Peer Gynt

Top 10 theatre for 2010 in NOW Magazine

The Thistle Project returned after Gorey Story with Peer Gynt 
A two-actor play starring Susan Coyne and Matthew Romantini

Physical and environmental theatre transformed the historic Church of the Holy Trinity

Three years after our sold-out hit, Gorey Story, The Thistle Project returned to the Toronto stage with Peer Gynt, a tour-de-force performance piece adapted for two actors by director Erika Batdorf with the company. Playing in every corner of Toronto’s historic Church of the Holy Trinity, actors Susan Coyne (Soulpepper Founding Member and Gemini-winning performer and creator of Slings and Arrows) and our own Matthew Romantini bring Henrik Ibsen’s epic poem to life.

Our adaptation, which casts Coyne as Peer Gynt and Romantini as everyone (and everything) else, is an examination of Self: selfishness, selflessness, and integrity. It explores ideas of accountability, notoriety, and unconditional love through various elements of classical theatre, story theatre, dance, live music, and shadow puppetry. This colossal tale has been streamlined for two virtuosic performances, remaining a magical, 100-minute tribute to Ibsen’s original. 

The designers made use of all physical, musical and illuminant aspects of The Church of the Holy Trinity to create a Peer Gynt that was fully integrated with its venue. Audiences followed the actors through the space before settling down for the moving climax.  

Directed by Erika Batdorf
Produced by Christine Horne
Set and Costumes by Lindsay Anne Black
Lighting Design by Jason Hand
Sound Design and Composition by Richard Feren
Performed by Susan Coyne and Matthew Romantini 


Jon Kaplan says in UK publication Plays International:

"...Another environmental production took an established script and gave it striking new life.  The Thistle Project tackled one of Ibsen's most thorny scripts, Peer Gynt, and presented it as a work for two actors.  The adaptation, by director Erika Batdorf and actors Susan Coyne and Matthew Romantini, moved performers and audience through the historic Church of the Holy Trinity.  Using pews, altar, pulpit and other parts of the church, Batdorf worked wonders in collaboration with Jason Hand's lighting, Richard Feren's live soundscape and Lindsay Anne Black's simple but evocative set and costumes.  

     A female Peer seems strange at first, but Coyne brought such childlike wonder and delight to the character, as well as an intelligent reading of a difficult text, that viewers were quickly won over.  Romantini, as all the other figures in the play, proved himself a chameleon-like performer, always clear about which of his two dozen or so figures we were watching.  

     I've never seen Ibsen's rambling, philosophical, picaresque talke give such a persuasive reading."

Robert Cushman— National Post

Batdorf's staging is brilliant; she makes imposing use of the site's built-in resources... and inventive use of a few simple recurring props and masks. She also continually finds new and surprising ways to introduce the characters… remarkable.

Paula Citron- 96.3 FM

There is hope for Henrik Ibsen’s sprawling, satiric and unperformable verse play Peer Gynt. Director Erika Batdorf has adapted a workable version for two actors using a mix of colloquial and poetic language. Batdorf cleverly uses every nook and cranny of the church sanctuary for Peer’s travels…astute… tremendous production assets… inventive lighting… soundscape superb…. This production hits its stride in the poignant, philosophical ending.

Review by Steven Berketo,

Adapted by Erika Batdorf, who relies on the meticulous layers that create an epic foundation... powered by winding storylines and delightful dreamscapes. Time and space migrate from the conscious to the unconscious fusing fantasy and realism. It’s physically fun, artistically poignant; it’s unlike anything you’ll undergo twice.Leave it to the theatrical anarchists with The Thistle Project to break all the rules with Peer Gynt. This one is for the art, not the ego.