Kare Conradi
Kåre Conradi is one of Norway's best known actors. While his background is in theatre, he has done television and film too. He is also a Jazz singer. Kåre has been part of the National Theatre of Norway since 1999 and has performed in more than 30 productions. This month he will be in Mumbai with his acclaimed solo performance of Henrik Ibsen's play PEER GYNT. The play is part of the first Ibsen festival in Mumbai (31st October-3rd November 2014) that has been organized by Ila Arun and her company in collaboration with the Royal Norwegian Embassy. Kåre Conradi talks about his monologue and about PEER GYNT and its continuing relevance.

 By Deepa Punjani

Deepa Punjani (DP): I believe it's the first time that you are staging your one man show of Ibsen's PEER GYNT in India. How do you feel about it?

Kåre Conradi (KC): I am very proud to be invited by Ila Arun for this very first Ibsen Festival in Mumbai. I have never been to India before and to be invited to do what I love the most - tell stories and work with Ibsen, makes this already a unique experience for me. The theatre will be the biggest I have ever performed this production in. That is thrilling! I am proud and honoured to be invited!

DP: Did Ila Arun suggest that you stage this particular work since her group is also performing an adaptation of the play at the same time, in order that we may see two different versions of the same play, or was it your idea?

KC: I met Ila at the Ibsen Festival at The National Theatre where I work in Norway in 2012. She had an amazing energy! I did my performance there and she came to see the English version. My discussions with Ila on Ibsen after this impressed me so much...Not only does she know Ibsen well but she breathes Ibsen. When she speaks of him it becomes so personal. So my answer would be that I don't know when she decided to do PEER GYNT but she probably has all Ibsen's characters inside her already ready to come out. It wasn't my idea but monologue is storytelling the whole play in my words and Ibsen's words, so I think it is a perfect introduction to her version.

DP: You are very familiar with the play having played the title role and you also have a version for children. But what makes this one-man performance that you will be staging in India unique?

KC: I always relate the monologue to where I am and to whom I am speaking. So the versions always change with the audience. A critic once wrote it is almost stand-up, and I guess it is as well. I have also added some new bits to make the connection to India even stronger. I remember in Scotland once there was only ONE person in the audience...Ha ha. I asked him "Are you ready for this?" And he said yes. I then asked if he knew PEER GYNT and he said "No sorry" and then I said "Now you shall.'' It was one of my best performances and he turned out to be an actor in a theatre there and told many to come after that show. So it filled up! Imagine if I hadn't performed!

DP: Tell us a little about your process from working with the text to staging it with your co-director E. Gording. Did you encounter any particular challenges?

KC: She was my mentor and director and the one who taught me the importance of trusting the written word. And I live with it. She was an actress who unfortunately now is dead. She was almost 90 years old or so and she had a good life. We did a youth production of PEER GYNT together when I was younger and my solo piece sprung from there. In the recent version I have had help from Terje Maerli, Norway's leading director of Ibsen. He is now part of The Norwegian Ibsen Company.

DP: You have done over 200 performances of this production. Which has been your best experience to date staging it?

KC: Again it would be that evening with that one person in the audience. It was a very intimate space as well. He cried and told me it had been unreal to be there alone and to be told the story like this. However, managing to reach out to 300 graduate-students (Russ) in Norway in a gymnasium on the morning after they had stayed up drinking all night to celebrate 1st May was fantastic too. It proves Henrik Ibsen has something to tell us all, no matter where we are in life and what time in the morning. He continues to surprise me every day and I learn so much of myself through his plays.

DP: In India, PEER GYNT has not been frequently produced as compared to other plays by Ibsen; the most popular among them being A DOLL''S HOUSE. Yet PEER GYNT is a play remarkable for the way it is written and of how it traces the journey of its eponymous character from youth to old age. What are the most interesting aspects of the play to you?

KC: Ibsen knows our inner deepest secrets. He knows the empty dark corners we all share and the lies we tell others but even more important the lies we tell ourselves. In PEER GYNT we discover that yet again - through the words of Ibsen - we are not alone in our fight with ambitions, dreams, loneliness disappointment, darkness, and immense joy brought on by brief lies that feel good at the moment but slowly and gradually take away the self, who we are, who we could have been. In PEER GYNT, Ibsen also tells us about salvation found through faith and love. Peer is a fantastic character even with
all his rudeness,

DP: You are also a Jazz singer. Did you train for it the way you trained for your acting at the National Theatre School of Norway and at the London Academy of Dramatic Arts (LAMDA)?

KC: My parents introduced me to Sinatra's music when I was three. I listened to Peggy Lee, Dean Martin, Liza Minnelli, Sammy Davis Jr... I have trained with different vocal coaches who have worked with singers like Shirley Bassey and Kirsten Flagstad. But I never trained in singing like I did for drama. I play different instruments as well but all I can offer with my music is to tell a story. So many sing much better than I do and I can only focus on telling the stories. I sing in my own way. In London, they call me Corey and it's funny because when you go to YouTube and search for Corey all that comes up is music. Maybe you will find some film and some theatre whereas theatre is my true foundation.

Deepa Punjani is the Editor of this website.

Click here to read Ila Arun's interview about the festival

Click here to read KK Raina talk of his direction and performance in PIR GHANI

Click here to read what Manoj Shah has to say about his version of THE MASTER BUILDER

Click here for the Preview of PIR GHANI

Click here for the Preview of MASTER BUILDER

Click here to read about the seminar in which Kåre Conradi will also be participating

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