Den Stygge Andungen – 2006The Ugly Duckling – 2006
Spilt på Grusomhetens Teater i 2006, og på Trøndelag Teater og Hove Festivalen i 2007.
[eight_columns]Av: H.c. Andersen
Manus og regi: Lars Øyno
Skuespillere: Camilla Vislie, Robert Skjærstad, Lars Brunborg, Hanne Dieserud, Odille Heftye Blehr, Jimmie Jonasson, Rita Lindanger, Vilde O. Rommetveit, Tuva Moen
Scenografi/kostymedesign: Ole Jacob Børretzen, Hilde Elisabeth Brunstad, Lars Øyno
Lys: Elisabeth Kjeldahl Nilsson
Musikk: Lars Pedersen/WHEN, Rita Lindanger
Kostymeassistanse: Line Antonsen, Fariba Jazi, Åse Sigrun Solberg
Sminke: Trude Marie Sneve
Lystekniker: Øyvind Andresen
Regiassistent/inspisient: Mathilde Hartviksen
Maler: Jannicke Lie
Video, plakat, foto og web: Paul Brady, Hege Vadstein
Tekniker: Thomas Sanne
PR: Namik Mackic
Tegning plakat: Kjartan Øyno Kirksæther
Workshop: Peter Schumann, Genevieve Yeuillas
Takk til Fretex Elevator, Aud Marit Sollid.
Støttet av Norsk Kulturråd og Fond for utøvende kunstnere.
Med en spesiell takk til Peter Schumann, The Bread and Puppet Theatre Company for inspirasjon og råd i herregårdsscenen og andegårdsscenen.
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[eight_columns]Adapted from H.C. Andersen
Concept and direction: Lars Øyno
Actors: Camilla Vislie, Robert Skjærstad, Lars Brunborg, Hanne Dieserud, Odille Heftye Blehr, Jimmie Jonasson, Rita Lindanger, Vilde O. Rommetveit, Tuva Moen
Scenography/costume design:Ole Jacob Børretzen, Hilde Elisabeth Brunstad, Lars Øyno
Lighting: Elisabeth Kjeldahl Nilsson
Composer: Lars Pedersen/WHEN, Rita Lindanger
Costyme assistants:Line Antonsen, Fariba Jazi, Åse Sigrun Solberg
Make-up: Trude Marie Sneve
Light technician: Øyvind Andresen
Direction assistant: Mathilde Hartviksen
Painter: Jannicke Lie
Video, poster, photo and web: Paul Brady, Hege Vadstein
Technique: Thomas Sanne
PR: Namik Mackic
Poster drawing: Kjartan Øyno Kirksæther
Workshop: Peter Schumann, Genevieve Yeuillas
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Elisabeth Leinslie, Dagsavisen 13. November 2006:
Subversive Social Commentary
Tragicomical musical theatre offers a poignant travesty of our time and age.
Have you ever seen the ensemble of Theatre of Cruelty before? No? Then «The Ugly Duckling » is an excellent occasion. This is one of the best productions from Grusomhetens Teater in many years, and it hits you like a shot in the heart.
It feels like being taken back into the past, to a basement stage of the post-war years where tragicomical musical theatre is played, surrounded by an alchemist universe. Archaic and modern realities meet and woven together in a fascinating way, something that gives the performance a remarkably modern feel. Inspired by the writings of H.C. Andersen, [director] Øyno has created a travesty of our time and age – in historical costume. The adding of historical perspectives only strengthens the staged commentaries on class difference and the terrifying insanity of war.
The show has many layers, and a great deal of symbolism has evaded this reviewer. What is beyond doubt, however, is that «The Ugly Duckling” succeeds as poignant, subversive social commentary, where the duck itself is exposed to an extensive symbolisation. Oppression and harassment constitute a fundamental theme here. From the ducklings who bully the little swan, to the ways in which bourgeoisie oppresses members of other classes as well as itself, to examples of nation-state breaking the individual down. All along, a universal message pulses through: one human being must respect another.
