(the fall of) The Master Builder at West Yorkshire Playhouse

By October 6, 2017

Theatre & Dance. Leeds.

The cast of (the fall of) The Master Builder. Photography by Manuel Harlan

Photography credited to Manuel Harlan

This modern day re-imagining of the classic Ibsen tale of a great architect laid low by his own moral failings felt current and fresh. The central theme of the great and the good being brought to heel for crimes long past resonated in the current climate of high profile historical sexual offences and trial by media.

A strong cast, led brilliantly by a powerhouse performance from Reece Dinsdale, as the Master Builder, grabbed the audience from the start. Honourable mentions too for Susan Cookson as his long-suffering wife, Aline and Katherine Rose Morley, whose Hilde, in turns psychopathic and vulnerable, was a most compelling character. The other actors attacked their parts with energy but their characters lacked depth, a problem which became entrenched as the play wore on.

The biggest negative from my point of view was that the play was poorly paced. While the first act ate up an hour, barely leaving time to draw breath, the second was over-long and laboured, with the conclusion lacking any real revelation. With the sins of the Master Builder exposed just before the interval, the second hour felt like we took a long time to get back to where we started. An issue not helped by the inexplicable use of over thirty minutes’ worth of monologues with actors standing still in front of mics which badly slowed momentum and was ill-suited to such a visual medium. Added to this, a frankly bizarre final scene after the conclusion in which nothing was revealed and little actually happened. Zinnie Harris is undoubtedly a wonderful writer but in this instance the piece lacked tight editing.

A mainstay of WYP shows is excellent set design and Alex Lowde’s didn’t disappoint. It was beautiful in its simplicity before revealing a surprise, a physical representation of the collapsing world of the Master Builder. Coupled with strong acting, it produced an enjoyable show, though the lack of light and shade contrast in the main characters meant that there was nothing to empathise with. As a result, it was an enjoyable couple of hours but lacked emotional punch.

Catch (the fall of) The Master Builder at West Yorkshire Playhouse until 4th October 2017.