Theatre 503 and Presence Theatre present
By Jon Fosse
Translated by May-Brit Akerholt
21 October - 15 November 2008
A review by David Hermann for EXTRA! EXTRA!
Pale walls of clay, a wooden floor, the painted outline of a house. In a swell of warm light two men walk to the edge of the stage and gaze out across the auditorium. They are on a pier. The audience is the ocean.
Soon, dialogue begins to rise and fall like waves. The language is defamiliarising but alluring. Hypnotic. The First Man, played by David Hounslow, is older, the Second Man, played by James Chalmers, younger. Both wear beards, both wear beige: it doesn't take long to realise that they are in fact the same man, and that the undulating dialogue is really an internal monologue, a search for lost memory; a specific memory, that of The Woman in a black swimsuit, who eventually appears, calm and flowing, played attractively by Valerie Gogan.
In her opening note to the programme, translator May-Brit Akerholt stresses the importance of letting a text retain its original hue. She condemns the translation of a play's distinctive mood into overwhelming Britishness in order to please a British audience, and she is right, of course. It is refreshing and pleasurable to be thought sensitive enough to pick up signals from outside one's immediate cultural vicinity.
With Jon Fosse's Norwegian mood fully intact, Presence Theatre delivers an exceptionally fine-tuned production that does Akerholt's credo justice. Director Simon Usher's decision to cast three distinctly Scandinavian-looking actors is merely the beginning of a chain of pertinent choices that distinguish this little gem from everything else out on London's stages this autumn. Belle Mundi's delicate set, Sam Moon's modest lighting and Phil Hewitt's restrained sound-design forge the ideal atmosphere for Fosse's measured and lyrical search for lost time. This stunning aura of expressionistic stillness, in which the actors are free to unfold their full potential, is infinitely more than the sum of its parts.
This is the kind of theatre we need more of. You must see it.
Tickets (£13/£8), Tuesdays 'Pay what you Can'
The Latchmere Pub
503 Battersea Park Road
London SW11 3BW
Box Office: 020 7978 7040
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