Anonym anmelder i Pall Mall Gazette
The Master Builder ved Trafalgar Square Theatre anmeldt i Pall Mall Gazette i London 21. februar 1893.
«THE MASTER-BUILDER» AT THE TRAFALGAR SQUARE.
THE blunder has been made. «Master-Builder Solness» has been played upon the London stage. The enemies of Ibsen may well rejoice over what the friends of Ibsen must needs call a calamity. For to the friends of Ibsen to the people, that is to say, who have from the first understood him and followed in admiration the growth of his career «Master-Builder Solness» came as nothing less than a catastrophe. And if this «last fruit from an old tree,» or, at all events, latest fruit from an old tree, was heart-breaking to read, it was yet more heart-breaking to see acted. There are agonies which one may endure in the study that are scarcely to be borne in a theatre. Probably no gifts of acting could have made «The Master-Builder» to adopt the marred English title a joy to earnest students of the work of the great northern dramatist. But it must be said at once, and without hesitation, that Miss Elizabeth Robins and Mr. Herbert Waring were not the woman and the man to cheat observers endowed with any intelligence into the belief that they were beholding a great play. To have done that would have called for a more than Egyptian glamour a glamour denied on this occasion to the daring actor and to the daring actress.
It is the vice of enthusiasm in letters that it so speedily degenerates into partisanship, and thence into mere faction. The admiration of yesterday becomes the fanaticism of to-day and promises folly for to-morrow. This has been the case with many; it is to be hoped that it will not prove to be the case with the majority of the advocates of Henrik Ibsen. In spite of all the warfare that has raged around Ibsens name, in spite of all the expositions, essays, and analyses, it may be asserted with truth that justice has not yet been done to his genius as a writer, as a student of man; above all, as a dramatist. The term genius is bandied about with much familiarity nowadays, till, like the assignats of a bankrupt State, it no longer represents the value it carries on its face. But genius is the term that fits Ibsen, that belongs to the author of «Peer Gynt» and of «Hedda Gabler», of «Fru Inger til Ostrat» and «Et Dukkehjem.» But it does not follow, unhappily, that because a man deserves to be saluted as a man of genius, therefore all his works stand upon the same level of greatness; above all, it does not follow, as faction generally would have it to follow, that the latest work is equal to the best, or is actually the best, of the authors creation. There are works that pass by the name of Shakespeare, that pass by the name of Goethe, which are the grief of the zealot. And it must, most regretfully, be admitted that «Bygmester Solness» is more unworthy of its author than anything which is unhappily associated with the name of either Shakespeare or Goethe. It would be possible for a critic wholly indifferent to sacrilege to find for himself and for his readers an infinity of sport in this wretched «Master-Builder.» At every turn it affords opportunity for the slings and arrows of the Philistines, for the flouts and jeers of those to whom the name of Ibsen has always been a hissing. But the fact that a great man has erred, has failed, has capitulated, is a fact to deplore, not a fact for mirth, for ridicule. It would be easy enough to make merry over the astonishing ineptitudes, absurdities, offences of «Master-Builder Solness.» No doubt plenty of people will be found to wax blithe over these defects. But the student of the drama, the student to whom everything in life is not a joke or the subject for a joke, can only regret in the first place that Ibsen ever wrote «Master-Builder Solness,» and, in the second place, that actors and actresses were to be found willing to exhibit this tragic error in a great career. Only the greatest acting could have made the play even temporarily attractive, could for the passing hour have cheated the beholder into the cry of Faust the cry, «Stay, for thou art so fair.» And great acting was not given to the service of «The Master-Builder» yesterday. Miss Robins failed to understand Hedda Gabler; she was hardly likely to understand Hilde Wangel. Mr. Warings success as Torwald Helmer did not necessarily suggest, seemed rather to forbid, success as Halvard Solness. «Hedda Gabler» was a play of human beings, of human passions: «A Dolls Home» was a play of human passions, of human beings. But «Master-Builder Solness,» if in its mad way it is not wholly passionless, is certainly wholly unhuman. It is an allegory, so the world has been told, an allegory of the life of Ibsen and of Ibsens works. It is curious to remember in this connection that a tower and alarm due to a tower play a part in Ibsens earliest memories. But allegories are seldom a cause of joy, and the world has seldom seen an allegory so uncompromisingly unattractive as the allegory that is portion and parcel of the warp and woof of «Bygmester Solness.» The earnest admirer of Ibsen looked on with little less than anguish while the three grotesque acts moved at their stealthy pace. The madman Solness, the wanton Hilde, the idiot wife, jerked their way through the leaden hours only to participate in a cheap feu de joie in the last three minutes, after the best motive out of «Hedda Gabler» had been repeated under conditions which made the repetition laughable to the indifferent and agonizing to the serious beholder. To that serious beholder one thought dominates all others pity for Dr. Wangel, who had such a wife as Elena Wangel, such a daughter by an earlier marriage as Hilde Wangel. What, such a spectator asks himself in despair, can the first Mrs. Wangel have been like to have borne such a daughter? For Hilde Wangel is perhaps the most detestable character in the dramas range. In one regard a victim of nymphomania; in another a deliberate murderess; in any aspect, mean, cheap, and hateful, Hilde Wangel stands out in dishonourable distinctness. Miss Robins can scarcely be blamed for failing to make the part attractive; but she certainly approached the part in far too burlesque a spirit. It is not persistent laughter, it is not the iteration of a jaunty attitude with hands folded behind the back, that can bring conviction to such a part. Detestable as Hilde Wangel is, she is not to be played in the spirit in which unfortunately it pleased Miss Robins to play it. And Mr. Waring, able actor though he be, was not the man for Master-Builder Solness. He failed entirely to suggest the hypnotic charm which makes woman after woman succumb to his middle-aged attractions, which makes it possible that an amorous young woman should lure him to his death for the sake of preserving her high ideal of his character. But no acting could have saved the piece from being what it is a tragedy, though not in the sense which was intended by its author.