The performance assumes the shape of musical theatre. Apparently disconnected scenes are woven together by music – from evocative classical pieces to hard-core political songs. Scenes vary in character, from commentaries on a meta-level to inner images of human emotional experience, as are provoked in various situations depicted.
Øyno’s direction is rigorous and dramaturgically clear – something that is essential for a theatre that relies on physicality and fragmentation to communicate with its audience. Actors do a marvelous job. They enact ducklings, bourgeoisie, the emperor and his court with and without new clothes, bird hunters and relief workers in war scenarios – all of that with a consistently impressive precision, rhythm and empathy. On top of it all: a delightful musical ”hostess” (Lindanger) who weaves it all together in a singular and, in this context, perfectly appropriate style.
Henning Gärtner, Morgenbladet 17 November 2006:
Grusomhetens Teater serves The Ugly Duckling as bomb-shelter cabaret and poetic freak show.
Duck is a bird I only have eaten once in my entire life. The meal took place on a plane journey from Paris to São Paulo with Air France, when I by a mistake ended up flying business class. Needless to say, it didn’t end well. Upon touchdown in Brasil, I was doubled up over the plane toilet with deadly migrene, throwing up whisky, bordeaux and duck.
Thus the title ‘The Ugly Duckling’ is something I feel I can relate to. H.C. Andersen picked it hardly up by chance, just as it hardly is a coincidence that this review commences with a movement from Paris, the city of intellectual aristocracy, to the favela-capital São Paulo. For Grusomhetens Teater is namely the antithesis of The National Theatre: a parasite that feeds on the vital slum of Hausmania, as well as on Antonin Artaud’s idea of a «theatre of the of the plague».
Underground. When earlier this year I heard that Anne Tismer, the diva of Berlin’s Schaubühne, had picked up hammer and paint brush, and built her own little theatre – Ballhaus Ost in East Berlin – I thought: «This would never happen in Norway.» Yet Grusomhetens Teater has in fact come into being in a similar way. Actor Lars Øyno is one of few artists in this country to step out of an established art institution and into the so-called ”independent scene”, thus creating a typically Norwegian paradox: an underground theatre funded by the State.
Grusomhetens Teater has in a short time become an important arena outside of the institutions, where outstanding guest performances (such as Vinge & Müller’s The Doll’s House last August) are on offer, and where the host company on rare occasions honours us with their own productions. Such as The Ugly Duckling.
Dreamplay. How to describe the aesthetics of Øyno as theatre auteur? One is tempted to throw a reference to the celebrated director Robert Wilson, who, it is claimed, creates unparallelled stage images by accentuating the material or plastic qualities of light, sound and words. It may well be that Wilson does possess this gift, but Lars Øyno does it better, in a tradition of ”poor” theatre that is more sympathetic and more humane than Wilson’s conveyor-belt theatre.
In other words, we are dealing with choreography and musical composition, rather than directing and acting style that psychologises. The Ugly Duckling is a sort of cabaret where the red-haired pianist might burst into unbridled arias and climb the ladders on stage, yet the atmosphere remains nevertheless fragile and dreamlike throughout.
Carneval. A recurrent motif in the performance is the carnevalesque procession: naked kings, lunatics, wig-wearing women and ducks with frogman’s feet. Performers fold slowly into the space, flesh in flesh. Bodies penetrate the void. Bodies disappear from the stage. And out of this movement, an intense presence arises: a temperate ecstasy that gradually spreads into the audience itself.
To someone unfamiliar with it, Øyno’s style might seem artificial, or right out crazed. Grusomhetens Teater is indeed neither fashionable nor “cool”. Their cosmology is marked by neither post-modern irony nor references to the contemporary pop-culture, but rather by a poetic timelessness and a dreamlike surrealism, featuring childlike masks made of papier mâché. To descend into this basement is similar to discovering a subterrenean community in a forgotten bomb-shelter, a time capsule where humans keep mumbling about God and Gunvor Hofmo [a Norwegian poet, transl. rem.] Mmmmmmm God. Mmmmmmmm Gunvor Hofmo. Could this be the Purgatory itself?
