PEER GYNT PROJECT Brings Neil Hancock to Nationaltheatret's International Ibsen Festival, Now thru 9/8
THE PEER GYNT PROJECT is a U.S./U.K./Norway multi-media theater collaboration conceived by Caroline von Kuhn and co-created by Jennifer Gibbs, John Gould Rubin and Ms. von Kuhn, Produced by Robyn Hussa and starring Neil Hancock – a wheelchair-using actor who has Cerebral Palsy. The company is re-telling the epic story of Ibsen's Peer Gynt by injecting accounts of own contemporary struggles into the narrative.
The new original text is a sequencing of Peer's story using scenarios both from Ibsen's work and from the actors' own personal lives and imaginations. They are embracing Peer Gynt as a classic vessel for our most modern dilemmas: loved ones deployed to the war in Afghanistan, the nature of physical disability, overcoming obstacles, the question of whether theater can be as transformative in our world as it was in Ibsen's. In partnership with the group's lead actor, they are re-discovering Peer today: a flawed soul wrestling with dreams and demons in pursuit of his fullest life.
THE PEER GYNT PROJECT integrates original text with new folk songs played live, recorded compositions, interactive video and athletic choreography. The group is designing a custom sports wheelchair compatible with tracks, frames, outriggers and pulleys, to empower the wheelchair-using lead actor with an extraordinary mobility. Additionally, the process is being documented on video for possible use in the story.
The group aims to be truly accessible, to connect directly to a diverse and international audience, while shattering expectations of what is possible. We strive to surpass individual limitations, to surprise ourselves, to find joy in making work that is bigger than we are. They seek to startle audiences into realizing that the inconceivable can become real; that we are all Peer Gynt.
This project has been devised in London through Old Vic/New Voices, in New York through The Private Theatre and in Oslo through The National Theatre of Norway, which will co-produce our next public workshop in August-September, 2012, at the International Ibsen Festival. They are generating and developing our work in all three countries through workshops and weekly Skype videoconference rehearsals. THE PEER GYNT PROJECT is designed to be truly international: artistically, institutionally, and in every aspect of production. The goal is to partner with arts institutions in all three countries for a full production in 2014, playing in Norway, the U.K. and the U.S..
History of the Project
Caroline von Kuhn conceived THE PEER GYNT PROJECT when she had the idea of casting wheelchair-using actor Neil Hancock as Peer and – in 2010 – approached Jennifer Gibbs and John Gould Rubin. After a summer Shakespeare course together at RADA (London, 2008), while Caroline was writing on psychology in Ibsen, she saw a correlation between Neil and Peer Gynt, inspired by how Neil, his classmates and the RADA teachers pushed past any physical limitation the wheelchair first presented. As he began work with us in October 2010, Neil saw that any of Ibsen's lead characters could be played by a disabled actor, because the physical disability would be an external manifestation of an internal state. In the course of our exploration we have rehearsed via Skype every Saturday at 8am E.S.T. from inconvenient locations; we have found creative uses for technological bloopers; we have traveled across the Atlantic to work and seek new collaborators; we have almost collapsed while climbing Norway's Gjendin Ridge (where Peer rides a mythological Buck into sheer air); we have all played Peer.
THE PEER GYNT PROJECT has been devised in workshops in London (Old Vic/New Voices – Jan. 2011); in Oslo (Oslo Actors Centre – August 2011); and New York (Private Theatre/New Georges The Room – September 2011). The upcoming workshop is co- produced by The National Theatre of Norway in Oslo (International Ibsen Festival, Aug./ Sept. 2012).