Théâtre National de Nice’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt is the second instalment of a season of Ibsen adaptations at the Barbican – following Ostermeier’s fantastic An Enemy of the People.
This production is equally innovative, for strikingly different reasons. Irina Brook’s production finds a scenic equivalent in the New Wave scene, with Peer’s defiance of convention being transposed into a hedonistic romp cum spiritual quest through eighties counter-culture.
Who better, then, to write the songs than Iggy Pop? From twangy ballads about multiculturalism to bolshie punk numbers that triumph individualism, it’s a real treat to hear these original compositions, which truly match the spirit of the piece.
The show also contains original works by Sam Shepard – poems that alternate between muscular realism and melancholic romanticism, and that with their vivid animal imagery are strongly reminiscent of his excellent short stories.
On top of this there’s a seriously accomplished international cast – in particular Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson as Peer, and Shantaia Shivalingappa as Solveig, both switching effortlessly between powerful simplicity and anarchic revelry.
And yet this production lacks something. Perhaps it is that the contours of this epic narrative are too wide and far apart, with everything moving too quickly across too vast a space for the audience to be able to invest. Whatever the cause, the ultimate effect was that the raw emotionalism conveyed often seemed obscure. Without a doubt this show has heart – but its pulse was too often seen, and not felt.