The premiere of Henrik Ibsen’s classic "Peer Gynt" was modest. Perhaps the play will develop in the course of the performances?
Head and face are maltreated and punished Photo: Benjakon
Lars Eidinger and John Bock tell "Peer Gynt" at the Schaubuhne. So two artists come together who have tried out the border-crossing and the crazy, the gesture of self-overestimation and its ironic refraction, quite often and sometimes very well.
Together they now tell the story of a megalomaniac farmer’s son, braggart, liar and swindler, who in Ibsen’s station drama travels to the trolls and the fairies, seduces and kidnaps and abandons women, makes money as a slave trader and loses it again, betrays even more women and in the process keeps asking himself, who am I? Sounds like a pretty safe bank.
The stage design by John Bock, sculptor, action artist and filmmaker, is a collage of soft and hard, mechanical rollers, milking machine, disabled toilet, pipes in which white bubbles, and a patchwork monster made of fabric with four legs and countless outwardly bulging trunks and teats.
It can become a cave and the mother’s belly; twice Eidinger crawls into this soft knob, experiences the mother’s death here and almost his own. One could understand the funny shaggy animal as an invitation to regression, for the relapse into infantile, greedy, defiant behavior patterns. This fits quite well, because Ibsen’s drama, actually a sprawling long poem, can also be read as a story about not growing up and not wanting to take responsibility.
Eidinger in suspenders and underpants
The costumes are also by John Bock and dress Lars Eidinger in skimpy tops, suspenders, underpants and trouser legs that always leave his ass and belly exposed. The body remains beautiful and attractive, the head and face, on the other hand, are maltreated and punished; clownishly painted with lots of color, disfigured with gold teeth and wigs, wrapped with metal foil and put into a green sack.
Or he has to put his head through a chair frame, as if someone had pulled it over his head. Eidinger also plays Peer’s mother Aase, with a walker and a transfusion bag, who, because she doesn’t want to give him any space, encourages him to make increasingly wild escapes.
Again on February 15, 16, 17 and from March 6 to 8.
The other female characters to whom Peer plays nasty in Ibsen have somehow been lost. This saves the confrontation with a pious virgin who works on the redemption of the good-for-nothing, which, after all, usually just looks embarrassing today. But so much of what brought action and tension into the changing images is also missing.
On opening night, you also look at the actor’s fingers and count whether all ten are there, it looks like. At the beginning there was an announcement that he had cut off a finger during rehearsal, came to the Charite and is now playing under the use of strong painkillers. Which makes you tremble the whole evening, before some splatter scene, which fortunately doesn’t come.
Impostors like Donald Trump and Kanye West
However, an orgy does come. Three beautiful young women, nameless extras, make love on the screen and Peer beams himself in between. This is done by a camera trick via green screen, he is punched into the picture, barely as big as a leg of the three women so intensely occupied with their arousal that they don’t even notice him. This looks quite funny, if you don’t avert your eyes from the pornographic scene out of embarrassment. That you always have to act so hardened, even or especially in the theater.
A few times Eugen Drewermann, theologian and psychoanalyst, is shown on the screen and on a monitor explaining "Peer Gynt" and telling another story, by the way, about a boy who was missing a finger. The complexity he calls up in just a few sentences is something one would like to see in this evening of theater, but the thing doesn’t work well.
That it is about self-knowledge, that Peer with his greed for life, money and power stands in his own way, is already clear from Eidinger’s text passages. In doing so, he supplements Ibsen’s lyrical verses with terms from today’s financial speculation, for example, and he quotes present-day con artists such as Donald Trump or Kanye West.
But even if the matter is clear in theory, it still purrs together on catchwords. One does not feel and experience them, the follies and meannesses of Peer Gynt. Perhaps because their knowledge is always taken for granted.
The artist and the actor have certainly fiddled and tinkered a lot, laughed themselves silly about many things together, that’s how one imagines it. But they probably didn’t get enough of an outside perspective. No third view besides the two of them for direction and dramaturgy is too little. But it’s quite possible that the play will continue to develop in the course of the performances.