by Henrik Ibsen
A Main-Brain-Drain-Drama by John Bock and Lars Eidinger
»Viewed from the distance of one and a half centuries, all of Henrik Ibsen’s plays demonstrate an incredible modernity and possibly even a gripping topicality. In the character of Peer Gynt, he delineates a psychological drama – a 20th century Ulysses transposed back to the 19th century in order to reach us here in the 21st. It is an assemblage of image motifs, highly expressive and yet at the same time brimming with symbolism. This symbolism serves a psychology that is trying to understand itself but which, via the masterly brilliance of the dramaturgy, invites the viewer or listener to recognise themselves in turn. Symbolism as an instrument of psychology was not unusual in the 19th century. In this psychology, everything is symbolic: the external is the internal and the internal the external. And from this interplay emerges a way, a dream path to self-understanding, accompanied by thoughts that will even go to the extreme, in a cascade of dreams that subdue the soul and with which your own ego is confronted, as if at their mercy, and submissively so. The entire tension already lies in the opening sentence as Aase, Peer’s mother, accusingly, defensively – you’re not sure how to play it – also partly smiling and with understanding, addresses him: »You’re lying!«. And what is a lie? A web woven of helplessness, megalomania, seduction, a desire for power. Born out of powerlessness. All this is playing in those first two words: ›You’re lying!‹ This is because Peer tells his mother a fantastical hunter’s tale set in the mountains. He wants to be her big boy. He wants to be entertaining, loved; he essentially would like to be liked. And one of the play’s underlying themes is being rejected. ›If only I could,‹ says Peer, ›rip their contempt out of their chests with a butcher’s hands‹. We don’t take him seriously. How could we? He’s the child of a drunkard. And his mother, Aase, diminutive and helpless, spoils him beyond measure. But also nags him at the same time. Hugs him and rejects him. Always one or the other. An entirely ambivalent love. But an affection that Peer needs and that prevents him from growing up. He is a little boy who wants to be a big boy. He wants to have a sheltered life with his mother and, at the same time, his freedom. And he never really comes to terms with this contradiction until the end of the play.« Eugen Drewermann
The works of performance artist John Bock are hard to classify, transcending as they do borders and rigid categories. His practice is a mixture of performance, installation art, sculpture, slapstick and film. Together with Lars Eidinger, he is creating »Peer Gynt« as an interdisciplinary project somewhere between theatre, fine art and performance. In this, Ibsen’s text serves as a starting point for an exploration of modern identity situated somewhere between the stage and the internet, character and actor, origins and self-creation, filter bubble and reality.
Set and Costume Design: John Bock
Video: Miles Chalcraft
Music: Andreas »Stickle« Janetschko
Lighting Design: Erich Schneider
Camera: Hannah Rumstedt
Quasi-Ich: Edna Eidinger
Premiered on 12 February 2020
Recklinghausen (June 2021)
Co-production with Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen and the Théâtre de Liège.
In cooperation with the European Theatre Network PROSPERO.