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Theatre Works • The Master Builder
  • Cast Highlights:
  • Stephen Dillane
  • Patrick Godfrey
  • Emma Hamilton
  • Character: Hilde Wangel
    Production Status: Now Playing in London
    Release Date: Fri 12/11/10 To Sat 08/01/11
    Director: Travis Preston
    Writer: Henrik Ibsen in a translation by Kenneth McLeish
    Genre: Drama

    Plot Outline:
    Master Builder Halvard Solness has reached the pinnacle of his career. But at a cost; his family life is in ruins and he lives in fear that the next generation will rise up and brush him aside.

    When Hilde Wangel, a bewitching young woman, arrives to collect a decade-old debt, she breathes new life into his professional pride. As Solness completes his architectural masterpiece, will Hilde be the Master Builder’s ultimate downfall?

    Starring Gemma Arterton, Stephen Dillane, Patrick Godfrey, Emma Hamilton, Anastasia Hille, John Light and Jack Shepherd.

    Gemma’s Role:
    Gemma Arterton plays Hilde Wangel.

    “I’m playing Hilde Wangel, who’s this weird, ethereal woman. You never know if she’s a devil or angel, or what on Earth… She’s the only character in the whole piece who you have no idea why she’s there. So I have to work it out. That’s great, but you have to do a lot of work.”

    “I find her incredibly hard to describe,” says Arterton of Hilde. “There’s this huge fairy tale element to The Master Builder. She’s also a princess and a troll and a devil and an angel at the same time, all of these things,” she laughs. “She is so mad. But you can’t think that you’re playing a bonkers person, you have to try to completely understand everything that they are doing, which is why I am really frantic at the moment.”

    “It’s one of my favorite-ever plays, and it’s a character that’s completely mysterious and strange. I’m petrified, actually, of doing it. But it’s going to be a big challenge, which is good, because I’m going to need it. For me, I actually haven’t done any movies this year [2010], I’ve just done plays. I’d be interested to see how I act in a movie next year, because I haven’t done one in ages. I’ve just done stage work. We’ll see how I progressed, or not!”

    “People say that it’s one of the best female roles ever. I just have to trust myself that I can do it.”

    Arterton thinks Ibsen writes incredible roles for women. She’d like to play Hedda Gabler later on.

    Michael Attenborough, the Almeida’s artistic director, described Hilde as “one of the great parts for a young woman in classical theatre.”

    “It’s a sensational role, and the chance to play opposite Stephen Dillane doubles the sensation, really,” he told Baz Bamigboye.

    Arterton agrees. “It’s amazing working with Stephen [Dillane], I’ve never worked with anyone that’s so open and not afraid to go places,” she says. “When you work in film I think that you get so used to self-conscious actors that are just worried about how they are going to look or what somebody is going to think of them, and I find that really tedious when I’m working in film, so it’s really nice to be in a room with people who don’t give a s**t, they just go for it.”

    Attenborough has known of Arterton’s talent ever since he gave a two-day workshop to third-year students at Rada. He used to warn his classes that, more than likely, he would forget their names the minute he left the auditorium. “It’s extremely hard to forget the name Gemma Arterton, I have to tell you,” he said. “I absolutely remembered her. She was corking when I worked with her.”

    “The camera tells you she’s beautiful, but the huge difference is that she’s an absolute humdinger, 100 per cent, proper actress.”

    “Listen, I was married to a Bond girl,” he told, referring to his brief marriage in the early Seventies to Jane Seymour.

    “I know it’s a very well-paid job and I have no truck with anybody who sneers at that kind of work. But, at the sametime, Gemma is capable of serious work.”

    “Movie studios jump on the pretty girls and, of course, they are offering them six-figure sums.”

    “So it takes a lot of guts and a lot of savvy to say: ‘Hang on a minute – I want to do great classical roles’,” added Attenborough, who has just directed award-winning Ruth Wilson at the Almeida in Through A Glass Darkly.

    Gemma says her West End part in The Master Builder will enable her to spend more time with Stefano Catelli whom she married in June 2010. “I love married life and I decided it was about time I took a break from filming and working abroad so that we can spend more time together.”

    She added: “I didn’t spend all that time studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art learning about stage craft just for the sake of it.”

    “Of course there are pressures on me to do the big films, but that’s not all that I’m about.”

    “Acting is my career, and going on stage as regularly as possible is vital to me.”

    Gemma Arterton says that playing Hilde Wangel is “the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

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