Peer Gynt - preview
Dominic Hill’s last project at Dundee Rep, here combining its resources with the National Theatre of Scotland, shows no lack of ambition. The soon-to-be artistic director of the Traverse has chosen a complex, picaresque classic full of incident as his swan song in Tayside. Ibsen’s mighty theatrical verse poem was not originally intended for full scale production, yet its power on a stage is undeniable.
The adventures of the eponymous philandering, occasionally violent, frequently acquisitive lad, who, from a modest start becomes King of the Trolls, a multimillionaire and the inmate of an African asylum, to note but three of many incidents in the text, is, for Hill, a supremely modern figure, as relevant today, perhaps more so, as at the text’s creation in 1867. The character himself, Hill contends, sets the contemporary tone. ‘He’s an only child, an outcast from the community, all that is really accessibly drawn in the first half. Psychologically he’s very complete and very modern as a character,’ he says. ‘My whole motive in doing this play was to get away from that kind of rustic, folksy interpretation, which for me, softened the edges. I wanted to do a version that focussed more on the modern world. This is a loud, boisterous modern play.’
But beyond its modernity, Hill feels that there’s an existential question at the centre of the piece. He says: ‘He very much engages with the question of who one is, of identity. He does all the things that he’s meant to do to realise himself, like make lots of money and shag lots of women. But the advice he takes at the beginning, to know yourself, doesn’t necessarily entail all that, so we’re left questioning whether he’s in fact wasted his time.’ This, itself, ties up with the question of whether what we all seek from life is emotional closure. ‘He’s running away from the people who want him. For all the people he shags, he doesn’t find that emotional fulfilment,’ Hill adds. A play about the modern, love or identity? There’s enough to Peer Gynt for it to be about all three and more. (Steve Cramer)
Dundee Rep, Mon 24 Sep–Sat 13 Oct