Wild Duck at the Barbican

Back to the Barbican (I’d been there last Sunday when a power outtage had caused the cancellation of British Sea Power’s brass band collaboration) for the International Ibsen Season, and Belvoir Sydney version of The Wild Duck.  Here’s what I scribbled on the train back….

hqdefaultJust occasionally a piece of theatre picks you up by the scruff of the neck, grips you hard, shakes you round a bit, makes you laugh….and then punches you in the stomach….hard.

Thats exactly what The Wild Duck (running until Saturday) has just done to me.

the_wild_duck086.jpgSimon Stone’s imaginative and radical reinvention of the Ibsen classic strips the play of its realism, bringing it sharply upto date.  The action is placed in a void like space, contained by a glass box.  Occasionally we see ourselves reflected in the glass, as if we too are complicit in the story.  Reduced down to just under 90 minutes Chris Ryans re working is both tight and taut, stripping the story back to the bare, raw essentials.  Played at pace (save perhaps for some of the seemingly over long scene gaps, you could hardly call them scene changes) the piece hurtles towards Hedvig’s inevitable decision.

Of course there are some sacrifices.  Subtly gives way to intensity, Ibsen’s delicate layering and slow build giving way to impact.

But the overall effect is devastating ….leaving one shard of hope as Hjalmar (Brendan Cowell) and Gina (Anita) break free from the glass box for a final moving scene.

There is an interview with the shows director here

Not all the reviewers have agreed.  Here is a dissenting voice from Michael Billington (potted duck), Paul Taylor in the Independent view is here (an imaginative reinvention) and Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times (devastatingly effective).


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