The Wild Duck
Until Sat Nov 1 2014
© Heidrun Löhr
'The Wild Duck'
Time Out rating:
Not yet rated
Time Out says
Posted: Mon Oct 27 2014
This ultra-modern interpretation of Ibsen’s five-act play by Australian theatre company Belvoir Sydney is staged in a huge glass box. With no sets, few props and just darkness and classical music to denote scene changes, the piece distils the tragedy to its essence. This ‘Wild Duck’ is a thrilling, inevitable descent into a palpable and plausible hell.
The wayward Gregers is the catalyst for the action. When he returns home for his businessman father’s wedding following the suicide of his mother, he discovers that Pa’s connection to his childhood friend Hjalmar isn’t all that it seems. In an attempt to bring out the truth, he sets in motion events that tear a happy family – albeit one that is founded on lies – to shreds.
Simon Stone and co-writer Chris Ryan brilliantly present this as an epic tragedy in the guise of a domestic one. Stone also directs this fluid production and he concentrates on making the characters believable. It works: for all its intensity, the show is tinged with real, relatable humour, while the characters feel like our next-door neighbours, struck down, as anyone could be, by disaster. Their voices are amplified from within the box and we hear perfectly every hesitation, tongue click and intonation: the drama is crystal clear.
It lacks the complexity and emotional range of Ibsen’s play, and in cutting, one or two of the characters have become cyphers. Gregers is merely a plot device to unravel the action and his father Haakon is a wispy figure. This can be forgiven: Stone and Ryan’s version focuses very deliberately on Hjalmar and his small, weird but loving family – this is their crisis. The production has a good cast, but the excellent, down-to-earth turn from Brendan Cowell as Hjalmar is the show’s centre.
This is not really Ibsen’s ‘The Wild Duck’ but the production takes that play and squeezes something new and heart-wrenching from it.