FESTIVAL THEATRE (EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL)
August 1,2,3-9 – 7.00 pm. August 4,7,9,10 – 12.30 pm
⭐⭐ (2 stars)
This is a play by the notable contemporary playwright David Hare from the classic text by Henrik Ibsen. It is an early work by Ibsen, a long, sprawling work which covers most of the life of the eponymous hero.
We begin with the hero returning from the wars, telling his mother about all that he has achieved. Yet how much are we to believe? Peter’s mother is rightly lacking in credulity. Peter (James McArdle) and mother Agatha (Ann Louise Ross) have a vigorous and engaging exchange.We move on to the problem of Gynt’s erstwhile love marrying another guy, the scandal and his departure, the episode of the Hall of the Mountain King, and finally the death of the mother. This death is very drawn out, and maybe reminiscent of certain scenes from Dickens. We feel we are definitely in a nineteenth century world of rural fantasy and maybe fairy tale.
After the first interval we find ourselves in a very modern world, where Gynt has shrugged off issues that may have been dogging him and become a very successful entrepreneur. Of the three sections, this seemed to me the most effective and crisp. There are some very sharp comments and satirical barbs that hit the spot regarding the world today, and the audience respond to this. More of this elsewhere would have been good. Part three involves a long virtual drowning, and what seems an even more gradual approach to death. Peer is to achieve neither heaven nor hell. He is too ordinary. This weird judgement is clearly the writer’s decision.
There is much vitality and imagination here, but there is a lack of consistency of tone. It is difficult to know whether you are on a celebrity island or within an updated medieval morality tale. There are very entertaining sections, but also some that seem stretched thin. For three and a half hours of our time there seems little of sustenance to take away.