ABOUT PEER GYNT
Who or what is it that prevents Peer from daring to choose Solveig – and life? Ibsen’s drama about the lifelong, globe-spanning journey of a reckless youth from rural Norway is told in a physical language which parallels the strength and ambiguity of Ibsen’s famous lines.
The Cruelty Theater 2002
PIT Porsgrunn Internatonal Theater festival 2003
Nordische Tage Berlin 2003
Stamsund International Theater festival 2004.
From the reviews of Peer Gynt:
In 1992, at a time when Norwegian dramatic art had seemingly bid farewell to avant-garde theatre , actor and director Lars Øyno defiantly founded “Grushomhetens Teater “, a theatre company based on, and dedicated to the art and ideas of the surrealist poet Antonin Artaud.
Although not overtly successful during his own theatrical career, Artaud has nevertheless acquired a status, and passed on a legacy to later avant-garde theatre and he is today one of its most treasured icons.
The fact that Øyno`s theatre has survived, and recently celebrated its first decade of existence competing alongside the established theatre world, bears witness to Artaud`s persistent influence and appeal to the contemporary audience.
It is therefore fitting that “Grushomhetens Teater”, on it`s tenth anniversary moved into permanent quarters – a theatre house which will from now on be the “home” of future productions.
For those who know him, Lars Øyno ,with his deep, morose voice, his stern manner, and his conviction that “actors must suffer”is easy prey for impersonation. At the performance of his latest piece, Peer Gynt however, it was the audience who initially suffered most – queuing for tickets both outside and in the cold entrance hall of a deserted factory building, it`s walls scarred with graffiti , but thankfully with a view to the night`s starry face above, and the far off lights of commercial Oslo.
Suffering is after all part and parcel of embracing the avant-garde to one`s breast ,both for the actor and the public. And when all is said and done, we, the audience, seated in comfortable red velour chairs, in a temperate indoor climate with a stage curtain proclaiming the all-embracing lines of the play “To be oneself is to kill oneself”, before us, were spared if not the emotional ,then some of the physical discomfort the actors conveyed throughout their portrayal of Ibsen`s play.
Øyno`s production of Peer Gynt can be viewed as a good-natured interpretation of national surrealism . National because it is founded on Ibsen, surrealistic because it is coloured by the visions of Artaud, and good-natured because it is the work of Lars Øyno. Despite his daunting manner, Øyno possesses a rare ethical approach to his craft and is truly dedicated in his mission of giving a voice to the marginal “Others” in society. This is evident both in his previous production “Alaska”, based on the writings of a fourteen year old suicide victim ,Danielle Serrara and now in Peer Gynt, where the Norwegian painter Bendik Riis, who suffered under mental illness for much of his life, has been a major inspiration.
The portrayal of the “Other’s“ rationality is not exclusive to Øyno. Philosopher and confessed admirer of Artaud, Michel Foucault, attempted just that in his work “Madness and Civilisation” which is now acclaimed as a classic within contemporary European circles, but which falls short, as it is doomed to do, in it`s potrayal of the essence of insanity.
So too, is Øyno`s , and indeed many a modernistic theatre production doomed in it`s quest of conveying a message through pure theatrical expression, void of literary and logical references. The fact that Øyno does not retract from such a mission affords him a legitimate position within the alternative cultural landscape of Norway.
And the means he uses causes us true discomfort as we lean back in our comfortable seats and the curtain goes up on the opening scene where he uses real children to portray Peer and Solveig, stripping them of the goodness and innocence we otherwise expect of childhood, and setting the scene for the oncoming madness we are confronted with through the rest of the play.
And to be sure , Øyno does not spare his audience in the portrayal of Peer Gynt and his journey through life. For here he throws in a dash of Edvard Munch, and the Marx Brothers; there a dash of the psychedelic sixties, and of German expressionism. And Lionel Richie`s song “Hello” meets our ears in a beautiful fusion with the alternative rock group When.
When all is said and done, however, and the curtain has fallen on Øyno`s production, the final impression is one of a lack of stringency compared with his previous plays. Although fragmentary aesthetics is perhaps the hallmark of this companies artistic expression, we , the audience are left somewhat mystified as to what has actually gone before our eyes.
Perhaps this is inevitable- taken that the play has a well-known text as its starting point and can therefore never truly stand on it`s own two feet artistically. Actor and audience are thereby inevitably caught in the trap of never totally being free in their experience of the play. Ibsen , it could be said , is breathing down our necks, even today.