An aggression-filled trip to the dark side of life is what Theatre Simpson’s upcoming performance of Peer Gynt is about.
The play, originally written to be performed in four to six hours, has been adapted to fit within a two hour performance. Some changes include adapting the original translation to a more contemporary, aggressive and nightmarish tale in more common language.
Director Tom Woldt said what he did was fairly common of what any director would do if they chose this play. As it is a classic play, it is in the public domain, so there are not any royalties to any companies. That also allows the director to make changes as they wish.
“I undertook making the play more manageable in length, which involved the trimming of scenes,” Woldt said. “The other thing I wanted to do involved a more artistic vision that deals with the use of language and character development to make the play a little more muscular.”
Sophomore performer Jenny Wilkerson said that she thinks the changes Woldt has made will be beneficial to the audience.
“The original translation from Norwegian is into an Old English style which can be difficult for people to understand,” Wilkerson said. “I believe that changing the language into better known English will help the audience follow the show.”
The play grew out of a Norwegian legend that was similar to a children’s story. It had to do with trolls and other Norwegian fantasy characters. Woldt said that over time, the script has been seen as more of a light-hearted romp through Norwegian folklore, making it into a fantasy dream tale.
“I think there is a darker side to this play,” Woldt said. “What we’ve done is to make some of the language more direct so the exchanges between the characters are much more aggressive. The result is that it is not so much of a fantasy tale but more of a dark nightmare of one boy’s journey to manhood.”
Sophomore performer Joshua Zieman said that he believes that Theatre Simpson will have no problem working from Woldt’s new adaptation because the cast works through the script together.
“At the beginning of each production, the director comes up with a director’s concept,” Zieman said. “The concept explains what points the director is trying to make with the production and how they are going to do so while conveying the point to the audience.”
One of the things Woldt said that is most interesting about this play is that the message is easily connected with today’s society both economically and politically. There are more swear words and direct references to the characters’ sexuality to connect to how we live today.
“When Peer goes and visits the trolls they teach him to live his life by ‘to thy own self be enough,’” Woldt said. The way I translate that is that it is everybody for themselves. One doesn’t have to look very far in newspapers or on CNN to see that there are a lot of people just looking out for themselves at the expense of others.”
Senior performer Meghan Vosberg said that she thinks the audience will be amazed by the spectacle of the show.
“Everything is done very extravagant,” Vosberg said. “A lot of props are larger than life. It is very opposite of realism. I think the audience can take many things away from this.”
Woldt said that there is really no change in the time period of the show. Time really gets out of sync as Peer ends up on a psychological nightmare journey. Therefore, it is hard to know at what time period it is actually taking place.
“I think the playwright’s intention was that the play starts out in the 1860s in Norway,” Woldt said. “Our play begins in a place that has the essence of 19th century Norway, but what we are going for is that the time and place are a theatrical construct. In many ways, that will give it (the set) a look and feel of contemporary time.”
Woldt says that this show, in a way, will be the premiere of a new adaptation. The show opens on tomorrow, March 16 at 7:30 p.m. in Pote Theatre.