The Master Builder (trans. Edgar)

Henrik Ibsen translated by David Edgar

DOI: 10.5040/9781784600952.00000003
Acts: 2. Scenes: 4. Roles: Male (4) , Female (3) , Neutral (0)

David Edgar's version of Ibsen's 1892 play The Master Builder, based on a literal translation by Desireé Kongerød McDougall, is a compelling study of obsessive determination and the darker side of ambition. It was commissioned by Chichester Festival Theatre and first performed at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, on 9 September 2010.

Halvard Solness, a leading local architect, is at the end of his career. A single-minded man of angry pride, trapped in a frozen marriage to Aline, he is terrified of being eclipsed by the younger generation snapping at his heels. A decade after their first meeting, the charismatic young Hilde Wangel comes back into his life and inspires him to even greater heights. But as he embarks on his latest towering achievement, the pressure threatens not to renew him, but to destroy him instead.

In his foreword to the published script, David Edgar notes that 'The most obvious change that I’ve made to The Master Builder is changing its shape from three acts to two. ... In my version... the interval comes not after Solness’s first conversation with Hilde (where Ibsen places his first act-change), nor at Hilde’s first entrance twenty minutes earlier (which a screenwriter would see as the end of the first act). It comes at the moment when Solness decides to tell Hilde everything, thus fully arming her for the rest of the play.'

Edgar also observes that, 'In The Master Builder, the big linguistic question is how you translate Hilde Wangel... . Some previous translations tend towards the argot of an Angela Brazil schoolgirl (‘terribly exciting’, ‘frightfully thrilling’), which feels quaint today. I have modified the Michael Meyer rule: there are no anachronisms, but I have allowed myself words and expressions which, while retaining their common meaning, have taken on a particular, contemporary youth-speak patina. So while I wouldn’t use ‘wicked’ (whose youth-use reverses its conventional meaning) or expressions like ‘Hallo?’ (as an emphatic rather than a salutation), I have used words like ‘brilliant’ and ‘magic’, and expressions like ‘I don’t think so’.'

The Chichester production was directed by Philip Franks and designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis, with Michael Pennington as Halvard Solness, Maureen Beattie as Aline Solness, Pip Donaghy as Dr Herdal, John McEnery as Knut Brovik, Philip Cumbus as Ragnar Brovik, Emily Wachter as Kaja Fosli and Naomi Frederick as Hilde Wangel.

From The Master Builder


Nick Hern Books

Henrik Ibsen translated by David Edgar

ISBN: 9781848421066

Series: NHB Classic Plays

Buy this work