The Master Builder | Almeida Theatre, London

The Master Builder

by Henrik Ibsen in a translation by Kenneth McLeish
Ticket prices: £8 - £32
Fri 12 Nov 2010 - Sat 8 Jan 2011

“I came for my kingdom. Time’s up, Mr Solness!”

Master Builder Halvard Solness has reached the pinnacle of his career. But at a cost; his family life is in ruins and he lives in fear that the next generation will rise up and brush him aside.

When Hilde Wangel, a bewitching young woman, arrives to collect a decade-old debt, she breathes new life into his professional pride. As Solness completes his architectural masterpiece, will Hilde be the Master Builder’s ultimate downfall?

Evening performances: 7.30pm
Wednesday matinees: 2.30pm on 1 Dec & 5 Jan
Saturday matinees: 3.00pm from 20 Nov

Click here for details of performances over Christmas and New Year

Running time approximately 1 hour 45 minutes
There will be no interval  

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The Cast
Gemma Arterton | The Master Builder | Almeida Theatre, London

Gemma Arterton
Hilde Wangel

Gemma can be seen playing the title role in the recently released film Tamara Drewe. She made her film debut in St Trinian’s as Head Girl Kelly Jones and went on to play Bond girl Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace. Earlier this year she made her West End debut in The Little Dog Laughed at the Garrick Theatre.

Theatre includes: Love’s Labour’s Lost (Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre).

Television includes: Lost in Austen; Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

Film includes: Clash of the Titans; Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.


Stephen Dillane | The Master Builder | Almeida Theatre, London

Stephen Dillane
Halvard Solness

Last year Stephen received the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall and was last at the Almeida in Stephen Dillane’s Macbeth, which Travis Preston also directed. His recent work also includes The Tempest and As You Like It as part of The Bridge Project 2010 directed by Sam Mendes at the Old Vic.

Theatre includes: Hamlet (Gielgud); The Real Thing (Donmar Warehouse); The Coast of Utopia; Angels in America; Dancing at Lughnasa (National Theatre); Drunk Enough to Say I Love You; Our Late Night; Hush (Royal Court).

Film includes: The Hours; Hamlet; Welcome to Sarajevo; The Greatest Game Ever Played; Goal trilogy.


Patrick Godfrey | The Master Builder | Almeida Theatre London

Patrick Godfrey
Knut Brovik

Patrick returns to the Almeida having previously been seen in Enemies, The Iceman Cometh and Galileo.  He has recently been seen in The Crucible at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and at the Globe Theatre in Love’s Labour’s Lost and The Frontline.  His extensive work for the National Theatre includes His Dark Materials, Three Sisters and Mary Stuart.

Theatre includes: As You Like It (Sheffield Crucible); Lying Kind (Royal Court); Romeo and Juliet; Hamlet; Barbarians (RSC).

Television includes: Doc Martin; Fallen Angel; Trial and Retribution; My Family.


Emma Hamilton | The Master Builder | Almeida Theatre, London

Emma Hamilton
Kaja Fosli

Emma's theatre credits include Viola in Twelfth Night for the Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham and an international tour and Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie at the Royal Exchange Theatre. She is currently filming the feature film The Cold Light of Day and has previously been seen on film in Into The Storm and on television as a series regular for two seasons on The Tudors.

Theatre includes: Northanger Abbey (Salisbury Playhouse).


Anastasia Hille | The Master Builder | Almeida Theatre

Anastasia Hille
Aline Solness

Earlier this year Anastasia appeared as Lady Macbeth in Cheek By Jowl’s Macbeth at the Barbican. Her work for the National Theatre includes Dido Queen of Carthage, Women of Troy, Waves and Dream Play. On television she has been seen in Lewis, Poirot and Foyle’s War and films include The Awakening and Bloodline.

Theatre includes: The Jewish Wife (Young Vic); Forty Winks; Ashes to Ashes (Royal Court); The Winter’s Tale (RSC).


John Light | The Master Builder | Almeida Theatre, London

John Light


John has previously been seen at the Almeida in Certain Young Men, The Cenci and The Tower. Last year John played the title role in A New World: A Life Thomas Paine at Shakespeare’s Globe. His work at the RSC includes Julius Caesar, The Tempest, The Seagull and In The Company of Men. He has appeared in films Partition, Scoop and Heights.

Theatre includes: Apologia (Bush Theatre); Hedda Gabler (Gate Theatre, Dublin); The Giant (Hampstead Theatre); The Night Season (National Theatre).

