Review Round-Ups

Barbican's Wild Duck not to all tastes

‘Not so much an adaptation as an updated reinvention of Ibsen’s extraordinary play’

'Quacking good idea' - The Wild Duck
The Wild Duck
© Heidrun Löhr

Michael Coveney

… the complexities and weirdness of Ibsen's five-act masterpiece are reduced to a skeletal ragbag of narrative info on a self-consciously brandished stick. The actors are at once vocally enhanced and strangely muffled behind the glass wall. It's Ibsen for people who don't care about Ibsen… Simon Stone claims that he's anatomising a tragedy: hence the clinical feel to a show that is unevenly (and not very well) acted and curiously uninvolving. Only Anita Hegh as Hjalmar's wife, Gina, plumbs the sort of depths Shaw was talking about.

Paul Taylor

… it's not so much an adaptation as an updated reinvention of Ibsen's extraordinary play… The approach is one of stark austerity… The play still demonstrates the deadly dangers of pursuing the truth at all costs… But motivations and emphases have often been altered and there's wholly new additional material… You could argue that these changes lower the stakes, if it weren't for the unflinching way that Stone and Ryan's version charts the devastating effect on the women of the household… The Ibsen original is more challenging but this Wild Duck has its own gutting imaginative integrity.

Kate Bassett
The Times
Ibsen's storyline is stripped to its bare bones. The writer-director Simon Stone has excised all the 19th-century clutter and redrafted the script (in collaboration with Chris Ryan) to produce a searing modern-day tragedy… This approach could be reductive. But Stone's minimalism is powerfully compelling… the glass wall between actors and audience draws you in like a glowing microscope slide… The closing moments perhaps don't quite come off… A world-class conclusion to the Barbican's International Ibsen Season.

Michael Billington

I felt this version by Belvoir Sydney of Ibsen's greatest tragicomedy subtly diminishes its source. It's no tame turkey, but director Simon Stone, with his co-writer Chris Ryan, gives us potted duck… The biggest issue is the treatment of Gregers Werle. Ibsen provides drama's definitive portrait of the torch-bearing, missionary idealist. Here, however, Dan Wyllie plays Gregers as a safari-suited outsider… Stone's version is, in some respects, adroitly clever… The Australian actors are very good. Veteran John Gaden is memorably crusty as Gregers's father… Despite its technical skill, this pared-down version struck me as a brisk sonata in comparison with Ibsen's all-encompassing symphony.

Serena Davies
Daily Telegraph

… austere, elliptical and wholly devastating modern update of Ibsen's The Wild Duck… a play that puts the bare bones of Ibsen's 1884 masterpiece into a series of beautifully acted snapshots… Stone makes both fowl and family appear acutely vulnerable… This bare, streamlined production — funny at the start – builds to an elemental sadness that I've rarely seen outside Greek tragedy… in the last five minutes, two actors finally step outside designer Ralph Myers's glass box to bring the action into our own air space, their sorrow comes excruciatingly close… Ibsen's malleable story here feels as much about competing kinds of love, piercingly expressed by this uniformly excellent cast, as the perils of honesty.