Reviews West End & Central Published 13 July 2019

Review: Peter Gynt at National Theatre

Pig-nosed whimsy: Alice Saville writes a poem in response to Hare’s firmly unpoetic rewrite of Ibsen’s verse drama.

Alice Saville

‘Peter Gynt’ at National Theatre. Design: Richard Hudson. Lighting: Mark Henderson. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Long claimed by Europe’s avant garde,
Peer Gynt is justly seen as ‘hard’.
How British to rewrite it completely
To save the viewer from thinking too deeply.
No one stages verse dramas today
(If you do don’t @ me? k)
I get that, but what compulsion else
Made Hare take Peer Gynt off the shelf?

It’s full of trolls and myths and such
A magic Hare’s staid words can’t touch
Peter Gynt casts buttons from gold
And forges stories, new from old
David Hare’s a forger too
Twisting Ibsen into new
He’s taken verse and made it prose
With modern touchpoints (on the nose).

A Scottish chancer in a small town,
Peter’s stock is plunging down,
Until he flees and makes a killing,
Dirty deals and corporate schill-ing.
Hare’s satire bites but alas its date
Never moves past 2008.
In 1912 a woman played Peer
There’s no such dangerous radicalism here.

Around the world brave Peter goes
And meets old values in new clothes.
‘Exotic lands’, insipid ladies
Macho satire broad and lazy
The odd small dash of pig-nosed whimsy
Can’t stop this all from feeling flimsy
Nor can the songs, when they appear,
Make a rich brew from this stale beer.

Redemption comes in Act no. Five
When Ibsen’s magic comes alive
In Peter’s moving final roll
A Button Caster weighs his soul.
Too bad for heaven, too blah for hell
So he’ll melt it down at Pete’s death knell
If he saw this show he’d say:
“This one’s flawed – melt away”.

Peter Gynt is on at the National Theatre until 8th October. More info and tickets here

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Alice Saville

Alice is editor of Exeunt, as well as working as a freelance arts journalist for publications including Time Out, Fest and Auditorium magazine. Follow her on Twitter @Raddington_B

Review: Peter Gynt at National Theatre Show Info


Directed by Jonathan Kent

Written by David Hare, after Ibsen

Cast includes James McArdle, Oliver Ford Davies, Caroline Deyga, Ezra Faroque Khan, Adam McNamara, Ann Louise Ross, Nabil Shaban, Anya Chalotra

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