The Big I Am
Until July 14
Peer Gynt? I know nothing.
And to be honest, not much wiser now except I don’t believe I should like to know him, for a worse anti-hero you are unlikely to meet. That he has
some kind of charm makes women fall at his feet, and, fatally, into his bed. But redeeming qualities? Not a jot, other than some belated kindness towards his mother, and a last minute attempt to help a damned soul.
The title of this re-imagining – and what an imagination, it has to be said, places it firmly in the here and now, with everybody knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing, gives some idea of what to expect: a tale about a man weighed down his entire life by the chip on his shoulder. His own mother describes him as being devoted to nothing but drinking, fighting and fornicating. Thus he merrily gatecreashes the wedding of former lover, Cynthia, who elopes with him. Tiring of her, he intends to run off with Sylvie and live in seclusion. After that not-so-idyll, he does indeed become a bigshot but downfall is inevitable, as is destiny. He seems to spent his life pursued by demons; hallucinations at the very least, or rather, at their worst.
One thing which appealed was a march through the decades, particularly the mischief poked at hippies. So the music overall was pretty damn good, although it makes you wonder how something as exquisite as ‘Morning’ found a place in this rather sordid opera. As for the settings, they range from the humbly mundane to the hugely phantasmagoric, with the wedding as a highlight,
But it’s all very confusing, including the characters, although everybody invests their role(s) with vivacious energy. One of the funniest scenes, apparently, was the woman guest rushing in to describe Cynthia’s escape from the wedding but half the dialogue was inaudible, and as to who it was, not a clue. Similarly, Emily Hughes was admirable as the hotheaded Cynthia and I assumed she was transformed into the Green Woman but no, that disquieting role was courtesy of Golda Rosheuvel, a massive contrast to the rampaging mother of the bride on the warpath, complete with sledgehammer.
For a lighter touch, there was George Caple, sprinkling hilarious fairy dust over each of his portrayals, particularly as the hapless bridegroom and the hopeless vicar, while gruesome twosome, Paul Duckworth and Cerith Flinn, pulled off the sinister Rag & Bone Man and his assistance. Keddy Sutton likewise portrayed Mrs Gynt with an admirable blend of silliness and pathos, then created a purely comical turn as Gustav. And Peer Gynt himself was actually themselves: Nathan McMullen excels as the seedy young man, as does Liam Tobin, in middle-age, magnificently awful as an evangelical preacher, and finally, Richard Bremmer. The last however, particularly shone as the King – now, that’s what you call an anti-hero: horribly appealing, in some strange way.
Two and a hour hours is quite a long time to watch somebody’s life flashing before your eyes. But athough it feels that the production loses momentum somewhat towards the end, it’s still an eye-opener, if not always in the best possible taste – far from it, on a couple of occasions. Nevertheless, fair play to the Everyman ensemble who make it so vivid and versatile,