Theatre review: Peer Gynt

By Janet McAllister

The Auckland Theatre Company's production of Peer Gynt is an odyssey of self-discovery for a raunchy Don Juan- type. Photo/Supplied
The Auckland Theatre Company's production of Peer Gynt is an odyssey of self-discovery for a raunchy Don Juan- type. Photo/Supplied

Eli Kent's reworking of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt is raucous, bombastic and funny and Auckland Theatre Company has thrown its impressive production heft behind it with marvellous results.

An odyssey of self-discovery for a raunchy Don Juan type, PG is not PG. It has a great episodic rhythm of outrageous and lavish set pieces punctuated with smaller scenes.

It's also wildly self-indulgent, not because Eli-the-playwright is our onstage guide and not because he literally pleasures himself on John Parker's minimalist-yet-fun mountain set but because the last 20 minutes of the three-hour "monster" is basically an Eli monologue.

We've gorged on director Colin McColl's theatrical delights and now it's after 11pm and you want us to ponder unconvincing romantic philosophy? Pu-leese ... when is the troll orgy coming back?

The whole ensemble's excellent acting and characterisation are utterly pleasurable.

Newcomer Ella Gilbert is fantastically funny and uninhibited while fabulous stalwart Adam Gardiner steals every scene.

Oscar Wilson's superb dancing as the first Peer is all too brief; Jack Buchanan, as Eli, holds the whole thing together nicely.

Bryan Caldwell's dynamic lighting creates fun reveals and surprising moments of intimacy on the enormous stage.

 John Parker's minimalist-yet-fun set enhances Peer Gynt. Photo/Supplied
John Parker's minimalist-yet-fun set enhances Peer Gynt. Photo/Supplied

With some hilarious exceptions (the trolls! the flight attendant togs!) Nic Smillie's beautiful streetwear ensures a contemporary feel.

The play points out its own Madonna/whore complex but, alas, pointing out that "pointing it out isn't enough" isn't enough, either.

I could copy-and-paste this review across all three Eli Kent plays that I've seen: The ending is lame but this play is fun, absurd, smart, and filled with 1990s allusions. And after this one, you'll never see cake in the same way again.

What: Peer Gynt
Where & when: ASB Waterfront Theatre, until Saturday, March 18
Reviewed by: Janet McAllister

- NZ Herald

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