Television includes: Dresden; North & South; Dalziel and Pascoe; Cambridge Spies; Band of Brothers.


Jack Shepherd | The Master Builder | Almeida Theatre, London

Jack Shepherd
Dr Herdal 

Jack has worked extensively for the National Theatre and the Royal Court. He has most recently been seen on stage in a national tour of Rupert Goold’s production of Six Characters in Search of an Author. He was a co-founding member, with Ian McKellen and Edward Petherbridge, of the Actors' Company. On television he is best known for playing the title role in the ITV series Wycliffe

Theatre includes: Small Craft Warning; Macbeth (Arcola Theatre); Andorra (National Theatre / Young Vic); Merchant of Venice (Globe Theatre). 

Television includes: Waking The Dead; God On Trial; The Fixer; The Other Boleyn Girl.

Film includes: Churchill at War; Cock and Bull Story;Charlotte Gray.



Creative Team

Translation Kenneth McLeish

Direction Travis Preston

Design Vicki Mortimer

Lighting Paul Pyant

Sound John Leonard

Casting Toby Whale

Assistant Director Zoe Aja Moore 

Kenneth McLeish

Kenneth was an author, translator and playwright.  Kenneth’s translations have been published and widely performed on stage, film, television and radio. In the UK his work has been performed by the National Theatre and RSC amongst other companies.

Translations include: complete Greek drama (47 plays); The Girl From Maxim’s; A Flea In Her Ear; The One That Got Away (Feydeau); An Italian Straw Hat; The Martin Prize (Labiche); A Doll’s House; Peer Gynt; Rosmersholm (Ibsen); The Belle Vue (Horvath); King Ubu (Jarry); The School For Wives; Don Juan (Molière); Miss Julie; The Great Highway (Strindberg).

Original plays include: Omma; Orpheus; Iliad; I Will If You Will; One For The Money; Vice at the Vicarage.

Published works include: The Good Reading Guide; Shakespeare’s People; The Theatre of Aristophanes; Companion to the Arts in the Twentieth Century; Myth; The Listener’s Guide to Classical Music (both with Valerie McLeish); The Bloomsbury Guide to Human Thought (general editor).

Travis Preston


Travis Preston is Artistic Director of the Center for New Performance at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and Dean of the School of Theater. In 2008 he was named Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture for “contributions to the arts in France and throughout the world”.

For the Almeida: Stephen Dillane’s Macbeth (also REDCAT, Los Angeles / Sydney and Adelaide Festivals).

Theatre includes: Democracy in America; Terra Nova (Yale Repertory Theater); King Lear; Brewsie and Willie (Center For New Performance, CalArts); Roberto Zucco; Sleep of Reason; Ghosts; A Doll’s House; The Ghost Sonata; Woyzeck; Hamlet; Twelfth Night; The Balcony.

Opera includes: Boris Godounov; Al Gran Sole Carico D’Amore (Hamburg State Opera); Lulu (Danish National Symphony); The Pearl Fishers; Semiramide; Don Pasquale; Falstaff; Don Giovanni.

Works created for the stage: An Unseen Energy Swallows Space; The Last American in Paris; Paradise Bound: Part II.

Forthcoming projects include: The Long Road to Freedom (with Harry Belafonte, based on the history of African-American music). Travis has also been developing theatrical presentations for new music compositions, including Bell Solaris and Ah!, both by David Rosenboom.

Vicki Mortimer

For the Almeida: Heartbreak House; 1953.

Theatre includes: Beauty and The Beast; Hamlet; Cat In The Hat; Pains of Youth; Burnt By The Sun; Waves; …some trace of her; Never So Good (National Theatre); One Act Ballet (Royal Opera House); One Evening (Aldeburgh); The Wild Duck (Donmar Warehouse).

Costumes for: Fiddler on the Roof; Nine (Broadway); Jumpers (National Theatre / Piccadilly Theatre / Broadway); Easter; Natt och Drommar (Royal Dramatic Theatre Stockholm); Boy Gets Girl; Mountain Language / Ashes to Ashes; My Zinc Bed; The Country (Royal Court); The Seagull (RSC and tour); The Real Thing (Donmar Warehouse / West End / Broadway).

Opera includes: Al gran sole carico d’amore (Salzberg Festival); Idomeneo; After Dido (ENO); Parthenogenesis (Royal Opera House); Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg; St Matthews Passion; Così fan tutte; The Miserly Knight; Gianni Schicchi (Glyndebourne Festival Opera); Jephtha, Jenůfa; Kát’a Kabanová (WNO); The Turn of the Screw (Scottish Opera); Salome (ENO).

