Ethnic voices caress and collide

Review by Daniel Andersson. Dagens Nyheter 08. okt. 2000

In "Régla" Verdensteatret relates freely to Heiner Müller 's "The Mission". The result is beautiful, revolting and uplifting, writes Danjel Andersson.

The scene is white and lead one's thoughts to the sunken Atlantis or one of Titanic's lounges at the bottom of the ocean. White corals grow over the antique tables and the broken mirrors, the floor is covered by fine sand. From the loudspeakers flows ambient sounds and across the stage there is a projection of "snow", like when the TV is turned off and the programming has ended. One can think of a dreamed place - a setting with extreme suggestive power. Four Scandinavians have come here, from the Norwegian performance-collective Verdensteatret. On stage we see the Swedish Marta Oldenburg and Martin Lundberg, the Danish Per Flink Basse and the Norwegian Lars Øyno, and all of them speak their own language. They represent themselves on stage and draw upon roles from Heiner Müller's piece "The mission" from 1979. Here, however, the piece is called Regla and with great liberty it relates to the text. During the play films are projected onto the white scenography, echo of voices from the loudspeakers caress ethnic tones and collide with what happens on stage; sometimes the words glide into each other and are pronounced simultaneously. No one would be more pleased than Müller. It is as if the group have captured his words about participatory decision-making (everyone appears as a creator, there is no explicit director) and it is almost as if he foresees this very performance when he says during an interview: "One has to link one thing onto the next, so that it may work simulaneously." Here video art is placed alongside performance, sculpture and installation, as well as text and music. All together it turns into a powerful, beautiful, revolting and uplifting theater with roots in the American avantgarde, as well as in the Belgian and of course the German theater.Müller's text is a kind of conjuring of the revolution. Words pour forth and the connections are unclear, we meet rebel leaders from France and Haiti on Jamaica. The lines get repeated, are played fast forward and are left out - without any sign of illusion or interpretation in the general sense. Marta Oldenburg is Sasportas, a black Haitian, but we don't need any exterior sign to aid our understanding. She wears a dress and her long hair, the color of red autumn leaves, loose, her skin glowing white. She is Marta and Sasportas at the same time. Some scenes have put their mark on my inner archive. For instance, when Martin Lundberg is reading a newspaper that suddenly bursts into flames in his hands or when the ensemble quits its voice recitation and walks to a table filled with various glasses and then in deep concentration plays a crystalclear concert, or when Oldenburg's sweet tale about a coconut that always is beaten turns into an unpleasant torture scene. Never will that image be forgotten where she is forced to dance by the yelling Per Flink Basse. He stuffs red candy into her mouth while she, out of breath attempts to continue her story - her eyes filled with pleading fear. Right before she had offered someone in the audience some candy. I wonder how they taste in the mouth of the obeservers, while the red in Oldenburg's mouth has been tranformed into blood running down the summer dress.

