Produced by the National Theatre of Scotland in association with Dundee Repertory, this atmospheric, ensemble take on Henrik Ibsen's satire of the Norwegian character is transported to urban Scotland in a new version by Colin Teevan.
Opening with a breezy, subdued wedding night party seemingly taking place in northern European woodland, Gynt soon bursts onto the stage with physically exorcising tall stories about his reindeer hunting adventures in the mountains. Despite his womanising, his alcohol drenched clothes and profanely aggressive stance the audience is with this poet from the start, and our hearts leading us to despise the wedding guests / neighbours who mark Gynt's presence in their company with piggy noises, claim his stories for themselves and cause him to bash his head repeatedly with open beer cans.
Peer Gynt's reputation as being difficult to stage precedes it; a 1860s verse poem that includes trolls, the Button Moulder and series of episodic interludes at the start of the second half which take Gynt across a variety of professions (preacher, trader, mental asylum patient) and scenarios (being chased by gorillas, interviewed for Time Magazine, surviving a plane crash) in a very short space of time in seemingly contrast to more stable first half - it is nether-the-less a popular theatrical challenge. Here the Button Moulder - dressed as a silver cowboy without the hat - operates as a master of ceremonies either just watching Gynt or playing live the music that propels the scene forward; and the trolls are bikers who use their tails to whip the hero when he refuses to become one of them.
In the end it's a sad tale of trying to stand out from the crowd / achieve something / one day be the emperor, handled with great care and imagination by two of the UK's most exciting theatre companies.
Peer Gynt is at The Barbican until 16th May. Tickets: £10 - £26. Starts 7.15pm, matinees 2pm. See www.barbican.org.uk, for more details and to book tickets.