She has worked extensively with the RSC and National Theatre. She has also designed for Stuttgart Ballet; Random Dance Co; Royal Ballet; Nederlands Dans Theater; Donmar Warehouse; Sheffield Crucible; Gate Theatre; Shochiku Theatre - Japan; National Theatre - Ireland. 

Paul Pyant


A Graduate and Associate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

For the Almeida: House of Games; There Came a Gypsy Riding.

Long associations with Glyndebourne Opera, English National Opera, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, National Theatre, English National Ballet, Donmar Warehouse and Northern Ballet.

Opera work worldwide includes productions in America (Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco) Australia, New Zealand, Monte Carlo, Israel, Austria, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and Japan.

Recent productions include: Separate Tables (2009 Chichester Festival); Another Door Closed (Peter Hall Company Bath Season); The Secret Garden (West Yorkshire Playhouse); The Winters Tale (2009 Bridge Project at the Epidarus Festival in Greece); As You Like It; The Tempest (2010 Bridge Project, New York and London); Waiting for Godot (London and Australia tour); Enjoy (National tour); Measure for Measure (RADA); True West (Sheffield Crucible); Aspects of Love (Menier Chocolate Factory).

John Leonard

For the Almeida: Measure For Measure; Rope; Duet for One; Waste; The Homecoming; Big White Fog; Dying For It; Hedda Gabler; Macbeth; Brighton Rock; Whistling Psyche; Five Gold Rings; The Mercy Seat; I.D.

Recent theatre includes: The Power of Yes; England People Very Nice; Much Ado About Nothing; The Enchantment (National Theatre); Calendar Girls; Carrie’s War; In Celebration; Kean; Donkey’s Years; Summer & Smoke; Glengarry Glen Ross (West End); The Cripple Of Inishmaan (Druid Theatre, Galway / New York / tour); Small Craft Warning; Crazy Paola (Arcola Theatre); A Month In The Country (Salisbury Playhouse); Calendar Girls (Chichester / national tour); Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Druid Theatre, Galway / Dublin); Pure Gold (Soho Theatre); Translations (Princeton / Broadway); Leaves; Empress of India; The Druid Synge (Druid Theatre, Galway / Dublin/ Edinburgh / Minneapolis / New York).

Other theatre includes: 2000 Years; Paul; The UN Inspector; Jumpers (National Theatre); Antony and Cleopatra; Much Ado About Nothing; The Prisoner’s Dilemma; Romeo and Juliet (RSC); The Old Masters; The Birthday Party (Birmingham Rep / West End); The Odd Couple; The Entertainer; Still Life / The Astonished Heart; Ma Rainey's Black Bottom; The Anniversary and The Flint Street Nativity (Liverpool Playhouse); Cinderella; The Dumb Waiter (Oxford Playhouse); The Merry Wives of Windsor; The Merchant Of Venice; Cymbeline; Twelfth Night (Ludlow Festival); Becket; Les Liaisons Dangereuses; Sweet Panic; Absolutely! Perhaps; The Anniversary; Losing Louis; The Master Builder (also tour); Private Lives (also Broadway); Embers; Smaller (West End); How to Act Around Cops; Flush; Mercy; Colder Than Here (Soho Theatre); Sunday Father; Born Bad; In Arabia We’d All Be Kings; The Best Of Friends (Hampstead Theatre). 

Toby Whale

For the Almeida: The Lightening Play; Rosmersholm; Certain Young Men.

Theatre includes: Mojo; Shopping and Fucking; The Changing Room; Rat in the Skull; Not a Game For Boys; The York Realist (Royal Court); Some Explicit Polaroids (New Ambassadors Theatre); Rita Sue and Bob Too (Soho Theatre); Dancing at Lughnasa; Six Degrees of Separation; The Real Thing (Old Vic); Twelfth Night; As You Like It; The Country Wife; Edward II; Don Juan; Richard III; The Arbor; Teeth ‘n Smiles; Iphigenia (Sheffield Crucible). 

For the National Theatre: Head of Casting for Nicholas Hytner, 2003 – 2006; The History Boys (also Broadway); On The Shore of the Wide World; Exiles; The Seafarer; Pillars of the Community; Two Thousand Years; The Alchemist; Burn Chatroom Citizenship; The Life of Galileo; Southwark Fair; The Overwhelming; The Royal Hunt of the Sun; The Voysey Inheritance; Playing With Fire; The Three Sisters; Iphigenia; A Dream Play; Paul; The False Servant; Henry IV; The Pillowman; Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads; The Mandate; Stuff Happens; The Permanent Way; Mourning Becomes Electra; His Dark Materials.

