Search This Blog

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Master Builder at The Almeida

There is nothing light hearted about the Almeida Theatre, at least that is the way it seems for Travis Preston’s dark production of The Master Builder. The play is one of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's lesser known works, unsurprising when you witness the spooky nature of the piece.

The lead Halvard Solness (Stephen Dillane) seems annoyingly perplexed throughout the performance. He is a proud architect or “master builder”, determined to stay at the top of his profession and unwilling to let the younger generation interfere, terrified they might overtake him, and discard his knowledge. Living a gloomy life with a depressed wife and bored companions he feels he has sacrificed happiness for his career. All is interrupted when a girl bursts in, enquiring about the castle she was apparently promised by Solness when they met ten years earlier.

Gemma Arterton, glows as the young Hilde Wangel. Fresh from playing the title role in the film, Tamara Drewe, she is full of life and sexy allure. Her hair twisted into a messy pony tair and wearing revealing rags she is the forbidden fruit for Solness. She prances about the sand covered stage cajoling the older man with her passionate optimism and immature ideals. Eventually encouraging him to climb a great tower, from where he falls to his death.

It is perhaps Anastasia Hille as the grieving wife, Aline Solness, who is most moving to watch. She stands out as a sane character in the muddle of wild dreamers. Her modest, sober performance further emphasises the mayhem all around her.

I didn’t care much for the play, but found the performances engaging, and left the theatre wondering about the mad symbolism that floods much of the narrative.


  1. lovely blog, thanks for the sweet comment on my blog! :).
    i follow, hope you'll follow me too.

  2. I love Ibsen, but I'm not familiar with The Master Builder. I'm definitely going to investigate it now, thanks for sharing your review!

  3. Victoria - yes I'm following yours!
    Cee - yes do it's an interesting play and Gemma Arterton is brilliant! xx

  4. Great blog you got here