Monday, October 3, 2011

Review: Peer Gynt

This year's Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival features a production by theatre company Rough Magic of the Norwegian play Peer Gynt. This English-language adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's play tells essentially the same story as the original, inspired by the folktales of the protagonist Peer (or Per) Gynt. Peer is a teller of tall tales, a young man who wastes his life with dreams and escapism; the play is the story of the extraordinary lengths of travel, fantasy, and self-deceit he indulges in to avoid his real life and background. The story is told primarily through dialogue but with a strong element of music and song. The instrumental music is provided by Tarab and suits the play well.

Peer Gynt remains popular in Norway. There's even an annual Peer Gynt Festival. The Rough Magic production retains the Norwegian setting but uses Irish accents and mannerisms. Both the original and this version are written in verse rather than prose, making the occasional bursts of song fit nicely into the narrative. Karen Ardiff (Aase) and Sarah Greene (Solveig) do a particularly good job with the vocals.

As in Ibsen's play John Gabriel Borkman the underlying cause of the main character's problems are financial, although in Borkman the character's response is exactly opposite to Gynt's, a dreay fixation on the past. Peer Gynt shares another characteristic with that play: it feels quite long, and as the interval approached my attention started to wane. Perhaps that was partly due to the venue, the O'Reilly Theatre, which became very warm. Fortunately the second half of the play picks up the pace again.

Summary: This is an enjoyable adaptation of one of Norway's most popular plays.

Peer Gynt continues in the O'Reilly Theatre in Belvedere College until October 16th, with shows on at a variety of times. The performance lasts for about 3 hours including the interval and tickets cost from €20 to €30.

Bonus fun fact: one of Charlton Heston's first roles was as Peer Gynt in a low-budget movie in 1941.

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