Theatre Review: "The Wild Duck" Reimagined
The night I watched The Wild Duck was perhaps the first night I truly understood the term “shook,” because it had indeed, left me shook.
Presented by Belvoir Sydney and directed by Australia’s own Simon Stone, the play itself was well produced and well executed. Seamless scene transitions, lighting and stage design provided an interesting and thought-provoking platform for the audience to contemplate. A glass box design and minimal prop use, Stone’s contemporary take on Ibsen’s classic brought The Wild Duck into the postmodern era, where the indelibility of the patriarchy and the timeless opposition of light and dark is constantly challenged.
In a play based around the secrets of the past and the effects they have on the present, Stone (who had previous experience with Ibsen, after writing The Only Child after Ibsen’s Little Eyolf) crafts his characters and his stage magnificently. Ibsen was known as a “Master Stage Craftsman,” and yet by taking away something so characteristic of Ibsen and replacing it with a subtle minimalist stage, Stone and Belvoir succeed in producing a clean and reflective drama in which the audience is subject to the wild and emotional roller coaster that we call family. Furthermore, the characterisation, as well as the interaction between the protagonist Hialmar and the supporting cast, including his wife and his child, lead to a strong and impactful atmosphere.
It wasn’t a subtle production—rather it was blunt and direct. Stone presented the conflicts as they were, not what they were seen to be. Where others would refrain from speaking about themes concerning the home—after all, issues in the home should be solved within the home—Stone decided to dismiss this concept and challenge the audience directly, seemingly saying that this is what happens when that happens, and that is what happens when you forget that everything you do influences the others around you.
Ultimately, though, I did feel as though this play was lacking in understanding of the core ideal of Ibsen and what he aimed to portray. Although drama is open to interpretation, I did feel as though Stone missed the mark a little—the scenes felt disjointed, and there were some times when there were characters in a corner of the empty glass box doing, as it seemed, nothing. And while one must give credit to Stone for using his artistic licence in a most creative way, it felt unnecessary and distracting.
The Wild Duck was an entertaining play, and even with what I would deem as slight flaws in its execution, I cannot (and will not) deny that it was a deeply reflective and challenging piece of art, well-produced and well-written.