One of Henrik Ibsen's later works, the 1892 play tells the story of Halvard Solness, a renowned but aging builder, whose obsession with building tall spires for his new house is matched by his fear of younger rivals. When a vivacious young woman arrives to collect on a decade-old promise, she inspires him to build castles in the air, with tragic consequences.
Patrick Stewart is best known internationally for his sci-fi screen roles in the likes of Star Trek and X Men, but he's also a classically trained actor and an honorary associate artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he's played such Shakespearean roles as King John, Shylock, Henry IV, Cassius, Titus Andronicus, Oberon, Leontes and Enobarbus.
His other stage credits include The Tempest, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and, in the US, his one-man adaptation of Dickens' The Christmas Carol. In 2001, Stewart returned to his Yorkshire roots to star in the West Yorkshire Playhouse production of JB Priestley's rarely performed Johnson Over Jordan. He last appeared on stage in London in the 1993 production of A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic.
For The Master Builder, Stewart is joined by Sue Johnston, well known for her UK television roles in The Royle Family, Waking the Dead, Goodbye Cruel World and Brookside. She's been seen most recently on stage in The Mysteries at the National and guesting in The Play What I Wrote.
Also in the cast are Lisa Dillon (seen earlier this year in the title role of Iphigenia at Sheffield and now appearing in the high-profile television serial Cambridge Spies) as Hilda Wangel, Edward De Souza (Knut Brovik), Katherine Manners (Kaia Fosil), Stephen Kennedy (Ragnar Brovik) and Jonathan Hackett (Doctor Herdal).
Director Anthony Page's many previous stage productions include the multi award-winning revival of Ibsen's A Doll's House with Janet McTeer, which transferred to Broadway following its West End season. The Master Builder is newly translated by John Logan, whose film writing credits include Gladiator and Star Trek.
The production is designed by Hildegard Bechtler, with costumes by Deirdre Clancy, lighting by Howard Harrison and sound by John Leonard and John Owens. It's presented by Duncan C Weldon and Paul Elliott for Triumph Entertainment. Prior to the West End, The Master Builder visits Malvern (16 to 24 May), Bath (26 to 31 May) and Guildford (2 to 7 June).
Currently at the Albery Theatre, the comedy Mum's the Word - starring Patsy Palmer, Imogen Stubbs, Cathy Tyson, Jenny Eclair, Carol Decker and Barbara Pollard - is due to finish its season on 7 June 2003.
- by Terri Paddock