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Teater Garasi explores Ibsen’s play ‘Peer Gynt’

Stanley Widianto

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Sat, June 29, 2019  /  10:01 am
Teater Garasi explores Ibsen’s play ‘Peer Gynt’

Sharing: Participants share stories for the 'Multitude of Peer Gynts' project, which is based on the play by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. (Teater Garasi/Garasi Performance Institute)

Peer Gynt, the influential 1867 play by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, finds the titular character working at a farm and increasingly overcome by boredom. So he goes on a series of dreamy adventures; life changing events come and go, like a fly. His pursuit of a colorful life isn’t smooth — it is the uncomfortable price of change. 

Teater Garasi — a collective that has been around since 1993 — is adapting this play into an ambitious project called Multitude of Peer Gynts, where director/producer Yudi A. Tajudin and playwright Ugoran Prasad corral artists from Vietnam, Japan and Sri Lanka for a three-region immersive play.

Peer Gynts di Larantuka, the first series of “works in progress”, according to Rama Thaharani, runs from June 23 to July 9 in Larantuka, East Flores.

“This project is special from us at Teater Garasi because it’s not only initiated and produced by Teater Garasi, but also artistically conducted by Teater Garasi,” said Rama at a press conference in Jakarta.

Multitude of Peer Gynts was initiated over a year ago after a series of trips to the other cities that are to host the project: Tokyo and Shizuoka. 

Besides Peer Gynts in Larantuka as its first iteration, Multitude of Peer Gynts is also to take place in those two Japanese cities, with the artists communicating with the local communities and immersing themselves in their culture.

With their new knowledge, each visit is punctuated by a performance of the Peer Gynts. The project is to culminate in the ultimate performances of Multitude of Peer Gynts at the Shizuoka Performing Arts Center (SPAC) from Nov. 4 to Nov. 19.

Japan plays a big role not only in lending the two cities for the project. Aside from Indonesia's Creative Economy Agency and the Education and Culture Ministry, the project is also supported by SPAC as co-producer, the Japan Foundation-Asia Center and the Saison Foundation, both known to support art projects in several cities in East Asia and Southeast Asia.

Epic: Henrik Ibsen's 'Peer Gynt' gets a contemporary adaptation from the renowned arts collective Teater Garasi.Epic: Henrik Ibsen's 'Peer Gynt' gets a contemporary adaptation from the renowned arts collective Teater Garasi. (Courtesy of

The idea behind Peer Gynts stems from the recognition of an old era, forcefully or naturally, being shepherd into modern times. You can see that, said Ugoran, in how they still keep old languages and rituals. “But you can also see the globalization there,” he said.

The project was also born after deep “organic” research last year, during which the team at Teater Garasi visited the cities, including Tokyo, Hokkaido and Hanoi, to get the feel of things before diving in head first.

The push-and-pull of intercultural (or inter-Asian) relations between the artists — which include performer Micari, performance artist Takao Kawaguchi and composer/sound artist Yasuhiro Morinaga from Japan, dancer Venuri Perera from Sri Lanka and Nguyễn Mạnh Hùng from Vietnam — would also be a point of interest in Multitudes of Peer Gynts

It is to also explore the themes that the original play raises: immobility and fear or anxiety. These psychological ills are the product of uncertainty and that kicks in once the artists situate themselves in these cities.

“We won’t read and say everything that’s in Peer Gynt [on stage],” said Yudi. “I’ve seen contacts between cultures that are not done being processed yet, but have been exposed to the complexity [of change].”

Peer Gynt has been influential in exploring the themes of modernism. It also spawned the suites (which include the piece “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg). However, why does Peer Gynt serve as the basis for this project? “Peer Gynt is an epic; it’s a big spectrum. It facilitates the early anxiousness behind the contact of new cultures in Asia,” said Yudi.

Yudi also said it is a big risk. “The project is full of risks. We may find the harmony [in the final conclusion of the project], but something can always go missing. But it’s a long project. What we haven’t found in Larantuka, we can find in Tokyo,” he said.

Teater Garasi is also planning to stage Multitude of Peer Gynts in Jakarta, with it tentatively being scheduled for sometime in 2020. (ste)


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