The Builders is the second play of the Danish award winning playwright Line Knutzon, performed in front of a Scottish audience by the Edinburgh based theatre group Plutôt La Vie after the success of First You Are Born in 2009. True to her style and contagiously dark humour, Knutzon reveals with a gothic gusto the story of Alice and Jonathan whose ordinary dream of a new home turns into a haunting experience. Anxious and tired of the “good for nothing” builders, the young family is drawn into a series of dark murders whose grotesque innocence and absurd logic is as funny as hell. Mummy, a glitzy diva and total mad hatter, appears just on time to save the day.
The playwright openly shared that the play was a “plotted revenge” against the greed of the wealthy and the builders obsessed with the idea of “making a lot of money” in her country just before the financial crisis. Ironically, the financial crisis began just around the time of the opening night of The Builders.
The predictability of the structure and character stereotyping did not prevent the deep exploration of themes of revenge and emotional numbness in a comical and contemporary light by the Edinburgh theatre cast. The rich visual staging, excellent physical acting, impeccable movements, positioning of the cast and remarkable directorial work managed to win the audience from the very start. The founders and artistic souls of the Plutôt La Vie company, since 2003, have been director Tim Licata and associate director Ian Cameron, who happily mingled with the audience and hosted the night of production.
Considering the brief preparation work (only four days), the staged reading of the play excelled with a high standard of acting. Maggie (Gerda Stevenson) and George (Gerry Mulgrew) are family friends to the couple whose frequent visits bring revelations about the family relationships. The protagonists Alice and Jonathan, played by Victoria Balnaves and Keith McPherson, contrasted well the character of Mummy, impersonated by Vari Sylvester.
Behind the scenes in the post show chat with actors and directors, the group of inspired and enthusiastic professionals were genuinely open to the audience and welcomed any questions, critique and comments. From all the remarks in Traverse 2, it transpired that the darkly comic and “devastating” Danish story had left the audience wonderfully entertained and enchanted. I cannot wait for the full production to come out and see what more the Plutôt La Vie have got to offer.
The Builders was performed as a staged reading by Plutôt La Vie at the Traverse Theatre on the 20th of January 2012.