Wishful beginnings is a visually strong experience, however the content is more fumbling and unclear.
Morgenbladet – reviews, culture
by Anette Therese Pettersen
Black Box Teater, big stage, 6.April, plays until 17.April
Verk Produksjoner have replaced the stage curtain in Black Box Teater’s big stage with an impenetrable wall. Along the tiered seatings, the members of Verk are standing, wearing synthetic wigs, fake fur, rubber masks and sequins. The audience and the performers are gathered in the auditorium, and together we are facing the big wall.
One of the performers, Solveig L. Mohn, grabs a microphone, and starts asking one of the others, Espen K. Høiner, questions. What are you grateful for, what are you afraid of, do you believe in ghosts, would it fill you with hope if someone died? They are stood on opposite sides of the auditorium, and are literally speaking over our heads, at the same time as the simplistic nature of the questions evokes a self-consciousness in the audience-members. (What type of red food is really my favourite, and what is the most embarrassing thing I ever did?) At the same time, a feeling of doubt arises: Are Høiner’s answers rehearsed, or are they just as sincere and immediate as they appear to be?
Natural versus artificial.
The performance interchange between dialogues, monologues and sequences without text. Part of the light is controlled manually, together with performers speaking in microphones, as well as a computerised voice, played over the speaker-system
Wishful beginnings is framed by a line from Hamlet’s meeting with his father’s ghost. Initially, the tune is set with the recognition “There are more things in heaven and earth, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. One and a half hour later, the performance ends with the conclusion “The time is out of joint; O curs’d spite,That ever I was born to set it right!”.
Injustice in contemporary times.
A prescript to the performance has been the publication “Samtiden”, specifically the issue about terms and diagnoses on our present time. Naturalism, capitalism and anthropocene (the humanly constructed geological age) reoccurs in several texts. Wishful beginnings questions where the borders are lined between the natural or real, and the artificial, both in the textual material and the visual expression.
The performance meanders forward, in a moderate tempo. The conversations deal with possible futures, for the most part – from hopeful beginnings with creatures living under water, onto the extinction of the human race, and its replacement by a similar species, living in the service of the pleasure economy, with sexual pleasure distributed all over the body.
Seen from the audience’s perspective, Wishful beginnings is a comfortable inferno to be part of. It strikes me, more than ever before, how skilful Verk Produksjoner are – on a technical level. Both as performers, with an impressive presence and assurance, and as composers of material. However, I am still unable to grasp what they want for me.
I experience the performance as a sort of repercussion of Stalker (2013), which was based on Andrej Tarkovskij’s science fiction-movie with the same title. In Stalker, memories, or the absence of memories, from a film about a post-apocalyptic future became the theme. Although Wishful beginnings discusses possible future scenarios in a very explicit manner, I have a larger experience of powerlessness now, than I did with Stalker. Perhaps the wall on stage is an image of this lack of power, and if this is the case, the axe which one of the performers are carrying can be interpreted as a potential, yet idle, tool to break through.
Wishful beginnings has a sense of being in a process. The company ask some quite fumbling and unclear questions about what it means to be human, what is our distinctiveness, and how is this separated from artificial intelligence – and not in the least: how will this behave in the future. But if the (present) time is out of joint, as it so beautifully is said, I am still unsure what it will take to heal it again.
Created by humans: All the performers looks to be dressed in synthetic materials from top to bottom.
Photo: Ingrid Eggen