Postcolonial shadows

Review by Annika Tudeer. Hufvudstadsbladet, Helsinki 28. sep. 2000

Tropical heat in a white fossil cave-scenography. Fragments of colonialism, revolutions, repression. Dissolution of the white man's power in postrevolutionary time in one conglomerate of poetry, violence, eroticism tightly strung beneath the surface. The Norwegian performance group Verdensteatret, founded in 1986, played the Regla for a small audience at the Savoy. In Verdensteatret artists from various disciplines participate and create visual and powerful performances. At first it feels a bit like the eighties and Peter Greenaway, with beautiful opera music, minimalism, white and dreamlike, a redhead in a clinging dress, African rythms. But suddenly the rythms of the performance take their hold and the story's fragments of timeless cruelty, indifference, conquest and power start to eat their way in with the salsa rythms. The constellation consists of older man, woman and younger man in an unidentified tropical landscape, in some Other Place. This is a tale of power, of age and generations. Some isolated acts feel like clichees, performed with great enthusiasm, such as burning newspapers, lighting candles, but the totality eats into your mind. The remnants of the white empire still reverberate, they move in grey powersuits through the rooms, repress a woman, force her to dance while bleeding from the mouth, write sentimental but beautiful love poems at the point when everything is approaching its dissolution. Verdensteatret challenges the audience to put together the fragments for themselves and to see what they tell. In a revolutionary monologue the audience is turned into the Other. We are the slaves, the group of forty waiting for our moment. Video of burial sites, of rooms projected onto the background, onto the furniture placed on the scene, creating a landscape that associates the bottom of the ocean. Tapes of sounds from out of doors and music leads one from one atmosphere to another. The most prominent feeling lies in the rythm, in the speed and in the subtle techniqes of acting that create the atmosphere. Verdensteatret state that they on stage represent themselves, but it isn't quite as simple as that. To be oneself on stage and to constantly keep up the go-ahead intention of the energy requires both experience and technique. Regla touches one, it invades the senses. The performance sweeps one away and the audience is thrown amidst the distancing acts, such as the voice becoming hoarser stating that it is losing its voice. Political, for sure. But also with an intelligent subtext that comments upon the tale of the weary European colonialist-weapons dealer-adventurer, whose role is over, while the young arrogant man's development is cut short. The black woman with the white complexion represents the hope, a new dawn, the other continents, that are a significant part of the Other in the history of oppression. Hopefully Verdensteatret will return before another ten years are gone. The last time they visited Helsingfors was in 1990, with their esthethic and cruel performance Wednesday 13th of October. Verdensteatret are specialists at placing latent cruelty side by side with extraordinary beauty.

Timless echoes and shadows

Review by Grete Indal. Klassekampen, 08. nov. 1999

Régla is an exuberant compilation of sensuous material. Scenic pictures arise from the white installation/room, cutting the minimalism and attracts attention with its organic forms. Surrealistic furniture-like forms covered with shells and corals in heaps as if retrieved out of the ruins of an abandoned manor or shipwreck. Video pictures of traffic-filled streets and graveyards are projected across the white furniture forms and create dark shadows that move the scenic images. Whenever sound, light and image melt together, the scenic picture breaks loose from the performers' control and transform the stage to a steaming and breathing organism. Régla has its own life in a fertile expression that grows and develops new images and associations in a simultaneous dramaturgy. The logical linearity of time is transposed and creates fleeting fictional spaces that play with each other and create a scenic world making ones gaze constantly shift focus. The episodic narrative structure tones the story down and lifts the manner of narrating. Situations are built up and are disturbed by speech, images or movements, and the focus thus shifts. The attention in the performance is turned towards the small details, the unmotivated acts and the external interruptions. Such a dramaturgical "defocusing" in which linear and logical ways of thinking are abandoned, allow for a release of energy and inspire thought processes. Details disturb the performers and divert attention away from the action. Indistinct voices layer themselves over the movements and multiply the focus of the performance. Régla conveys clear references to visual arts. The simultaneous dramaturgy leaves it up to the audience to choose how to combine the various impressions into a whole. The loose dramaturgy causes the eyes to coincidentally dwell upon elements of the image and shakes up the interactive relationship between audience and performer. The audience observe the performers as they construct the images. The performers appear as themselves, they shift between addressing the audience or totally ignoring them. In Régla an intercultural landscape is reconstructed. Musical movements and historical textmaterial melt together into a theatrical hybrid of cultural elements and historical events. The performers find themselves in a no-mans-land and look back across epochs and geographical associations in an attempt to retrieve memories of what has been lost. The material moves across large geographical areas and transform history and tradition. Words are thrown out and return as echoes of colonialism and war, revolution and freedom. The focus is spread out over a multitude of apparently coincidental expressions, movements and moments, as footprints in the sand. Funny images turn to torture and abuse in visually explosive scenic images. The performers keeps energy constant in an unending stream of impressions that grow and decrease. Moments pregnant with visual noise lift the pressure and develop beautiful evocative parts. In a scene where the performers play on glasses the scenic image is frozen, the video-images of a graveyard are superimposed on the installation and the sound from the glasses turns into a concert for the dead. In the tension between harmony and dissonance the vague passages between freedom and lack of freedom are manifest out in intense moments before they are erased. In Régla Verdensteatret moves from the more analytical focus of earlier works and opens up for sensory depths with layers of information that the audience must decode on their own. sThe scenic flora of the performance fascinates, entertains and stimulate the intellect. Régla is strongly recommended