Arbeit macht frei. At the same time, it is exactly in this wondrous poetry and vulnerability that we find the connection to H.C. Andersen’s tale – and to the politics of this performance. For the piece scores, among other things, a critique of the welfare state’s fascist core, made clear in a quotation projected on the back wall: «Labour makes free. The wisdom of nations rests upon this fact. It was with the doctors, not the patients, that society began.”
Good, then, that The Ugly Duckling is being played in a theatre where one gets the feeling that there indeed is room for the people – not the least for the city’s more fragile characters who nest around here. I hold on to this: Fresh filtered coffee in paper cups shall ever taste better than bordeaux and preserved gourmet duck!
Yngve Kvistad, VG 25 November 2006 :
The Ugly Tale
Of H.C. Andersen’s tale about «The Ugly Duckling» almost only title and the metaphor of the banished one remains, in Lars Øyno’s adaptation for Grusomhetens Teater.
The performance is set according to the French theatre thinker A n t o n i n A r t a u d ’s t heories and principles of the total theatre and its capacity to describe reality as it is; a chaos of war, lawlessness, madness and desire.
By transforming the theatre’s interior into an external, collective action where the word is subordinate to the physical expression, the ”theatre of cruelty” shall wake us up, ”nerves and heart”, as it says in Artaud’s ”First Manifesto” from 1931.
The performance style is, in other words, quite different from what the audience is exposed to under the golden arch of The National Theatre and its neighbouring arenas. The spectator is to be seized and arrested with an exorcist expression. Jan Olav Gatland who has translated Artaud’s First Manifesto writes in his introduction that ”the actors shall play as if they were sentenced to death, burning on the furnace, signalling to one another between the flames.”
This is a good description of the kind of state of mind that the Artaud-disciples of Grusomhetens Teater seek to pull us into. The ugly tale based on H.C. Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling” is, in harmony with the manifesto, a cacophony of dream images, objects and masks of distorted proportions, disconnected musical pieces and fragmentary references to history and pop-culture – the latter has become the trademark of Lars Øyno as Artaud-interpreter.
”The Ugly Duckling” takes place in a meta-universe where H . C . A n d e r s e n him s e lf participates together with several of his fairytale characters, including an increasingly disrobed emperor. It is a Muppet-show from hell and QuaqQuao on c r a c k i n a grotesque distortion of a sick society. Repetitive processions that symbolise the oppressive bourgoisie, while at the same time exposing the less generous traits of humans as flock-animals, put into question the idea of the collective as something good.
Spoken lines are in Danish, the Danish national anthem is performed as a grimace, and the very theme of expulsion is a contemporary Danish epidemic which, according to the critics of Denmark’s current government, struck the land when A n d e r s F o g h R a s m u s s e n made deal with the D a n ish People’s Party, in order to secure himself the position of Prime Minister.
Thus the performance works not only as universal social criticism, but also as a specific denunciation of a graceful little land that seems to have forgotten everything that H . C . A n d e r s e n and S ø r e n K i e r k e g a a r d tought their countrymen about h u m a n i s t philosophy.
Good, after all, that we Norwegians are tolerant and able to perceive and understand such things.
Inger Merete Hobbelstad, Dagbladet 24 November 2006:
Absurd and fairy-tale
Arresting, sensitive and witty play with our notions of Romanticism
A theatre named «Grusomhetens teater» (Theatre of Cruelty) can barely be expected to stage some linear fairy tale with a safe and happy ending. Their version of “The Ugly Duckling” is indeed only loosely based on the fairy tale of the same name, and moves forward in tableaus, episodes, sounds and movements. The result is a mysterious and alternative performance that lets ideas and associations gush forth, performed by dedicated actors with a precise body language and a rich palette of expressions.
