Peer GyntA dramatic poem by Henrik Ibsen
A dramatic poem by Henrik Ibsen
«Peer, you’re lying!»: Henrik Ibsen immediately highlights the key theme of his dramatic poem in its opening line – the blurred boundary between illusion and reality. Because Peer, whose youth is shaped by the poverty of his farming background, continually reinvents himself with the aid of stories, lies and the arts of fabulation – as a cosmopolitan, a colonial master and even an Emperor. He leaves his home behind him, wandering through a nature that is anything but idyllic, ends up in the troll kingdom, whose legendary magic strikes Peer as just another version of rural provinciality, and sets off on a long-distance journey: in adventures on the high seas, in the desert and in the world at large that last for decades, he embarks on a continually restless search for his «Gyntian self» that resembles «an army of wishes, desires, demands and cravings, an ocean of fantasy». By attempting «to be himself», Peer repeatedly changes his identity – from a feverish gold-digger to an unscrupulous human trafficker and ultimately to a cynical prophet. Yet he never succeeds in discovering his «actual» self.
«Peer Gynt», the «Faust of the North», is a satirical, wild, immoderate, enigmatic masterpiece that bursts all boundaries. Here Ibsen recounts the odyssey of a rampant egotist, whose hubris defiantly persists through all his many transformations – and even in the face of death.
It is directed by Sebastian Baumgarten, one of the most illustrious directors of his generation, whose visually arresting production of «Danton’s Death» can still be seen in the repertoire.
«In <Peer Gynt>, egotism, narcissism and lies are revealed as the engine that powers capitalist society. Why he encounters no resistance and experiences no corrective of any kind on his colonialist adventures around the world is something we will investigate.» Sebastian Baumgarten