope to have kept her alive and kicking on stage since 1892. This interpretation is by University of Sussex drama students, who make a pleasing play of it overall.

It wasn’t a promising start: Aunt Julia’s role on stage is less than in Tesman’s dull life (aunt Juju this, aunt Juju that, yawn) but in a sparkly lime green mini-dress, lime green make-up literally smeared over her eyes and long hair unkempt, she couldn’t look less like a maiden aunt torn from the bedside of her dying sister.

Still, it picks up. Annabelle Sacher is comfortable in the role of Hedda, a glamorous and bored neurotic, and pulls off her tolerance of new hubbie dull George with a well-tempered level of sniffy disdain. When she hatches her evil plan to sabotage the “child” of Løvborg and Thea Elvsted, her sinister expression would make a cameo shot prickly with static.

Joshua Crisp achieves a praiseworthy balance of bumbling naïve and geeky academic as Tesman. Tesman’s sudden lapse in moral judgment to conspire with Hedda to prevent her wicked deeds being found out is very well performed.

In a student performance with no funds for glamorous props or fancy furniture to equip a posh villa, the acting stands up. Director Kristina Wilde also makes a choice edit of the lengthy script down to just over an hour.

A well done production but they would be better off ditching the weird eye make-up.