Film includes: Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll; Pope Joan; Poppy Shakespeare; Mr Nobody; French Film; The History Boys; Ashes & Sand; Wondrous Oblivion; Before You Go; Three Blind Mice; East Is East.
Television includes:Silk; Outcasts; Ashes To Ashes; Mutual Friends; True Dare Kiss; George Gently; Gavin & Stacey; Indian Dream; Reversals; Trust; Paradise Heights; Wire in the Blood; Table Twelve; NCS: Manhunt; Men Only; Black Cab; Hearts and Bones; Touching Evil; Tales From Pleasure Beach; Hereafter; A Wing and a Prayer; Spoonface Steinberg; The Student Prince; My Summer With Des; The Bill.

Zoe Aja Moore
Assistant Director

As Director: At Sundown (Edinburgh Fringe); The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Centre For New Performance, CalArts); Wingstroke (CalArts New Works Festival); Juicy and Delicious (The Tank, New York); Chew You Like Ice (The Ohio Theatre); Sketch Comedian; Mental Illness (Theater Row, New York); Mommy Says I’m Pretty on the Insides; Homebaking Made Easy; A Burlesque Fairytale (Williamstown Theater Festival); Loose Girls and Screwdrivers (MTS); Offences of Cacti (The Drlling Co.).

As Assistant Director: the break/s (Actors Theater of Louisville); War (Rattlestick Theater).







**** (4 stars) “We get a straight-talking, 105 minute version that has the quality of a propulsive dream.”

“Dillane gives us a compelling portrait of a hollow-eyed, despairing figure…Arterton also makes a magnetic Hilde.”

Michael Billington, The Guardian, 19 November 2010

Read full review

**** (4 stars) “Travis Preston makes the Norwegian’s loopiest and most personal drama look and feel like a dream.”

Caroline McGinn, Time Out, 23 November 2010

Read full review

**** (4 stars) “A compelling, shadow-filled, modern-dress psychodrama”
Paul Taylor, The Independent, 22 November 2010

Read full review

**** (4 stars) “In one of the most scintillating performances of the year, Gemma Arterton is a magnificent muse to the despairing Solness.”

Paul Callan, Daily Express, 19 November 2010

Read full review 

“Fey and fierce, demure and demonic, Arterton cuts a genuinely unsettling figure, well matched with Dillane’s spiralling obsession”

Libby Purves, The Times, 19 November 2010 

“Travis Preston’s [The Master Builder is a] bold and thoughtful modern-dress production with a dreamlike quality, part fantasy, part nightmare. But it is also chillingly convincing."
Ben Dowell, The Stage, 25 November 2010

Read full article


Gemma Arterton is interviewed on BBC Two's The Culture Show at the Almeida Theatre about her career so far and staying grounded.

Watch full programme

(Gemma Arterton interview at 25 minutes in)

Gemma Arterton talks to The Observer about playing "one of the best female roles ever".

Read full interview

From Bond Girl to Ibsen - Baz Bamigboye releases the news that Gemma Arterton is to appear in The Master Builder.

Read full article




"Masterly. Production, set, acting, all excellent. I found the production ultimately profoundly moving."


"The Master Builder was a tour de force - completely mesmerising  and compelling. Superb performances throughout."


"The production was excellent and the play is one of Ibsen's masterpieces still valuable today. Congratulations to you and your team."


Read More

We speak to Gemma Arterton about her decision to take the role as Hilde Wangel in The Master Builder...


It is Michael Attenborough’s opinion that Ibsen was the greatest writer for women since Shakespeare – would you concur with this?

I have to agree with Michael on that, especially in terms of empowered, plot-driving women. Since Shakespeare, and even now in so much contemporary work, often the women are there to support the juicy male roles and simply help the story tick along nicely.

In Ibsen's plays, especially in The Master Builder, the female characters are the constructive and destructive forces in the story.

What attracted you to The Master Builder in particular?

I was attracted to Hilde Wangel's character and story. She is complicated, enchanting and dangerous. Her presence in the play has a volcanic effect – I was dying to play her! Also, just before I read the play for the first time, I asked a dramaturg friend of mine which role, out of all the roles in the world I should play at this point in my life. He told me "You were born to play Hilde Wangel". I was intrigued, read the play and have since been questioning his opinion of me...


The full interview with Gemma can be seen in the Almeida Supporters' newsletter. For more information on becoming a supporter click here.


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