Alexandra Gilbreath

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I'm 27, so when Stephen Unwin sent me the script I thought, "Me? Naaah..." but then I picked it up and saw she is supposed to be 29. There's no right age to play it but if you have someone in their late twenties the chemistry changes. Maybe I'll get to play her in 10 years' time when I'm bigger and better and I can actually do it.

My first impression was that she's actually very funny. Not funny ha- ha, but she's very quick, witty and cold. There are those moments where she purposely mistakes the aunt's hat for the maid's, or offers a drink to a reformed alcoholic, or burns Lovborg's manuscript. She has the traits of a suburban Lady Macbeth - she's a woman suffering but the question is how much and how much that manifests itself. Does she become hysterical? I think it was Peggy Ashcroft who said "She's an iceberg with fire underneath".

Thea is one of the strongest characters. We're in the 1890s and she has walked out on her husband. Hedda can't do that. She's this great contradiction. You think she's a fiery old dog, but she's not. She's a vulnerable little thing. She didn't have the courage to choose the man she wanted. She's a hypocrite, lusting for this life with Lovborg but unable to handle the sexual intimacy.

She's the vainest person in the world. Her pregnancy signifies loss of herself because someone else's life will depend completely on her. But it's Tesman's child and she cannot bear the constant reminder. Saying she's her father's daughter not her husband's wife is such a cliche but it's true. She was brought up to be a boy.

At the beginning of the play, she is confronted with the rest of her life: cosy Aunt Julia coming every single day, a boring scholarly husband and they're all in this God- forsaken house she can't stand. Brack appears and, oh, the relief. He's her class - she's such a snob.

In rehearsal, you discover where you have to get to and then, hopefully, you jump on to all the right stepping stones to get there. You strap the play on to your back, come on at page 13 and you don't leave the stage. At least Hamlet has the chance to go off for a cup of tea. You just have to try and match her. She's a canny bitch.