Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Peer Gynt" - October 2007

"Peer Gynt - the fucking emperor! Peer Gynt - the fucking emperor!" go the chants in this National Theatre of Scotland co-production with Dundee Rep Theatre of Colin Teevan's new version of Ibsen's play, directed by Dominic Hill. Between them they have certainly managed to weave Emperor Gynt some New Clothes, resulting in almost universal critical acclaim and every 5 star rating going.

We'd been tipped off that despite my current disillusionment with pre-show action, it was worth being in the theatre bar 15 minutes before the start, and so it proved. The wedding guests of the play barged their way through, greeting audience members as they went, and did a couple of numbers with the show band, before ordering the audience to take their seats. It was a wonderful few minutes of high energy theatricality with many in the audience taken by surprise, and it hinted that something really quite special was to follow. But the actual show failed to live up to this promising beginning.

It isn't that it's a truly bad production, although I'd struggle to describe it as enjoyable and it certainly dragged at times. The performances were perfectly acceptable, but it was just all very average although Gerry Mulgrew's older Peer did add a little sparkle along with Emily Winter's Ingrid and Judith Williams in various roles. For the record in the performance we saw Solveig was played by Helen Mackay and Helga by Sharon Young.

The whole production just didn't leave me with much to think about, achieved no investment in the characters whatsoever and was only marginally entertaining. Failing to engage me in any of those three aspects is pretty rare.

Strong language on stage doesn't bother me, but much of it here was pointless and I find it patronising that someone seems to think it's required to reach a younger audience.

There were some nice moments such as the Apes and the Plane scene, but little we hadn't seen done considerably better elsewhere. The realisation of Gynt's tales couldn't hold a candle to Theatre Modo's wonderful "Don Quixote" which managed with a cast of three and minimal staging, and while the party atmosphere was good fun, the Citizens Young Company captured it so much better with their "Geeks, Greeks & Party Myths"

I'm struggling to dissect why I didn't enjoy this, but Waldorf thinks we weren't alone in the audience, and I certainly did feel the audience participation in the (wholly unnecessary) song and dance number was a little coerced. I'm off to read all those 5 star reviews and see if I can work out what they saw that I didn't...

Photo by Douglas McBride used with permission.

4 Heckles

Bluedog said...

I hope I didn't send you all the way to Dundee on a false promise.

Almost universal 5 star approval has to be investigated though, I am sure you will agree.

I too had some reservations about the show, but liked it overall. I would rather see a bold production taking risks than a wooden production which plays safe.

Statler said...

No, I'm glad we went. I'd rather experience it myself and be disappointed, than be left thinking it had been a mythical "Black Watch" type wonder that we hadn't made an effort to see.

I'm pleased to hear that we were not alone in being puzzled by the strength of the reviews, and even now having read them all, I'm still confused as to what impressed them so much.

And just in case anyone suggests the cast changes may have had an impact on the performance we saw, after further investigation it appears these were in place for the entire run.

The theatre is a great venue though, and Dundee isn't really that far, so do drop us a note of any future suggestions.

Bluedog said...

I wonder it Peer Gynt will win in this year's CATS awards?

Anonymous said...

I also am mystified by the five star ratings. Maybe it's some kind of bonus for a show going really long.