Peer Gynt [recycled]

ASB Waterfront Theatre, 138 Halsey St, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland

09/03/2017 - 18/03/2017

Auckland Arts Festival 2017

Production Details



Auckland Theatre Company’s second show in the brand new ASB Waterfront Theatre is a bold, raucous and irreverent contemporary response to Henrik Ibsen’s classic play-in-verse, Peer Gynt.

Peer Gynt [recycled], written by playwright Eli Kent (All Your Wants and Needs Fulfilled Forever, The Intricate Art of Actually Caring), will open om 9 March 2017 in association with the Auckland Arts Festival.

 Peer Gynt is a bad boy with big dreams and a lust for life. And women. Banished for seducing a bride on her wedding day, he wanders the world from Arabia to America in search of love, fame and fortune. After a lifetime of exotic encounters and epic adventures, real or imagined, he makes his way home, to confront his past.

 In this very funny-serious meta-theatrical experience, the character Eli Kent features alongside our charismatic antihero Peer Gynt, for all the thrills and spills of his astonishing life quest.

Ibsen’s critique of self-obsession is given a new edge of relevance in this age of social media, where it’s perfectly acceptable to be obsessed with yourself.

Artistic Director Colin McColl, who has a long history reinterpreting and restaging Ibsen’s work, will direct the production.

The creative team includes composer Eden Mulholland (Hunted Haunted, Feed the Beast), theatre designer and ceramicist John Parker (Polo, The Good Soul of Szchewan) and costume designer Nic Smillie (To Kill A Mockingbird, A Doll’s House, Turangawaewae), who is returning from Finland for the production.

Among the stellar cast is Californian-based actor and dancer Oscar Wilson, Victoria Abbott (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Top of the Lake, All Your Wants and Needs Fulfilled Forever) Peter Hayden (You Can Always Hand Them Back, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) and Adam Gardiner (Polo, Rupert, Hillary).

As a major voice in the next generation of New Zealand theatre-makers, Kent delightfully opens up a whole new way for 21st century audiences to re-engage with Ibsen’s classic; the exhilarating yet strangely familiar tale of one man’s quest to find himself.

Get ready for a wild ride through the life and times of one of literature’s most charming ratbags.

Peer Gynt [recycled] runs 9 – 18 March at the ASB Waterfront Theatre in Wynyard Quarter.
(7&8 March, previews)



Oscar Wilson:  Peer #1 / Thomas / Ghost Writer #1 / Ensemble
Jordan Mooney:  Mads / Peer #2 / Jason / Milo / Captain / Ensemble
Adam Gardiner:  Troll King / Dr. Griffin Feldt / John /Peer #3 (Dubai) / James Cameron / Ensemble
Jack Buchanan:  Eli / Peer #4 / Strange Passenger / Ensemble
Lisa Chappell:  Mad's Mum / Peer's Mum / Terry Richardson / Anatta / Ensemble
Brynley Stent:  Huhu / Simone / Air Hostess / Boatswain / Nurse / Ensemble 
Ella Gilbert:  Inka / Troll Princess / Philippa / Air Hostess / Angel / Ensemble 
Ana Scotney:  Sol / X / Mattie / Starbucks Employee / Ensemble 
Peter Hayden:  Photographer / The Boyg / Ibsen / Button Moulder / Ensemble  

Benjamin Henson:  Assistant Director / Troll Child / Andrew / Ghost Writer #2 / Ensemble 

Set Design: John Parker
Costume Design: Nic Smillie
Music Design: Eden Mulholland
Lighting Design: Brian Caldwell
AV Design: Simon Barker

Dramaturg: Philippa Campbell

Theatre ,

Postmodern Stress Disorder

Review by Nathan Joe 24th Mar 2017

In our over-saturated times where media of all forms is available in excess, the idea of originality becomes the ultimate predicament to the storyteller. There’s the notion that every story has already been told, all paths have been ventured, and nothing new can be said anymore. We live in an age where audiences are savvier than ever, consuming a never-ending supply of stories and information. Even the trope of acknowledging this very dilemma has been done to death.

