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The Wild Duck

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Simon Stone’s production is as devastating as it is dazzling. Stone and co-writer Chris Ryan take a scalpel to Ibsen’s original in a reincarnation that is more homage than adaptation. Never has Ibsen felt more relevant or more heartbreaking.

By removing almost two thirds of the characters this retelling is as lean as a rake. Those poor souls remaining hurtle towards the toxic tragedy at the heart of this family drama at full tilt. When they hit it, in an incendiary moment of idealistic truth telling that breaks through the half-light of the half-lies before it, the performances are so real that it’s acutely painful to watch.

Played out within an empty glass box we pore over their tragic lot with forensic intensity. For all the gallows humour – and there is much of it in this sharply witty production, not least from the real life duck on stage – it feels as though we are intruding on private expressions of grief.

This is not a clinical production, however, its luxuriousness belying its streamlined form. The emotional richness of the performances, the plush minimalism of Ralph Myers’ set, Niklas Pajanti’s lighting and Stefan Gregory’s compositional aural feast resplendent with classical violins, explosive rock and an epic choral cacophony, make it as lavish as it is incisive.

The Wild Duck at Belvoir Sydney’s website

  • The Barbican, London
  • October 23-November 1, PN October 24
  • Author: Henrick Ibsen adaptation: Simon Stone, Chris Ryan
  • Director: Simon Stone
  • Design: Ralph Myers set, Tess Schofield costume, Niklas Pajanti lighting, Stefan Gregory composer/sound
  • Technical: Chris Mercer production manager, Luke McGettigan stage manager, Amy Morcom assistant stage manager, Caitlin Porter sound operator, Todd Wilson head mechanist
  • Cast: Brendan Cowell, John Gaden, Anita Hegh, Richard Piper, Sara West, Dan Wyllie
  • Producer: Belvoir Sydney
  • Running time: 1hr 30mins

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The Stage
The Stage is a British weekly newspaper and website covering the entertainment industry, and particularly theatre. It was founded in 1880. It contains news, reviews, opinion, features, and recruitment advertising.