West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Courtyard stage has been transformed in to the complex world of (the fall of) The Master Builder, a gripping reimagining of Henrik Ibsen’s classic text.
Thrilling and electrifying, this contemporary new production sees the highly successful architect Halvard Solness win the prestigious Master Builder Award, until a knock on the door from an unexpected visitor threatens to undermine all he has built.
Reimagined by award-winning playwright, screen writer and director Zinnie Harris and directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining, celebrated Yorkshire actor and West Yorkshire Playhouse Associate Artist Reece Dinsdale stars in the lead role.
(the fall of) The Master Builder runs at West Yorkshire Playhouse until 21 October.
This production is a brand new adaptation, how does Zinnie Harris’ reimagining differ from Henrik Ibsen’s classic text?
Zinnie’s contemporary version has been inspired by Ibsen’s The Master Builder, but this is no mere translation. Zinnie has been inspired by Ibsen’s play to deal with wider, more relevant and contemporary issues that are present in the original but have been drawn out by shifting elements of the story and looking at the events of the play through a modern-day lens.
This version is called (the fall of) The Master Builder, does Solness have a long way to fall? How are you approaching the character?
Solness is fascinating character – a successful architect, seemingly at the height of his powers. On the surface, he’s a talented and personable guy. However, he’s at a certain age where his fear of growing older, and the inevitable decline that goes with that, is at the very forefront of his mind. Mostly he fears the ambitious youth who are rapidly catching up with him and whom he believes wish to drag him into the mire. Here is a man who has always had his own way… but for how much longer? Plus, he has secrets… secrets that he hopes will remain hidden. He is a man standing at the precipice, staring into the abyss.
As we get older we all worry that our best years (both physically and mentally), our most productive and creative times, might well be behind us. These are issues that worry most people, not just actors. Being of the same age, I can readily identify with certain aspects of the character. I’ve tried asking questions of him that I might well ask of myself. With Solness it gnaws away at him. Luckily, thus far, I myself have managed to remain a little more sanguine.
Can you offer an insight on how the show will look and feel with it being a contemporary version?
We’ve set the production in the heart of West Yorkshire – it could be Leeds, Huddersfield, it could be Wakefield. Whilst the production is based on Ibsen’s The Master Builder, our version needs to be viewed as a brand new play. It has a contemporary style and flavour, with some pretty ripe language at times, mostly all of it performed with Yorkshire accents. Someone even takes a selfie at one point!
This is the first time that you and James Brining have worked together. What are you looking forward to?
I think James is an extraordinary man – intelligent and insightful and with a generosity of spirit to go with it. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching his previous productions, including Alan Bennet’s Enjoy, Sondheim’s Into The Woods and Zodwa Nyoni’s Ode to Leeds… to name but a few.
We’d been talking for a while about doing something together. I like and respect him enormously and I think that’s hugely important. It can take actors many years to relax and be themselves in a rehearsal room. I know already that, with James, I will be afforded the best atmosphere in which to explore the role and hopefully get our combined creativity to flow. I’m hugely excited to be working with him, he’s a top chap.
Congratulations on being appointed as Associate Artist at West Yorkshire Playhouse, what does that mean to you?
It’s a huge honour to be asked. I absolutely love the Playhouse, the people who work in it, and what they are endeavouring to achieve. Whenever I enter the building, it always feels like I’ve come home. I helped open the theatre some 27 years ago, playing the central role of Jack Rover in Wild Oats, and here I am now, still giving it a go. It’s such a creative and thriving community and I’m just delighted to be able to do my bit.