The Wild Duck
Written in 1888, Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck epitomizes modernist naturalism. In this adaptation director Simon Stone (of The Hayloft Project) has taken Ibsen’s text and distilled it to its dramatic essence, transposing its exploration of family, greed, jealousy and paternal inheritance into the present day. What immediately becomes apparent is the strength and longevity of the play’s emotional core, which remains just as overwhelming now more than a century after it was written.
The play begins when Gregors (Toby Schmitz) returns to the family home on the eve of his father Werle’s (John Gaden) remarriage, Werle’s bride-to-be younger than his prodigal son. While in town, Gregors also reunites with his childhood friend Hjalmar (Ewen Leslie), who now runs a photography studio with his wife Gina (Anita Hegh) and has a daughter of his own, Hedvig (Eloise Mignon). But it soon becomes apparent that past hurts sit dangerously close to the surface, these boyhood chums' relationship played with the perfect balance of affection and muted resentment.
It is Ralph Meyers’ set design that distinguishes this adaptation. The actors perform within a glass case, the characters’ lives separated from the audience by a literal fourth wall. On the one hand, this gives us the sense that we are peering into their private drama. On the other, its subtly reflective surface every now and then gives us a glimpse of ourselves, suggests that perhaps our own lives are not really that different from those of the characters. Employing minimal props, the whole show hinges on Stone’s unfaultable script and the actors’ stunning performances.
The Wild Duck explores the nature of truth and secrets, asking the question: are some skeletons are better left in the closet? In this world where the past retains the power to overwhelm the present, revealing the truth is not always selfless act. Simon Stone has transformed Ibsen’s text into a theatrical experience, its emotional resonance lingering long after the glass wall has fallen. This show is truly unmissable, and is proving to be unforgettable.
The Wild Duck is now showing at the Malthouse Theatre until March 17. For bookings and further information, visit malthousetheatre.com.au.