Dagbladet: by Lillian Bikset
April 6th 2016
Cliché as the lowest common denominator
THEATRE: Where to draw the line between common, recognisable, well known, trivial and futile?
Where to set the border between pretension and a parody of pretension, how to define the difference between fervency and ironising upon fervency?
When should reuse be perceived as rich of references, quotation or referral, and when should it be seen as unoriginal, easy, cheap?
Where is the boundary between a loose structure and a lack of structure?
A kaleidoscope of clichés
A signifier of the naivistic-philosophical projects of Verk Produksjoner is that they both illuminate and ignore questions like the ones above. Perhaps one can say that they acknowledge such problems, in order to attempt to make them irrelevant.
They achieve that through form, with incredibly loosely put together kaleidoscopes of cliches, collages so noncommittally connected that that in itself is an invitation not only for subjective interpretation, but for conjecture.
They achieve that through content, with thematics so fleeting that it in all it’s wanting for life-discussion is doomed to appear as superficial, vague, both when it is exposed to the performer’s own analysis, and when the performer lets the cat out of the bag, still unexplored.
We can sum up the “Beat the Drum”-series through keywords such as “the role/place of the individual”, “social responsibility”, “the role of art in people’s lives”, “the role of art in society”, “good and difficult aspects of the existence”.
As already implied, reuse is a comprehensive tool, Verk are reusing from their own performances - taking elements of style, experiences, narrative methods, Q&A, as well as reusing from popular culture in general. Those who would like to have fun out of “Wishful Beginnings” can use it as a starting point for a hipster-marker-bingo.
The sum of moments.
It is often easy, almost too easy, to make jokes at Verk Produksjoner’s expense. It is just as easy to use the company’s own words against them, a natural consequence of the fact that far from all of their reflections appear as reflected upon.
On the other hand, it is difficult to describe their work without resorting to clichés yourself. Verk combines high- and lowbrow, small and big, amateurism and professionalism. In the trivial they find their metaphors for the greater questions, through their big questions they express the trivial.
“The sum is bigger than the singular ingredients”, we say. Every time I have seen performances created by Verk Produksjoner, the opposite thought has struck me, that here are moments that in them selves are far greater than the entirety.
In Wishful Beginnings, this is also the case. Almost without exception, the scenes that make the largest impact on me are the ones without spoken word, where images speak for themselves. Also in these scenes, the well-known is present, but still effective. The textual parts, on the other hand, appear - to me - all the way through over-explained or insufficient, and often both.
This impact or this reaction is, of course, subjective. What one perceives as new insight depends on what thoughts one has had prior to the performance. What one sees as relevant, depends on what you choose to emphasise.
But perhaps one can see this reaction, and other related reactions as intentional, or at least as one of many intentional possible reactions. The wish to invite the audience to take part in the performance through making their own interpretations about it, is without a doubt, indisputable.
“Beat The Drum: Wishful Beginnings
Verk Produksjoner/Blackbox Teater/Teaterhuset Avant Garden/BIT Teatergarasjen
By and with: Fredrik Hannestad, Saila Hyttinen, Tilo Hahn, Signe Becker, Solveig Laland Mohn, Håkon Mathias Vassvik, Per Platou, Anders Mossling, Espen Klouman Høiner, Pernille Mogensen, Camilla Eeg-Tverbakk, Jon Refsdal Moe, and Agnes Gry.