Monday, December 06, 2010

Peer Gynt

Alison Croggon in her brilliantly informative blog : theatre notes - independent theatre reviews and commentary writes on Four Larks original adaptation of Ibsen's Peer Gynt ... maybe the strongest aspect of this company's theatre is its design..."

I was reminded of Greystone Theatre's own adaptation in March '10 ... here are Jim Guedo's directors notes ...

This is a contemporary take on the Norwegian classic.

Before writing the prose plays for which he would be universally acclaimed as the father of modern drama, Ibsen wrote one of the last great verse epics of the nineteenth century.

Based in part on Norwegian folk traditions, Peer Gynt is by turns comic, tragic, lyrical and fantastic. The play has been adapted to speak to contemporary audiences by replacing the 'folk tales' underpinnings [which spoke to audiences of his day] with modern pop culture references, which are ingrained in much the same manner in our minds. The original fluctuated between prose and verse; this has been updated to dialogue and song.

Peer Gynt, Ibsen's sprawling epic, ranges wildly across realms rustic, exotic and fantastic. A play about a man whose philosophy is to have no philosophy, Peer Gynt, a country bumpkin embarks on a series of adventures in the mundane and the metaphysical world. Ultimately, he realizes too late that in our world nobody can exist alone.

Though Ibsen himself regarded it as his play least likely to be understood outside of his country, it has become one of his most universal works. It is not an allegory, but a phantasmagoria that speaks on many levels.

As Ibsen himself wrote: "Everything that I have written is most minutely connected with what I have lived through, if not personally experienced; every new work has had for me the object of serving as a process of spiritual liberation and catharsis; for every man shares the responsibility and the guilt of the society to which he belongs. That was why I once inscribed in a copy of one of my books the following dedicatory lines:

To live is to war with trolls in heart and soul. To write is to sit in judgment on oneself."

Ibsen, in a letter to Ludwig Passarge, June 16, 1890

It's impossible for any translation of Peer Gynt to be entirely satisfactory. This one has not attempted rhymed verse, and has refused to be chained to verbal literalness or for' line for line' rendering. An attempt has been made to follow the shape of the original, in unrhymed verse, keeping as closely to the original's literal meaning as is compatible with intelligibility in another century and tongue. So its energy is modern; it's been updated, deconstructed and played with in order to be acted, not read as poetry. Ibsen wanted it fleet of foot, funny and audacious, That's the aim of this adaptation.

- Jim Guedo


... i would call the adaptation a mashup ... the show fuses contemporary pop culture, advertising aesthetic and tongue in cheek humour with epic symbolic imagery ... the language observes and locates the place of ancient religious symbolism and mythology into a world obsessed with capitalism, celebrity and marketing gimmicks ... Guedo created a culturally re-mixed piece incorporating conceptual links, visual and conceptual mixing of religious mythologies with his student's personal experience, pop culture and folklore( Norwegian Death Metal, Gold Top Milk & Buddha) ... and the staging was absolutely breath taking ... applauding his work he replied ... "Oh you liked the Ninjas at work" ... indeed the stage hands (students under the direction of Steven Wade) were invisible and magical ...

... i have always been obsessed with romanticised fables within religious history, exploring the enduring appeal of spirituality within our postmodern and largely secular society ... it was pure delight witnessing Peer Gynt ... so many associations are conjured between cult ritual, pop posing, mythical symbolism and advertising logos ... perhaps the power of the performance lies in the fact that the audience is left unsure whether Guedo is presenting a serious message or jokingly taking us for a ride ... a delightful ride it was ...

... one could quibble with the excessive length but even that was for the benefit of students to allow many of them to explore long monologues or give more breadth to minor roles ...

- See: Theater

:: note :: ... a stunning production ... many observations written by Croggon apply to this production by 3rd. & 4th year drama students ...