Peer Gynt is, according to our storyteller, ‘the most self-centred, egotistical liar in literary history’. This, however, certainly hasn’t put Kare Conradi off Ibsen’s play. His obvious enthusiasm for this Norwegian classic makes him the perfect person to relay it; he’s a story-mediator as well as teller.
Perhaps compensating for the fact that ‘most Norwegians only know the first two lines of ‘Peer Gynt’, Conradi seems to know it inside out. He reminded me of a lecturer - a talented, devoted lecturer, whose passion for his subject is palpable. Conradi’s research is obvious; he’s even been to several of the places where the play is set. It’s not difficult for Conradi to bring this material to life. Much of it, it seems, is his life.
With his warm voice and friendly demeanour, Conradi creates a nicely intimate atmosphere. It’s not all easy listening, however - Conradi often breaks into surprisingly long (and beautiful) bursts of Norwegian. He also constantly shifts between acting, telling, and giving us his analysis of the story.
Despite his manifest expertise, Conradi’s not pompous with his interpretations. He’s not trying to assert his superiority, and character analysis is often no more sophisticated than: ‘he’s jerk, a nincompoop.’ What’s more, Conradi doesn’t claim to have all the answers. Of the section in which Peer meets some monkeys he says: ‘I don’t know what that scene is about’. It’s endearingly low-key, but there are also moments of drama. Frequently running around the stage, Conradi even climbs the lighting rig to emphasize Peer’s heightened emotion as he falls in lust. Energetic and compelling, Conradi’s a natural storyteller.
It’s not the most thrilling event at the Fringe, nor the most accessible, containing aphoristic lines such as ‘being oneself means slaying oneself’. It doesn’t help, either, that the sweltering heat and darkness of the space make it a slight effort to maintain concentration. However, none of this is the performer’s fault. If the unlikely prospect watching a lively rendition of Peer Gynt by one of Norway’s most renowned actors appeals, I recommend going.