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The Big I Am review at Liverpool Everyman – ‘an anarchic re-imagining of Ibsen’

The Big I Am is not an adaptation of Peer Gynt. Rather, it’s a re-imagining of Ibsen’s play in which Robert Farquhar takes key people and milestones from the picaresque folktale epic and builds his own new play around them.

The result is a sweeping, anarchic, story of the classical everyman figure, and a perfect fit for the Everyman Theatre’s stage.

Farquhar retains Peer Gynt’s name, while translating others into local equivalents. So Solveig becomes Sylvie and Ingrid becomes Cynthia, the latter locking herself in the toilet at her wedding reception, before running off with Gynt and kick-starting his rollercoaster of a life.

Three actors play Peer at different ages. Nathan McMullen takes the part for all of Act I, handing over to Liam Tobin just before the interval. In Act II Tobin takes him across continents, through success and catastrophe before, finally, Richard Bremmer carries the character to the end of his life.

The journey tips back and forth from high comedy to deep despair. There are show stopping scenes with Peer Gynt stumbling upon a hippy commune, witnessing the birth of a child and taking on the guise of an evangelical preacher.

The three Peer Gynts and surrounding ensemble deliver flawless performances under Nick Bagnall’s eagle-eyed direction, which picks out every detail while barely pausing for breath.

This is the kind of work that the Everyman was built on. Local characters thrust into a global story and personal politics seamlessly blended with bigger questions.

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Verdict
Robert Farquhar’s new take on an old tale makes for a truly epic roller-coaster ride

Production Information

Production
The Big I Am
Venue
Everyman Theatre
City
Liverpool
Starts
June 16, 2018
Ends
July 14, 2018
Press night
June 20, 2018
Authors
Robert Farquhar
Composer
James Fortune
Director
Nick Bagnall
Set
Molly Lacey Davies and Jocelyn Meall
Lighting
Kay Haynes
Stage manager
Gemma Dunne
Production manager
Sam Kent
Cast includes
Nathan McMullen, Liam Tobin, Richard Bremmer, Golda Rosheuvel, Keddy Sutton, Emily Hughes, Zelina Rebeiro, Emma Bispham, Patrick Brennan, George Caple, Paul Duckworth, Cerith Flinn, Nadia Anim, Marc Elliott
Producer
Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse
Running time
2hrs 55mins