by Henrik Ibsen. poems by Sam Shepard music by Iggy Pop.
Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 11 October 2014.
Runs: 2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 0845 120 7550.
Review: Carole Woddis 9 October.
A production with many echoes.
Director Irina Brook bears an illustrious name and parentage: daughter of Peter Brook and Natasha Parry. Her biography, too, reads like a veritable Peer Gynt itinerary; brought up in both England and France, resident of New York, actor now turned European director with her own company touring internationally and since January this year Director of the Théâtre National de Nice where this production originated, produced for the Salzburg Festival.
Some pedigree. And watching Brown’s almost three hour passage, you can detect the influences. Internationalist, free flowing, the cast alone stem fromfour continents. Noëlle Ginefri’s design gives us a blanched-out warehouse space, ringed by a white gantry dominated by an enormous canvas of Blake’s `Albion Rose’ painting – a picture of a young man embracing life, paralleling Peer’s own odyssey.
In Brook’s vision, reflecting she has written, her own life experiences in New York in the 1980s, this is a Peer rooted in the rock and counter-culture of the period, with Peer seeking fame and fortune as a rock star and with new songs supplied by Iggy Pop augmented by poems from Sam Shepard. You can’t get much cooler than that.
Brown’s rock-inspired carnivalesque parade – Peer Gynt, you’ll remember, roams the world in search of self – carries echoes, however, of an earlier decade, the Roundhouse in the 1970s, of Le Grand Magic Circus, Incubus, and others with its rough-edged, rambling, sometimes garishly unsophisticated style.
Peer Gynt, the original, is of course, a sprawling piece. It can easily bore for all its ultimate – and profound – wisdom that you can search the world for meaning, only to find it was, all along, there, at home waiting for you.
Brown’s Peer is Iceland’s Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson, charismatic star of Reykjavik’s much admired Vesturport Theatre. He gives us a childlike, hedonistic Peer, encountering all the typical pitfalls of a hopeful then ageing rock star until he returns, disillusioned, a broken man to the arms of Solveig’s steady love.
Brown’s message is clear if not always compelling. But Sigurdsson’s energy and the company’s extraordinary musical and acting versatility make this Peer Gynt visually and physically impressive and finally even moving.
Cast: Helene Arntzen, Frøydis Arntzen Dale, Diego Asensio, Jerry Di Giacomo, Scott Koehler, Mireille Maalouf, Roméo Monteiro, Damien Petit, Margherita Pupulin, Pascal Reva, Augustin Ruhabura, Gen Shimaoka, Shantala Shivalingappa, Ingvar Sigurdsson.
Director: Irina Brook.
Designer: Cécile Kretschmar.
Stage designer: Noëlle Ginefri.
Lighting: Arnaud Jung.
Choreographer: Pascale Chevroton.
Costume: Magali Castellan.
Assistant director: Geoffrey Carey.
Production by Théâtre National de Nice-CDN Nice Côte d’Azur. Developed by Dublin Theatre Festival and Landmark Productions with the support of Irish Theatre Trust. First created at Salzburger Festspiele 2012. World premiere of this production at the Walter Kerr Theatre New York 22 April 2013. First performance at Barbican Theatre London 8 October 2014.