The shock of the future

To be or let be: that is the question in Verk Produksjoner’s “Wishful beginnings”. 

Therese Bjørneboe: Theatre
“Wishful beginnings” by and with Verk Produksjoner, Black Box Teater, Store Scene, Oslo.

Original (Norwegian):  KK080416


Themes too heavy, or form too light. 
Ever since their breakthrough with Finn Iunker’s “Ifigeneia” in 2007, Verk Produksjoner have occupied themselves with the bigger questions. I welcomed the premiere of “Beat the Drum: Wishful beginnings” with excitement; you never know what to expect with Verk. This is not just the case with text and themes, but even the usage of the theatrical space stirs up our preconceived ideas and forces us to look from new perspectives at something so conventional as a theatre stage and stage curtain. In “Beat the Drum” the actors are situated on the stairs in the auditorium, before they come down to the downstage edge. The stage curtain is replaced by a huge wooden wall which is never raised. It limits the performance space, and directs our attention to what “lies behind”.

“Beat the Drum: Wishful beginnings” is the second part of a performance series, which according to the program has a “focus on the contemporary and the future”. The performance fits into the trend of science fiction performances, such as “Solaris korrigert” at Det Norske Teatret and the science-fiction-opera “Elysium”. “Beat the Drum” does not have a plot driven story, and strictly speaking, it’s not science fiction either, because it outplays itself in the here and now. Nevertheless, the shockwaves from the future are rolling over the stage.

The text is consisting of cut and paste from articles, conversations and interviews. Hamlet plays a central part, represented by Espen Klouman Høiner, who recently played that very role at Trøndelag Teater.

In the opening scene of the performance, Høiner is bombarded with a series of private questions, which makes it difficult to distinguish how much is prepared and not. Which is truth, fiction and lie? It sets us off on the track Hamlet’s fundamental question. Can he trust that what he sees is what is real? Or is the Ghost, like the future, just an illusion? To be or to let be, that is the question in a performance which addresses and stirs in our feeling of ineptitude.

Here Hamlet’s meeting with the ghost is toured through the appearance of a number of peculiar apparitions, covered in masks, made in China, but also through asking the audience if they have ever seen a ghost. Surprisingly many answer yes.

The texts in the performance confront us with scenarios that fades the murderous scenes in “Hamlet”: The extinction of species, twelve-forms of mass destruction threatening our planet, visions of the future connected to transhumanism, and development of artificial intelligence; A blissfully pain-killing existence where people enjoy orgasms without sex, and nobody needs a partner.

The drawback is that the human kind is no longer present. “Human beings are the only species who have accommodated for their own downfall”, it is said. And when Høiner finally gets the opportunity to read his favourite line from hamlet: “The time is out of joint—O cursèd spite, That ever I was born to set it right!”, the message is sufficiently hammered home. “Beat the Drum” is an atmospheric performance, however this time the themes strike me as too heavy, or the form as a little too light.


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