Peer Gynt

And now here I am, at the main event! Today has been a treat so far, and the show will start in about half an hour. It has been raining off and on, but it’s currently off and I hope it stays that way. The sun even poked its head out for a second or two. I am wearing a redonculous amount of clothing–five layers under a rain shell, and a silly hat on top, and the possibility for even more with two ponchos and a wool blanket on loan. Right now (prior to showtime) I am quite comfortable.

There was one other English-speaker at the intro that my host Hanne Maren delivered. I would love to be responsible for other Americans showing up to this thing. I feel I have to, if I’m to pay my way for all the hospitality I’ve been shown.

It started to rain toward the end of the first half of the show, a drizzle and then a more serious rain, and there was a rustle throughout the audience as ponchos were donned. Hanne Maren had loaned me two of them, so I wore one and used the other to cover my things at the break.

Oh, but the play! Energetic, sexy even. The music… Creative. I will have to give the Peer Gynt suite a listen, because this was not that. A refrain of “We are the champions” played at one point while Peer was in Africa. The time period throughout was hard to place. They did start in bunads and farm clothing, but then in Africa it was modern, and Peer’s yacht was a motorboat. There was quite the explosion in the lake when the time came. I really enjoyed the lurking, red-gloved presence of the knappewhoever–the button molder / death.

This is the last year of this actor, Mads Ousdal, as Peer, and there will also be a new director for next year’s show, the 150th anniversary of the play. I will have to find out what they have planned, or at least learn something about the director. Personally, I think the role could have been played better. There was so much shouting and flying spit (though granted, at least some of that is Ibsen’s fault), and it seems to me that Peer could have played it a little cooler and earned a bit more sympathy. Especially knowing that the historical Peer was a respected figure, this one came across a bit psychopathic.

Mads Ousdal dancing in the beginning of Peer Gynt.
Peer Gynt, up close and personal. I was in the front row, so Mads Ousdal was basically in my lap at the beginning of the play.

I wasn’t cold per se, but the rain was pretty unpleasant and contrary to what I’d been told, I didn’t stop noticing it. Hanne Maren told me that it was actually very slight rain compared to a lot of what they have been having.

The play was very real. Peer chopped all the branches off a tree with an axe, and they jumped around on a lot of slick-looking wet surfaces and waded into the freezing lake and waterskied in for one entrance. Crazy shit that I don’t think an American theatre would ever allow. They also drank actual sparkling something, and threw it on the audience. I’d bet money it was wine. We would have gone to such lengths to replace labels on sparkling juice or some such. They just drink.

Trolls! This was the last photo of the show I got before it was too rainy and dark for my poor little phone.

After the play was “varme mat og etterprat”–soup and an interview with Mads. I didn’t get a lot out of the interview. But not nothing. More than from the play, for sure. One of the reasons I was invited to view the play this year was because of their new audio translations, which would provide a short summary of each scene at the beginning. I listened to the first one, then pulled it away from my ear to better watch the play. When I tried to start it again at the beginning of the next scene I couldn’t find my place, and I never did. Which I guess is sort of ironic?

After the talk, Hanne Maren took me back to her cabin and left me there while she went partying with the cast and crew to celebrate the end of the season’s run. Earlier in the day we had attended a prize ceremony for the volunteer of the year, the young woman who played Ingrid in the play. I had thought her a young thing, but there she was in the play with her boobs hanging out, so one hopes she was 18 years old at least. It was really quite the small-town honor, complete with a song written for her and speeches by the current Peer and a past one. And a text message from the director. She apparently joked in her speech about being close to Mads, because last year’s Ingrid is now pregnant with his child.

Before that, I had a real treat at the actual , historical, Per Gynt farm! Reidar, who was described to me as a “Peer Gynt enthusiast,” picked me up from Spidsbergeseter and drove me to places in the Gudbrandsdal, including the grave site of the historical Per Gynt, and up to the actual farm. We got very lucky there in that the current inhabitant, Mikkel Doblaug, saw us and invited us in for coffee. He gave us slippers to wear and sat with us at the kitchen table in his own very old and charming part of the property. There was even a plate of brownies on the table, with little decorative garnishes. Really? He said that he learned, when he moved to the country, that he must always have some cakes on hand.

He took us into the old part of the house, which would have been a very fancy house at the time, on the plan of all the other typical farmhouses that I’ve seen. He even has Per’s christening cap in glass in the room. The space, and more, was once a boutique hotel, but not for a little while. Maybe again in the future.

Inside the real Per Gynt’s house.

My final day in Norway was finally a nice one, weather-wise. I went with Hanne Maren up to the site of the Mountain Concert quite early, and got a tour of the hotel (lovely) and watched a bit of the rehearsal for the show in the almost-warm-enough sunshine. I had more layers with me, but couldn’t bring myself to put them on because the sunshine felt good–when the wind wasn’t making it actually too cold. I had lunch in the hotel, more stewed meat (probably lamb?), which I thought was pretty good.

And then it was time for the concert, which was also an amazing experience. Similar to being at the Gorge in Washington State, but with classical music and singing. I feel I would have gotten more out of it with stronger language skills, but there is something operatic about not understanding the singing too. I have some of the lyrics. My eyes did keep closing, but not from boredom. Tiredness, yes, but also being really warm and cozy enough to drift to sleep.

A nisse in front of a majestic Norwegian view.
Nils Anders Wik hanging out before the Mountain Concert that concludes the Peer Gynt Festival.

It was the perfect end to my week in Norway, capped off with an utepils with Camille from Lillehammer, who had joined us at the concert so she could drive me back to Lillehammer. From there began my long journey home: train to near the Oslo airport, a night at a business hotel, then from Oslo to Stockholm—long layover—Stockholm to Oakland, CA—another long layover—then finally home to Seattle. On the upside, back in Seattle it was finally summer!