Drama students from Years 10 to 13 travelled into London to see a production of The Master Builder at The Old Vic. The play, written by the Norwegian 19th century playwright Henrik Ibsen, tells the story of a middle aged man called Halvard Solness, a self-proclaimed ‘master builder’. Having become a reputable name in his area because of his craftsmanship, his past troubles suddenly resurface after a young girl appears again in his life ten years after an emotional encounter. Themes of guilt and loss of identity are explored through Solness’ actions, leading to a tragic conclusion.

The Master Builder - Manuel Harlan

With a rotating stage, the acts are set in three different locations - the study, garden and workspace of the master builder. The set is lifelike with great attention to detail. In particular, Solness’ desk is cluttered with books, papers and plans, all of which add to the characterisation of an obsessive and passionate artist. The atmosphere is added to by the soundtrack, which plays a key role throughout the play. Its haunting nature transports the audience into the chill of the situation as Solness’ life is derailed by his attraction to Hilde.

The Master Builder - Manuel Harlan
The Master Builder - Manuel Harlan

Ralph Fiennes is undoubtedly the star of the show. Famous for such diverse film work as Schindler’s List, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Spectre, his recent stage work includes The Tempest at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. As Holness, his ability to use posture to illuminate his character was notable: an old man with a tragic past including the loss of his children in a terrible accident is credibly depicted by Fiennes in a way which draws the audience in throughout his shocking demise.

Thank you to Mr Flower, Miss Ivy and Miss Wilson for accompanying the visit and giving us the opportunity to experience this dramatic and tragic production.