Sunday, May 26, 2019

Directing The Master Builder a dream come true for Blue Bridge’s Brian Richmond

May 15, 2019 by Katy Weicker, staff writer

When Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre was putting together their 2019 season with the theme of “travel the world with us,” bringing plays from across the globe to Victoria’s own Roxy Theatre, artistic director Brian Richmond knew he had to include David Hare’s adaptation of Henrik Isben’s The Master Builder.

“I’m just a huge fan of Henrik Ibsen. He’s one of my favourite playwrights of all time—a 19th-century Norwegian playwright—and he’s also called the architect of modern drama, and I believe that that’s true,” says Richmond. “He’s really in many ways the one who’s responsible for inventing the 20th-century drama and this is one of his truly great plays.”

After several years of directing, Richmond says people always ask him if he’s excited about directing a particular play and his response is usually that the excitement comes as he starts to engage in the process of directing it. In the case of The Master Builder, however, he’s truly excited to be directing the piece.

“I think it’s a fascinating and enigmatic piece of storytelling, so I’ve been wanting to direct this for well over a decade,” says Richmond.

The Master Builder is on at Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre until June 9 (photo provided).

Despite this being a long-time dream for Richmond, the quick turnaround between Blue Bridge’s previous show—Happy Days—and The Master Builder means a quick three-week rehearsal process before opening night.

“There’s a lot of challenges with it,” he says. “It’s been a play that right from the beginning people who were even fans of Henrik Isben were perplexed by. It tends to blend realism and symbolism in one package, so it’s always a tricky balance from the creative team’s point of view of where you’re going to sit in terms of your emphasis on realism versus symbolism.”

Blue Bridge has taken a more avant-garde approach to their work in the past; Richmond says this interpretation of The Master Builder is going to fall more along those lines.

“It is going to be one of our far more adventurous visual approaches to a production—although I haven’t seen all the designs yet, but I think it will be the most abstract of all of our visual designs,” he says. “And the material is going to be very interesting, particularly in light of the MeToo movement and how people respond to this story.”

Richmond explains the central story revolves around a man in his early 60s who had a fleeting encounter with a teenage woman 10 years earlier; this forces the audience to figure out for themselves what the main themes of the play are.

“I don’t believe that is what the play is about, but of course that’s going to be seen in a very distinct way in our times,” says Richmond.

When it comes to tackling these sensitive subjects, particularly in older pieces, Richmond believes it’s important to approach the past in theatre the same way we do as citizens.

“The past is not a carbon copy of our values of the present, nor should it be,” he says. “So, if the past is at all valuable to be revisited we have to look at the past through the lens of how people view issues in their time period. And so we’re trying to build bridges between a set of values that, in this case, was more than 100 years ago and our own current values… But at the same time, you need to be true to the ethos and the values of the work that you’re tackling.”

The Master Builder
Tuesday, May 28 to Sunday, June 9
$18- $42, Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre
bluebridgetheatre.ca

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