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Celebration or Critique? Performing Peer Gynt in the Heart of Norway

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 February 2022


Since 1988, Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt has been performed outdoors in the summer at Gålå in Gudbrandsdalen in Norway. Peer Gynt is particularly connected to Norwegian national culture and identity, and this connection becomes particularly poignant at Gålå. The event focuses on giving the audience a celebratory national-romantic experience of the typical Norwegian landscape, traditional Norwegian culture, and Peer Gynt, the most Norwegian of all plays. The question is whether a production here necessarily has to be subjected to the celebratory atmosphere of the event or whether it is possible for a production in these circumstances to question the hegemonic, national-romantic ideology that pervades the event. This article uses Chantal Mouffe’s concept of ‘critical art’ and Louis Althusser’s reflections on the relationship between theatre and ideology to discuss this question in respect of how the productions at Gålå are marketed. The article argues that, whatever critical potential there is in performing Peer Gynt at Gålå, it can be found by directly staging and questioning the expectations that the event creates and that audience members bring with them. Sigrid Strøm Reibo employed such a strategy in her 2017 production, which is the focus of attention here. Lars Harald Maagerø is a scholar and director whose research is concerned with the political and cultural impact of contemporary theatre. His productions include A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night with Thesbiteatret in Norway, and Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Opera Østfold.

Research Article
© Cambridge University Press 2022

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