This is tackled head on in playwright Eli Kent’s Peer Gynt [recycled], a translation/adaptation/deconstruction/bastardisation of the legendary Henrik Ibsen’s dramatic poem of the same name, by casting himself as one of the characters. Alongside director Colin McColl, the two have come together to expand on some of their favourite obsessions. With Kent, he continues to mine the existential crisis through meta-theatrical devices, as previously seen in All Your Wants and Needs Fulfilled Forever, and McColl returns to his career-long love of Ibsen. [More


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Fun, absurd, smart and wildly self-indulgent

Review by Janet McAllister 13th Mar 2017

Eli Kent’s reworking of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt is raucous, bombastic and funny and Auckland Theatre Company has thrown its impressive production heft behind it with marvellous results.

An odyssey of self-discovery for a raunchy Don Juan type, PG is not PG. It has a great episodic rhythm of outrageous and lavish set pieces punctuated with smaller scenes.

It’s also wildly self-indulgent, not because Eli-the-playwright is our onstage guide and not because he literally pleasures himself on but because the last 20 minutes of the three-hour “monster” is basically an Eli monologue. [More]  


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Ambitious, admirable, audacious, uneven

Review by Leigh Sykes 10th Mar 2017

In his programme notes, Director Colin McColl describes Ibsen’s Peer Gynt as “a long dramatic poem”; a “sprawling, picaresque masterpiece” which “is unstageable”. Overall, McColl disproves this latter point, with inventive and visually arresting staging that supports uniformly strong performances from a cast that works beautifully as an ensemble. 

Having already directed an acclaimed production of Emily Perkins’ adaptation of A Doll’s House in 2015, McColl admits to being fascinated by Ibsen, and particularly the troll that lies at the heart of Ibsen’s characters. The concepts of the self and the troll are at the heart of this adaptation by Eli Kent, alongside an investigation of the nature of theatre itself. This is a resolutely post-modern, meta-theatrical play that tackles themes that resonate powerfully with the currently very prevalent culture of narcissism and self-interest.

The play begins with ‘Eli’ (Jack Buchanan as a scarily faithful visual representation of the playwright) addressing the audience to tell us about his reasons for, and struggles with, writing the play. Buchanan is engaging and open, interacting naturally with the audience and making us feel immediately included.

He admits that adapting a play that is ‘super old and super Norwegian’ is a difficult task, even leading him to seek advice from his Mum and secretly record the conversations so that we can then have the transcripts read to us (by Lisa Chappell). There are plenty of laughs in this opening section, as the audience recognises and appreciates a number of pop-culture references that will be re-visited as the play goes on.

We then jump straight into Peer Gynt’s story (played during this section by Oscar Wilson) as we first see him attending the wedding of an ex-girlfriend. Wilson is full of energy and slick dance moves, performing with great commitment and enthusiasm. As the bride-to-be, Ella Gilbert is feisty and raunchy, while Benjamin Henson, Adam Gardiner and Brynley Stent are great fun as the guests who are far more interested in themselves than in the events of the wedding.

Although Peer is unable to stop himself from wrecking the wedding, he does meet Sol (played with sincerity and charm by Ana Scotney) before taking off to seek his next adventure.

Eli returns to tell us more about his journey through adapting the play, and the pattern for the rest of the first half of the play is set. There are some very clever uses of projection (AV design by Simon Barker) during Eli’s interaction with the audience and in the following scenes, and the set (designed by John Parker) is used intelligently and creatively throughout the show.

The first half continues to move at a cracking pace, with each section inventively and entertainingly staged, while all of the actors remain uniformly energetic and committed to each moment.

A favourite section for me in this half of the show is Peer’s encounter with a sexy troll princess (Ella Gilbert) and her family. The level of energy and grotesquery in this scene is pitched beautifully, and it’s clear that the audience is enjoying the scene a great deal. The scene manages to reference Michael Jackson along with a number of other modern preoccupations, while all of the performers embrace the sleaziness and unashamed self-absorption of the troll world, making for a wonderfully realised world within the world of the play. 

