The first premier of the season: H. Ibsen “Peer Gynt”
The verse play Peer Gynt, written by Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen (1828 – 1906), is one of the most staged and interpreted works of the classic; however, only its fragments have appeared on the Lithuanian stage. Now, Hungarian director Csaba Polgár is presenting this masterpiece of the 19th century at the National Kaunas Drama Theatre by proposing a distinctive, modern, and bold interpretation of the work. Just imagine Peer Gynt staying not in a hut in Norwegian woods surrounded by trolls, but, let’s say, in Kaunas bedroom community, on the sixth floor of a block of flats. There he lives with his mother and dreams of extraordinary feats. The creators of the performance speak of those who dream, talk, drink, and are jealous of the wealth and wisdom of others. They speak of those traveling around the world, who are angry, greedy, egoistic, who have lost significant relationships, and have not felt that they have truly lived. Or maybe they have never gotten up from their couch on the sixth floor of the block of flats? This performance is a story of contradictions between capabilities and ambitions, desires and possibilities; it is a story about the search of yourself in a world that is tough on a person, the rebellion against your destiny, freedom and its limits, responsibility, and unconditional love. It tells about battles with trolls hidden inside all of us, who lock us up in a cage of infantility, prevent us from finding our true selves, and making something out of our lives.
Performance’s creative team from Hungary: director Csaba Polgár, dramatist Ármin Székely-Szabó, set and costume designer Lili Izsak, composer Tamás Matkó. Director’s assistant Justė Burškaitytė.
NKDT actors: Dainius Svobonas, Dovydas Pabarčius, Kamilė Lebedytė, Eglė Mikulionytė, Martyna Gedvilaitė, Kęstutis Povilaitis, Gintautas Bejeris, Artūras Sužiedėlis.
Director’s thought about the play:
“The original text is quite old-fashioned, and it’s rimed. It also has a very strong connection to Norwegian fairytales, folklore, and so on. But if you read it closer, then it’s totally a very modern play, where the main raised question is: ‘How can you be yourself?’. Is it just finding yourself, your aim in your life, analyzing how your origins, your roots affect your life? I love this play very much because it’s a huge text, so you can form it to whatever you want to make. It doesn’t matter which part of the text you take. It all has a very good sense of humor, but at the same time, it’s ferocious. It’s just like a doctor observing the human being: how he behaves and how he works. The first most important thing, I think, is to cut all this romantic stuff from the text. It’s not a fairytale; it’s a very everyday story about a very talented guy with a volatile imagination. But all these people in the area where he lives think he is crazy, so he can not establish himself and step forward. They say he is a stupid, fool guy from the village. Later on, he becomes a real asshole adult, and he thinks that the most important thing is to fulfil his desires. He cannot live his life, he just misses everything, and at the end of his life, he says: ‘Ok, nothing happened with me because I was concentrating only on myself.’ I think it’s an everyday story of nowadays. We all have the same channels of the same information, and we ‘don’t care about other people, just care about ourselves and how to fulfil our desires and grab everything we need.’ So I found a very strong connection with this play. And I also think that we have many similarities in Hungary and Lithuania: we don’t have the same history, but we both have had a very strong experience with the Soviet Union. I think we had a very interesting time, and when the Soviet Union had collapsed, we felt like, “ok, democracy comes, then everything will be super and amazing. We are just waiting for the big quest for freedom. I think we could untangle it. I mean, Hungary, I don’t know how it was in Lithuania, but still, I feel that is similar. Still, people must understand that we also have to work for democracy. You have to do something or accept that everything now is better. So this also reflects in the play when this young guy is dreaming about freedom and everything else. Still, when he reaches it somehow, he cannot handle it because he doesn’t know how … He thinks it’s only a question of money, which is also, I believe, a significant issue in play. Here, Peer Gynt is the man, the character, who cannot take any kind of responsibility. Actually, his whole life is running off from taking responsibility. It is an everyday problem, I think. Taking responsibility is inconvenient.”
Opening performances: 17, 18, and 19 of September 2021, The Main Stage
Photos by Donatas Stankevičius