Dave Orme [director and adapter] and I have worked together before and have a similar way of approaching projects so the design for Peer Gynt came together quite quickly. Firstly, we were clear in our minds that we wanted to do a contemporary version of the piece. It was important to us that the cast could relate to the characters and that they had a sense of ownership over the story and the choices they made on stage. So it became a matter of deciding the context within which to set our re-telling and it made sense to start by exploring the character of Peer Gynt in order to unlock it.
[Peer] is a character who lives by his wits. He is fickle and always on the lookout for opportunities, yet he is also ultimately rooted to his community and family. So we started looking at transient peoples with strong links to nature and landscape and eventually concentrated our research on travelling communities in Eastern Europe. Their emphasis on family ties, their ability to make the best from any situation and the sense of not being able to place them in a specific time or place really leant itself to Ibsen’s story.
The set needed to be as adaptable as possible, given how many different locations are written into the script, but with enough space to allow a large number of people on stage at any given time. And we decided on an industrial setting rather than a pastoral one to best serve all the locations in the story.
We really hope that the abstract nature of the piece and Peer’s mercurial nature is supported by the design and that the cast enjoys performing in this setting as much as we have enjoyed creating it.
Peer Gynt runs in the Main House at Salisbury Playhouse from 23 to 25 August 2016. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com.