The whole first half of the show feels fresh and relevant and fun. Scenes move quickly, with plenty of visual and performance highlights: Peter Hayden as the implacable Boyg; Brynley Stent as Huhu the Norwegian translator; Benjamin Henson as a bratty Troll child … And, another real highlight for me, the many and various members of the Ibsen Appreciation Society storming the stage just as we think the first half is finishing. This half finishes with an unexpected appearance and sets up a new direction for after the interval.

I love this first half of the show. It is clever in all the right ways, making us think about the nature of theatre and what is at the core of self. I love the clean lines and flexibility of the set, and I particularly like the orb that is full of plastic and unidentifiable items, and which suggests different things in different scenes. The show is exciting and relevant and the performances are uniformly excellent, so that the first half of the show seems to pass in no time at all and the interval is spent in eager anticipation for what will happen next.

The second half begins with Ibsen himself (Peter Hayden) joining Eli to debate the success (or not) of what has been done to his play. Ibsen’s view that “to live is to war with trolls in heart and soul; to write is to sit in judgement of oneself” is (very literally) writ large over this half of the play, meaning that the atmosphere is very different now, as Ibsen questions Eli’s intentions and relationship with his inner troll.

With the change of atmosphere comes a change of pace, which means that Peer’s breakneck journey slows down and takes on more internalised aspects, as the nature of writing and judging now comes to the fore. The result for me is that the second half feels very much longer than the first.

The exuberance of the first half is replaced by a more sombre and questioning tone, as both Eli and Peer become more anxious about the direction the play is taking. It almost feels like Ibsen’s dissatisfaction with the treatment of his play pervades the play itself. 

The first scene is set in a Californian retreat where Peer (now played by Jordan Mooney) is seeking enlightenment with ‘the soulless woman’. There are some sharp observations here, but the scene feels longer than it needs to be.

A short, but visually stimulating scene at an airport then takes us to a later stage of Peer’s life (now played by Adam Gardiner), where he is now a successful entrepreneur, negotiating to have a book written about himself as he takes in the pleasures of Dubai. This scene feels the most forced, introducing the character of alt-right journalist, Milo Yiannopoulous, to demonstrate how up-to-the-minute the writing is. For me it does little to advance the contemplations that occupy Eli and Ibsen. Ana Scotney’s disgruntled Starbucks worker creates some tension, but like the preceding scene, this one also feels long. 

As the rest of the play unfolds, I struggle to engage with scenes that should represent the crux of the themes being explored. The concept of the Button Moulder, who threatens to melt Peer down with the rest of the masses, should be the most relevant representation of the theme of finding the absolute essence of self in a play that has itself melted down and re-fashioned Ibsen’s play.

Perhaps the inventiveness and joie de vivre of the first half of the show interferes with my ability to engage with the more cerebral contemplations of its second half, and I find that I struggle to enjoy this part of the play and to focus on the points that are being made. The writing cleverly re-visits and wraps up some of the references from the first half of the play (James Cameron’s appearance is unexpected but fun), although I feel that there are a number of points at which the play could have ended before we reach the actual conclusion. 

At well over three hours, this is a very long play. There is a great deal to admire and enjoy here, with the audacity and invention of the first half of the play being some of the most enjoyable theatre I have ever seen. For me, the very different tone and pace of the second half of the play does not create the same quality of experience. Although it feels extraordinarily presumptuous for me to say so, I feel that the play would benefit from some revisions to the second half, particularly in the interactions between Eli and Ibsen.

As the result of a very ambitious project, the show has some extremely successful elements, which create some remarkable, but currently uneven experiences for the audience. 


John Smythe March 10th, 2017

It has to be noted Colin McColl’s track record in directing Ibsen dates back decades, as does his involvement in adapting some plays to New Zealand settings.

Long before he directed Emily Perkins’ adaptation of A Doll’s House (mentioned in the review above), McColl directed an acclaimed Downstage production of Hedda Gabler (1990), relocated to 1950s Wellington without changing a word. It toured to Edinburgh, London and the Ibsen Festival in Olso, Norway.

Having gone on to direct The Vikings at Helgeland for the Norwegian National Theatre the following year, he commissioned Hone Kouka to adapt that play for Taki Rua (where they were co-artistic directors) – and Nga Tangata Toa won Production of the Year in 1994. 

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