Peer Gynt – Southwark Playhouse

This modernised take on Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, abridged from a version by Frank McGuines, was a brave choice for YoCo, but they rose to the challenge admirably.

Under the direction of Paul Edwards, this young company (ranging from 16 – 25) took an unconventional look at Gynt’s journey between fantasy and reality, with some culturally relevant influences from topical events.

The Vaults of Southwark Playhouse are a brilliant venue for this production, and would serve ideally for other moody/Gothic pieces, but audience members may wish to consider taking along a jumper as it can get very cold. The acoustics were fabulous for many of the scenes involving chorus work (particularly for the screams of the asylum inmates) but did occasionally adversely affect the clarity of some of the normal dialogue – this was particularly noticeable when some lines were delivered upstage rather than towards the audience.

Special mentions go to the eponymous hero played by Mark Dear who carried the weight of this role with great understanding and talent, Saffiya Lea and Jonell Rowe as the Troll King’s daughter and her father respectively, and Moses Ssebandeke as the Button Moulder.  However, this truly was an ensemble piece and everybody in the company can be justly proud of their creation.

For the purists, there were some musical nods to the original as the audience entered the auditorium to strains of ‘Morning’ from Grieg’s ‘Peer Gynt Suite’ and it would have been impossible for them not to use the well-known ‘In The Hall of the Mountain King’.  The rest of the music was modern but echoed the urgency and vigour of the performers.

The piece was played with great energy and enthusiasm from all concerned and to condense such a complex story into a mere hour and a half showed great skill.  The director clearly knew his company’s strengths and utilised each actor to great effect to create this fantastical world.