Review: Master Builder

IBSEN CLASSIC: A scene from West Yorkshire Playhouses production (the fall of) The Master Builder starring Reece Dinsdale.
IBSEN CLASSIC: A scene from West Yorkshire Playhouses production (the fall of) The Master Builder starring Reece Dinsdale.
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West Yorkshire Playhouse

Sharp, intelligent, epic, uncomfortable, accusatory, it is astounding to see Ibsen updated in such a visceral, immediate way that speaks so much to 2017.

Based on a play written in 1892, Zinnie Harris has taken the bones of it and covered it in sinewy muscularity. Designer, director and cast are at the top of their collective games in this production that pulls off a coup de theatre by turning its gaze on the audience and asking us some very uncomfortable questions.

Huge spoiler alert: the original is over a century old, but Harris’s script hides a reveal that gives this story its enormous power. The reason this play is so powerful and speaks to today so clearly is because we watch it through a post-Yewtree, but much more significantly in Leeds, through a post-Savile lens. Director James Brining does exactly what theatre is supposed to do by taking the brave decision to make the gaze through this lens at the audience unwavering. When the accoutrements of theatre fall away and the lights come up while the action continues, we are made complicit in our silent observing. Just as we were when Savile was committing his horrific crimes. At the heart of this production is a towering performance from Reece Dinsdale.

Halvard Solness is the Master Builder of the title. A flawed and egotistical anti-hero we meet him when he is at the top of his game. As the layers of the character are peeled horrifically away, Dinsdale appears to shape shift, becoming haggard and more haunted as the action progresses in a performance it is impossible to stop watching. As the walls literally close in, courtesy of an extraordinary design by Sinead McKenna, he howls like a trapped beast.An astounding piece of theatre.

To October 21.