Friday, November 19, 2010

The Master Builder review Almeida Theatre - powerful performance by Gemma Aterton

“I came for my kingdom. Time’s up, Mr. Solness!”

I got the tickets for The Master Builder almost immediately after watching The House of Games at Almeida Theatre, Apparently, it wasn’t only me who was enthusiastic about the Henrik Ibsen’s play – stall tickets for all performances for The Master Builder were sold out within five hours of their release.


The Norwegian story, tells of a Master Builder, Halvard Solness (Stephen Dilane) who is widely recognised as the authority in his field. His fortune turns for the better a decade ago when his wife’s childhood home burnt to the ground. That spurs him to build “houses for the ordinary people” instead of churches “with high spires”.

However, all is not well with Master Builder Solness. His wife, Aline (Anastasia Hille) is now a shadow of her former self and his position is now being constantly
threatened by “the next generation” not least from Ragnar (John Light), a draftsman who works for Solness and son of Knut Brovik (Patrick Godfrey), the former mentor of Solness. From the onset of the play, Solness can be seen trying to suppress the younger Brovik’s ambitions and even went to the extent of seducing Brovik’s fiancé, Kaia Fosli (Emma Hamilton) so as to ensure Brovik’s loyalty.

Out of the blue one day, a spritely girl by the name of Hilda Wangel (Gemma Arterton) appeared demanding Solness to build her a castle as he had promised a decade ago. Solness found purpose in his life again and events that followed eventually leads to a tragedy.

Dilane’s portrayal of a self delusional man at the peak of his career is entirely believable. Solness' bouts of warmth and coldness to Kaia, his hopelessness and exasperation with his wife, his frustrations and hope in fulfilling his promise to Hilda was well exhibited throughout the duration of the two hour play. However, the main star of The Master Builder has to be Arterton. After receiving accolades for her starring role in Tamara Drew, she burst into the play with the innocence of a child-woman (with a cape no less) alternating between boundless joy, curiosity, naivety and even tears of disappointment within minutes of her appearance.

The prop setup for The Master Builder is sparse to say the least with only a wooden chair at times. Those who are familiar with the 1891 play will realise that it is the process of the story and not so much the ending that counts. This is one of those plays that can feel rather tedious and emotional draining, a Hamlet-lite if you prefer. Definitely not something that you would like to end up with on a weekend night’s out. That said, for all Ibsen’s fans, symbolic and some might say psychotic play might just be your cup of tea.

The Master Builder
12 Nov 2010 – 8 Jan 2011
Almeida Theatre
1 Almeida Street
London N1 1TA
Tel: 020 7226 0931

Share/Bookmark Pin It