Daily Mail (London)
14 October 1995
AMID THE RUBBLE, A DEBUT BUILT ON ROCK
The Master Builder, by Henrik Ibsen, Theatre Royal, Haymarket
By Jack Tinker
THERE are moments when a new young artist arrives on a stage and instantly
the performance ignites the entire production.
Then you reach for the old superlative cliches.
A star is born; an overnight success. Yet these are to trivialise the
subtle achievements of Victoria Hamilton in Sir Peter Hall's otherwise
curiously stilted production of Ibsen's great monument to male megalomania.
Miss Hamilton redefines the pivotal role of Hilde Wangel, the wild spirit of
youth whose arrival symbolises the destruction of the despotic Master
Usually, Helge is played with swaggering self-importance. Miss Hamilton, on
the other hand, equips herself with the strange enchanting vulnerability of
extreme youth to match the wild gipsy charms which so delude the man she has
set out to bewitch. It is a West End debut of enchanting and radiant
If only Alan Bates had the confidence to match all this manic spontaneity.
Usually an actor so much in command of hidden enigma, his Master Builder's
inner demons here seem awkwardly artificial and surface-contrived. Indeed,
it is left entirely to the two women in the play to bring out all its
Gemma Jones, inwardly trembles with the accumulated disappointment, distrust
and grief born of a lifetime spent hopelessly in love with a manipulative
While, for once, Mr Bates misses the hidden self doubts of the Master
Builder built of straw, these two actresses carry the play's spiritual
momentum with a magnificence which fairly catches one by the throat. Thanks
to them it remains as thrillingly real throughout all its impressive
theatricality as ever.
The ending, on an impressive revolving stage, heightened by the sound of
heartbeats never fails.
(Submitted by Tara)