PEER GYNT AT DRAMATEN
Henrik Ibsens 1867 Drama Peer Gynt can be seen at Dramaten put on stage by Michael Thalheimer. The dreamy and "fixed on himself" main character Peer Gynt is played by Erik Ehn. One can truly see that this actor has worked hard on the character; Facial expressions, bodily movements and language, show the audience a Peer Gynt character which stays in mind.
During the whole performance, Ehn seldom leaves the front of the stage, while other characters move around.
There, at the front, we see a black socle on the edge of Dramatens main stage. It appears as a metaphoric island on which Peer lives. He lets events happen and pass around the socle, while he stays mostly in his microcosm.
Behind the socle we find Olaf Altmans abstract and surreal forest on a revolving stage. Long, black, non-symmetrical assembled sticks growing into the sky let us imagine a thick forest, through which each character has to fight its way, to get to Peer Gynt, to the front of the stage. On the back of the stage is every changing scene, or better, Peers life chapters, announced by big, white, curvy letters.
The audience can’t get lost in Ibsens many-scenes drama, the words are necessary but not disturbingly helpful. At the same time they remind us about the fact, that theatre is the only art which is able to pretend time, weather and emotion. As the word “sommardag” [summer day] is shown, the black stage is not at all looking like a summer day, but that’s all right. The word is enough, to believe so.
The ensemble consists of six actors, who manage to play several of the original 30 characters. Erik Ehn and Stina Ekblad, who plays the mother Åse, are the two, who only play one character. One notices it in the style of their acting. Peer Gynts and Åses characterisations are strongly prepared, as the actors have focused only on them. They are made up in a more veristic and psychological style, while the other characters diverse from each other more through a comedian style. Big movements and outstanding costumes are needed to change the look from the characters played by the same actors. The actor who mainly plays Solvejg plays for example also the troll-girl. The differences couldn’t be bigger between those two characters and Rebekka Hemse chooses two opposite poles of role-types. The trolls appear genderless, loud, scary, gready and touchy. Solvejg is the total opposite, she’s quiet, sweet and not an independent woman, but waiting for the rest of her life for Peer to come back after he left her.
Also other characters as for example the men von Eberkopf are over sexualized. The three actors Carl-Magnus Dellow, Andreas Rothlin Svensson and Thomas Hanzon appear in fatsuits touching themselves all the time. In this scene, so when Peer is in Morocco, we notice how the characters mostly don’t really talk to each other face to face throughout the play. Especially Peer appears to be talking to something behind the audience, gazing into the far on his little island. We follow his traces in life through his speeches, but as I don’t speak Swedish I had to find other hints to understand the narrative. The revolving stage played a very important part to that. As time passes in Peers life, the stage rotates unstoppably. Seldom it is unmoved. But one part in time stands out, as Peer meets Solvejg after a longer time. The stage is not rotating, time stands still and we get to see a light, but long kiss by the two.
In Ibsens play Peer is aging more then 30 years. On stage actor Ehn isn’t aging at all and also his outlook is not changed. But the other characters around him are. We get a very nice example from the mother. In the beginning of the performance she seems to be more vivid, even a little childish and active. As she steps on stage the third time, she’s dying in Peers arms. She has become old and shows that through her slow movements, bitter mimics and her loose, floating, gray hair. Anyhow, the mother’s death scene is very touching, as it is not an overacted death. she simply falls asleep sitting on Peers socle – very calm and sweet.
Overall, this Peer Gynt performance is a powerful performance with strong actors who know how to work out characters. They don’t need many props, just their body and voice.