Anonym anmelder i The Times
The Master Builder ved Trafalgar Square Theatre anmeldt i The Times i London 21. februar 1893 (No. 33,880).
Since the production at the Trafalgar-square Theatre yesterday afternoon of The Master Builder, the most ardent votaries of Ibsenism must be in some doubt as to whether a further prosecution of the cult is advisable. They must have left the theatre with an uneasy feeling that the master was laughing at them in his sleeve. It is only on some such hypothesis that the strange composition of the latest of Mr. Ibsens plays can be accepted as the work of a wholly sane writer, especially a writer for the stage, where it is, above all, necessary to be clear and intelligible. The master builder is one Halvard Solness, who builds, it appears, not by contract, but in obedience to his own caprice. He began by building churches; then he took to building «houses for human beings to live in,» but both branches of enterprise have proved unsatisfactory, though not from the commercial point of view, which indeed is never mentioned. When the play opens Solness is in two minds as to whether he will build any more, or build houses with towers. While explaining himself as best he can to the family doctor, who does not profess to understand these nebulous projects, the master builder is evidently haunted by the belief that he is not quite sane, or that his proceedings are liable to be interpreted as insanity. This view of the part, at all events, is taken by its exponent on the stage, Mr. Herbert Waring, who not only adopts something of the manner of the lunatic, but indulges from time to time in an uncanny maniacal laugh. Solness also, according to the author, believes in the transmission of will power from one person to another at indefinite distances, and credits himself with possessing the hypnotizing faculty in an exceptional degree. At this juncture there enters to Solness a strange visitor in the person of Hilde Wangel, a young woman who appears to be as mad as he. Ten years before she had been impressed by seeing the master builder wave a flag on the top of one of his own structures. Afterwards, as she explains, he had spoken to her, and kissed her, and promised that in ten years time he would give her a kingdom, of which she should be the princess. The time being up she has come for her kingdom, and quite as a matter of course takes up her abode under his roof until the kingdom is ready. A strange home is the master builders altogether. It contains three empty nurseries, in one of which a bed is made up for this eccentric visitor; Mrs. Solness is mad, or at least melancholic, partly as the result of a fire, in which nine favourite dolls were consumed, together with a number of satin dresses which had been in the family for hundreds of years, and partly owing to the early death of her children; while a female clerk and an apprentice of Solnesss are understood to be going about in a semi-hypnotized condition. The only sane person in the story is the doctor, and he does not understand matters at all. No more, one may safely say, do the audience. Eventually Hilde explains that she will be content with a castle in the air a castle with a very high tower. At the same time she is anxious to see the master builder on the top of this aerial structure waving his flag as he did on another occasion ten years before. Luckily some such structure as she dreams of is being raised in the wings, on a site of which a good view can be obtained from the stage. The building does not appear to be entirely aerial; for certain prosaic neighbours are brought upon the stage to watch its completion, and Solness himself carries a substantial wreath, which he means to place on the apex of his tower. After his departure on this mission, the master builders progress up the tower is watched with interest and apprehension by the persons on the stage. Hilde is delighted because she is at last to see her conception of her idols greatness realized, and indeed it was at her bidding that Solness set about his foolhardy feat. The wreath is successfully planted on the highest point of the structure, when a cry of horror is raised. Solness has missed his footing on the tower and is dashed to pieces on the ground, his fall being succeeded immediately by the fall of the curtain. All this, say the admirers of the Norwegian dramatist, is symbolism, and symbolism as applied to Mr. Ibsens own works. He had begun by building churches that is, writing orthodox plays; the houses for human beings to live in were the Ibsenite drama proper. What the castle in the air is they do not, so far as we are aware, explain, but if it should be the symbolical drama over which its author comes to grief, no impartial-minded person who witnessed this crazy performance of The Master Builder will be disposed to say them nay. As to the value of the acting in this extraordinary piece, we prefer to express no opinion. Suffice it to say that Mr. Herbert Waring as the master builder and Miss Elizabeth Robins as Hilde seemed to be very much in earnest with their task, and that Miss Louise Moodie was realistic but terribly depressing as the hypochondriacal Mrs. Solness.