Morgenbladet 24.September 1999 Grete Indal

“The performance The Garden was white is a reconstructed modern version of Anthony Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard. In The Garden was white, the Bal Theater (Danish) and Verk Produksjoner (Norwegian) give Chekov’s play from the 1800s a timeless frame. The reproduction puts together pieces of the realistic drama in such a way that the play simultaneously cultivates the mood of Checkov and indirectly makes a comment on the theater as a form of art. The garden was white creates a juicy and liberating theater expression that is just as tasty as big cherries.

Time, place and context have been eliminated in The Cherry Orchard. What is left is five nameless persons in a white and bright room. The actors can only remember bits and pieces from the history about an estate that was to be auctioned. The actors, with loss of memory, deliver their lines not recalling who said what, and why they said what they said. During the play loose ends are gathered, it becomes clear why they lost the estate, and circumstances around the cherry orchard are revealed.

The Chekhovian atmosphere is cultivated in pure form and demonstrates the theme of Chekhov’s drama.. One man satisfies himself at the same time as a couple in love move sensually to naive pop music. The scene emphasises the existential despair of the idealist and his difficulties of communication. The Finn, Saila Hyttinen, introduces herself by speaking Finnish to the Swede Anders Mossling while he gives her roses that she constantly loses, thus demonstrating the failure of communication between two people who speak at cross purposes.

Three of the actors wear thick woollen coats which evoke associations with the time of glory of a Russian estate. Saila Hyttinen decorates the edge of the stage with yellow potted flowers and thus improvises a garden. The white, well-lit room resembles a scenic hothouse where the four actors sow sensory impulses and create the fiction in rhythmical breaks between acting and non-acting.

With scenic sensitivity the instructor, Thomas Storm (DK), stitches textual fragments, action and choreographed dance together in a simultaneous dramaturgy which plays with the ability of the audience to comprehend. Fragments of Chekhov’s text are read and played but are not the focus of the performance. The dialogs provide a background around the action on the stage. One actor recites his lines while another moves choreographically. The parallel actions of the play give the performance temperament and add tempo to the plot.

Saila Hytinnen (FI), Oskar Skulstad (N), Anders Mossling (S) and Fredrik Hannestad (N), play without a visible technique. They emerge as vulnerable in the sensitive parts of the play and as self-ironical entertainers while dancing. The dance sequences break with the idea of how scenic dancing should be done and give the performance a comical touch. Saila Hyttinen has an instinctive feminine feeling which dominates the room and creates tension in her interaction with the male actors.

The contrast between the actors’ identification with the spirit of the text and their physical acting out introduces a disruption in the dramatic plot of The Cherry Orchard and opens for a meta theatrical sphere that is not intended. When the actors alternate between repeating lines they do not understand and exercise their creative spontaneity, the performance is a comment on the actor’s role in the classical text theater.

The Orchard was White is, indeed, creative theater that does more than reconstruct The Cherry Orchard by Chekov. The performance demonstrates an artistic involvement when it questions the actors’ function in the theater.”

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