The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen,
dir Travis Preston, Almeida,
12th November-8th January 2011
Quietly picking off the big roles at his own pace, Stephen Dillane is the most interesting of the less headline-hogging leading actors, bringing his own brand of dark intensity and keen intelligence to bear on Hamlet, Uncle Vanya and Prospero.
With American director Travis Preston, Dillane brought an astonishing Macbeth to the Almeida five years ago. The pair now tackle The Master Builder, a still-extraordinary Freudian drama, in which the young Hilde Wangel confesses to ageing architect Halvard Solness that she had her first sexual experience watching him climb a tower. The 1892 play is analogous to Ibsen’s unhappy marriage and infatuation with a younger woman, but resonates as a modern domestic and professional tragedy.
Dillane is a master of hidden depths and overpowering unhappiness, and should strike sparks off his naughty nemesis, here played by Gemma Arterton, a one-time Bond girl fresh from title roles in the movies The Disappearance of Alice Creed and Tamara Drewe. At 24, she is exactly the right age to play the character. The cast includes RSC stalwart Patrick Godfrey, neurasthenic diva Anastasia Hille, handsome heavyweight John Light and unique actor/playwright Jack Shepherd.