Theatre at UBC and Yorick Theatre
The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen
A new adaptation and translation by Errol Durbach

Dates and Venue 28 Oct - 7 Nov 2009, 8pm | TELUS Studio Theatre, Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, UBC

Director Gerald Vanderwoude Set Design Ana Luisa Espinoza Vaca Sound Design Cristina Istrate Lighting Craig Alfredson Costume Design Alison Green Stage Manager Maria Fumano

Reviewer Jane Penistan

This new adaptation and translation of Ibsen’s The Master Builder by Errol Durbach, was received enthusiastically by the first night audience at The Telus Theatre. The almost bare stage and few props left the major impact of this new translation up to the very accomplished cast, assisted by beautiful costumes and the clever, artistic use of lighting. Gerald Vanderwoude brought everything together in a most impressive premier presentation.

It was a delight to see several of the actors returning to the University stage after long absences. Chris Humphreys, as the Master Builder, Halvard Solness, led the company in a powerful performance. His egotistical authority and arrogance and his apparent antipathy to anyone rivaling his dominance in any form were ably demonstrated, as was his underlying fear of a challenge to his supremacy as a master of all he surveyed.

While his conscience occasionally troubled him in his retrospective moments, this seldom worried him for long. The adoration of younger women fed his pride and self-indulgence, while the gentle, dignified, self-abnegation of his faithful wife to whom he owed all his wealth, he regarded as a weak and mentally unstable woman.

Yet Aline Solness, who lost all her own possessions, which were swallowed up by Halvard’s ambitious expansion of his business, remained kind, compassionate and hospitable, welcoming a young stranger into her household, and treating her with consideration. Though Aline irritatingly referred to her charity as her duty, there was real humanity in her relations with others. Trish Pattenden brought dignity and intelligent sensitivity to this complicated and demanding role.

Halvard was cruel and soul destroying in his dealings with has employees, particularly with Knut Brovik (Matt Young) and his son Ragnar (Nicholas Fontaine). It was here that Halvard showed his fear of loss of supremacy, the demon which haunted him.

The surprising and unlikely arrival of Hilde Wangel, a young woman in outlandish hiking clothes, brought a breath of fresh air, youth and innocence to the fraught atmosphere. Fiona Mongillo indeed lit up the gloom of the hidebound house and office milieu with her freedom of speech, energy and wildly romantic, reminiscences of her former meeting with Halvard.

Was he really remembering or accepting Hilde’s version of his vigorous past? She cast a spell over Halvard, and everyone else. The last act was a dramatic crescendo of tension leading up to the inevitable fall of the Master Builder and held the audience in thrall, before a rousing ovation.

© 2009 Jane Penistan