fredag den 22. februar 2008

Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

So the new royal playhouse opened last weekend with a gala performance of (surprise) Hamlet. I think it is safe to say that everyone who's anyone in Dansih society was there. Well not really everyone, because, alas, they forgot to invite me – something is rotten indeed.

To make sure that I had something to tell you about this new and amazing playhouse I was able to get a ticket to one of the other plays. – This new architectonical wonder has three stages and I visited the smallest one where ‘Hunger’ premiered. The play is an adaptation of Knut Hamsun’s novel by Jon Fosse with Janus Nabil Bakrawi in the lead role.
But before I give you my view on this play I have to tell you some more about the house. The playhouse is the second new building The Royal Danish Theatre has acquired over the last year – The Opera house is of course the first one. Now that the royal theatre has such excellent playing conditions let's only hope their artistic work can live up to the standards.

The playhouse was designed by the architects Lundgaard & Tranberg and is situated beautifully by the harbour in central Copenhagen. I’m usually not a big fan of square glass buildings and I had my doubts when I saw the work in progress. But this playhouse is one of the best examples of how glass can make a building come to life, rather than leaving it with a cold, dark and polished surface.
Another cool thing about this playhouse is that it has such a cave-like feeling inside. The lights and the stone walls make you feel really at home. There is a very cosy atmosphere in the foyer which downplays the ‘royal theatre-stiffness' – a stiffness which I think is clearly present in the new Royal Opera House located just on the other side of the water. There the light is so bright, the gold so shiny and the foyer so cold that you can't relax.

During the intermission in Hamlet I snug in to the main stage of the playhouse and in there it's even more like a cave than in the foyer. It’s dark, with raw stone bricks on the walls and as a contrast the red velvet chairs remain as a kind of reference to classical royal theatre. The smallest stage where I was is not special in the same way- it's a small black box with, I expect, a movable stage construction.

The play’s the thingI went to the smallest stage with only 100 seats designed for more intimate theatre experiences. ‘Hunger’ is basically the story of a hungry young man walking the streets for days looking for food and money. It derives originally from Knut Hamsun's novel and has also been made into a very famous film version by Hening Carlsen from 1966.

I think that the uninteresting storyline is the main problem for the play because, well, there is no story – or a very very slim one. We are presented with only little dialogue and long monologues and thus the performance rests with the ability of Janus Nabil Bakrawi to hold your attention for 1 hour and 30 min without intermission. Luckily he does a really, almost ass-kicking, good job – I guess you don’t really kick ass in such a serious role. Anyway, he does his best to communicate and make us feel his hunger and despair. Your stomach turns as he desperately stuffs himself with paper and then vomit in disgust.

But the play also holds a delicate balance between tragedy and comedy when he sadly keeps refusing any money offered to him and then humiliatingly tries to sell his ragged blanket and the plastic buttons from his coat. The only time you really jump in your seat though, is when the steep stage constructions collapse under him making such a laud crash that even the sleepiest member of the audience wakes up. However, it's not only the otherwise bare set-design, created by Sidse Jørgensen, that brings action to all the words; the direction is vitally and lively done by Rolf Heim, who brings life this heavy text through constant movement and live music. Unfortunately, it does not change the fact that this play, about ‘starving’ yourself to achieve artistic insight, lacks development or progression and therefore exhausts its audience in the end.

1 kommentar:

Merethe sagde ...

I just loved both your description of the theater and of the play! You make it so real that I can just feel the atmosphere of the place (I'll definetly have to go there sometime) but it won't be to see the 'heavy' play you went to - though you do give it the credit it deserves too, or so it seems :)