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Design for Living

The Master Builder (Chichester)

By • West End
WOS Rating:
Given the recent furore over translations of foreign plays tacking on strange endings, I was half expecting this new version by David Edgar to conclude with master builder Solness standing triumphantly atop his tower.

But Edgar's punchy version sticks faithfully the plot of Ibsen's original – albeit a little more colloquial than usual. Ibsen’s later plays are a departure from the more naturalistic dramas but Edgar and director Philip Franks, manage to inject a little life into it.

Consequently, Naomi Frederick's Hilde is decidedly more modern than we're used to seeing. Ibsen had conjured up a free-willed spirit, Frederick's interloper is more down to earth, perhaps losing some of the sense of mystery – what did Solness really promise her?

Michael Pennington's raffish Solness needs little encouragement however. Looking rather like Lloyd George, he has certainly has the element of flirtatiousness. What I found was missing though was the fear of the young and the fear that his powers are waning. There's a lovely performance from Maureen Beattie as Solness's wife, her demeanour encapsulating the life of loss and suffering.

It’s a pity about the rather curious score from Matthew Scott, incorporating the sound of children. While the Solness’s loss is a major feature of the play, it’s not Turn of the Screw and it sounds oddly out of place.

- Maxwell Cooter


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