Categorized | Arts & Culture, Featured, Theatre

(The Fall of) The Master Builder at West Yorkshire Playhouse



So…… in discussing Ibsen’s play ‘The Master Builder’ with actor Reece Dinsdale, West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director, James Brining, posed the question – ‘What If?’

They decided to take a strand from Ibsen’s play and run with it. I did wonder why – why fiddle with a good play, let’s just see ‘The Master Builder’. Fiddling can sometimes lead to disaster.

But, of course, this is no longer Ibsen’s play. James and Reece threw the ball to playwright Zinnie Harris who borrowed Ibsen’s characters but took them on a different journey. Little did she know when she set out just how pertinent this story would be.

It’s the story of a powerful man, Halvard Solness (played by Reece), who has just been awarded Master Builder status. He is at the top of his profession. He is ruthless, manipulative. But young architects are snapping at his heels. Then one day Hilde (Katherine Rose Morley) walks in and reminds him of their previous meeting…..when she was 15.

Despite my skepticism at the outset, I was riveted from the off. The cast (which also includes Susan Cookson as his wife Aline; Emma Naomi as Kaja his assistant; Robert Pickavance as Brovik his old friend who used to own the architectural practice; Michael Peavoy as Brovik’s son Ragnar who has ambitions; and David Hounslow as his wayward friend Dr Herdal) was tight, successfully creating all the individual tensions that build up around such a man. By the end of the first part, you knew he was set up for a fall.

And what a fall!

In the second half, Solness’s whole demeanor changes. Six microphones are lined up across the front of the stage. One by one the characters step up to denounce him. They are like witnesses giving evidence, reading from file notes. Solness is alone on the stage. Slowly the walls start to close in on him.

Zinnie Harris’s play never lost momentum. “Zinnie’s adaptation is a mesmeric and gripping exploration of power”, said James Brining. “This retelling of such a classic text feels timely, a contemporary story addressing gender, control and privilege. Zinnie breathes urgency into Ibsen’s female characters, generating terrific energy, tension and jeopardy.”

Reece Dinsdale was marvelous as Solness. “Halvard Solness is a fascinating character – a man standing right on a precipice and staring down into the abyss”, he said. “He’s at the height of his success, being forced to confront his deepest fears. It becomes really uncomfortable. His dread of the ambitious young, the steady decline of his creative powers, and the murky secrets of his past come right to the fore the very moment we meet him.”


(The fall of) The Master Builder continues at West Yorkshire Playhouse until Saturday 21st October. It is well worth seeing.

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