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Peer Gynt

by on 20 May 2018

Enjoyable, Effective, Epic

Peer Gynt

by Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Steve Fitzpatrick

The Questors at The Studio, Ealing until 26th May 2018

A review by Eleanor Lewis

Direction is a mysterious craft. Some think it’s easy: build a set, get a few actors to learn the lines and there you have it. Or not. Some evidently don’t think much at all about it and then wonder why nobody liked their show. A marvellous bit of direction though gives the audience a great theatrical experience – a statement of the obvious unless you’ve sat through any recent productions in which a director appeared to have played absolutely no part.

Friday night’s production of Peer Gynt in Questors’ Studio was a surprisingly good theatrical experience. Surprising because with the best will in the world you have to be in the mood for a five act play written in 1867 and adapted from Ibsen’s original Norwegian verse. This current adaptation was by Steve Fitzpatrick, who also directed it, and is clearly in the right job. Peer Gynt is an epic play on (simply put) the not-easy-to-pin-down subject of The Human Condition. The original work would have run to five hours or more, which leaves this particular reviewer grateful for Mr Fitzpatrick’s skilful adaptation running at just over two hours, yet still coherently telling the story of the eponymous anti-hero.

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Peer Gynt is a man out of touch with himself. Unlike other works which take a central ‘everyman’ character through a learning process to arrive at a conclusion, Peer never quite achieves self-knowledge. Love, sex, ambition, duty to one’s parents and the integrity with which one should act towards others are all addressed inconsistently by Gynt throughout his life up to its arguably ambiguous ending when he finds he is almost without even an identity of his own, sinner or not, unless he can accept help from Solveig, the woman who loved him unconditionally all his life.

It was a pleasure to watch the Questors company of actors moving seamlessly from one episode to the next in this story. Their costumes were minimal but effective: linen dresses and caps, a change in jacket for a change in circumstances. Their props and scenery pared back to the essential (though the small Fortnum & Mason logo-ed basket rather jarred), and the accompanying music – Sibelius rather than the originally commissioned Grieg – gentle and unintrusive. The brisk pace, maintained for the whole performance, was effective. This was direction at its best and meant that the writing, and the performance of it, were foremost.

Mike Hadjipateras as Peer Gynt gave an excellent performance, ageing gradually with his self-delusion apparent but not laboured. The man’s inability to recognise his constant ‘missing of the point’ being a poignant illustration of Ibsen’s view of civilised society at the time. Credit must however, go to all actors in this piece as, with the of exception Peer Gynt, the performance burden was pretty much shared. Notable amongst the company were Lisa Day, wholly convincing as Gynt’s fraught mother, and Francesca Nicholls as a living, breathing Ingrid (and other characters) rather than a purely emblematic character. It must also be said that The Trolls were fabulous!

 

I suspect a performance of Peer Gynt mainly attracts people who already know the play which in some ways is a shame as Questors’ production is both highly enjoyable and straightforward in the best of ways.

Eleanor Lewis
May 2018

Photography by Peter Collins

From → Drama, Reviews

One Comment
  1. Lisa Day permalink

    Thank you so much – really glad you enjoyed it

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