The first part of the show plays with our idea of the Scandinavian romanticism, with lace parasols and delicate trills on the piano. Here are ghostly female figures, sickly children and pale aspiring writers in an eclectic and absurd collage that bears evidence of a wonderful humour – especially in the procession where the ensemble enacting a nightmarish vision of the 19th century bourgoisie puts on enormous, distorted heads of papier mâché and converses in mock-Danish, before the entire séance ends with the line: ”But now, the coffee is served”.
Tederness and fragility shines persistently through, in carnevalesque processions led by an emperor in newer and newer clothes, and the humorously over-articulated scene where actors wearing duck-costumes keep pushing the swan-child away from their circle.
The theme of expulsion also appears in a Holocaust-like scene of persecution and in the performance of Welhaven’s «Wild Duck», while tender screams of the swan connect the episodes together. But not all junctions are noise-free. Certain episodes are overdrawn, and towards the end one could wish for a disruption or a turning point that could have prepared for a more definitive closing scene than the one that has been chosen.
“The Ugly Duckling” is an arresting and refreshing experience that adds a new, dreamlike dimension to the fairy tale that is well-known to all. But when it comes to the finale, H.C. Andersen remains the master.
Elisabeth Rygg, Aftenposten 12 November 2006:
A different sort of duck-pond
H.C. Andersen’s tale about «The Ugly Duckling» is a fairy tale. But it is also a parable of being deserted, rejected and isolated.
At Grusomhetens Teater, Andersen’s moving fairy tale has been transformed into singular theatre, dealing with themes such as mobbing, racism and nazism.
The result is an engaging performance for a grown-up audience. The ensemble around the fairy-tale and builds a parable that involves the writer himself, surrounded by the bourgeoisie’s complacency, hollowness and danger.
The fairy tale of his life
H.C. Andersen claimed that «The Ugly Duckling stygge» was the fairy tale of his life. He bore himself marks of a lonely and unhappy childhood in a shoe-maker’s home in Odense, his arrival in Copenhagen, the encounters with the mob in Slagelse Latin School, and the experience of sharp criticism and eventual fame. All of these experiences contributed to his creative urge, and made him into an artist who spoke in defense of the weakest and wanted to give them new hope.
Andersen wrote not only for the youngest. Many of his tales are filled with strong and painful emotions. The tale of the little duckling tells as much about thuman life as the life in the duck-pond. H.C. Andersen has dreamed up a lonely figure, a mob victim that was banished from the society that thought him different and ugly.
The theatre inspired by Antonin Artaud attacks the text in its singular fashion. Theatre theorist Artaud compared the theatre to plague: One must be prepared to suffer. The word is equal to movement. The little basement stage in Hausmanns gate 34 in Oslo is an unadorned black space soon to be peopled with masks, music, movement, light and words.
As in a visual composition, one scene grows out of another. Images of idyllic duck-pond and references to Hitler’s Germany are porjected on the back wall. Nine actors, including one cabaret singer, explore the space and the text at the base of the performance with the help of a physical language, ritualistic processions and music. The remarkable processions, where actors advance across the stagefloor in slow motion, has become characteristic of Grusomhetens Teater.
This time there are royal processions and the bourgeois masquerade. Costumes and masks are exaggerated and overwhelming. The bullying scene where five giant ducks unite against the single black swan-child, makes a strong impression. The dark duckling challenges his surroundings just by being himself.
Director Lars Øyno does not tell a simple story from beginning to end. There are extended scenes here with war and disaster, sequences with cries and screams, hidden in smoke. The stark acting style is demanding, balancing finely on the verge of parody. But a disciplined ensemble creates a singular piece about conformity that ends in misanthropy.
The review is based on the dress rehearsal.[/showhide]