In 1960 the Norwegian poet André Bjerke wrote a story about a doll in the dollhouse in 2, Doll St, who has got a little doll of her own. Mama doll feeds and grooms her doll. They go for a walk, they sing a song, they have a little snack. A man in uniform plays the flute just for them. The doll’s doll has also got a doll, and she lives in a little dollhouse of her own. Each dollhouse has its own rituals. The performance, as the text it is based on, unfolds like a Chinese box. From beneath one fantasy, another world emerges.
Dolls do not live in everyday realism; they inhabit a lyrical world. Dolls do have their limitations, however. They cannot bend their fingers. Their limbs are stiff. There are many things they cannot do, just as there are things that children cannot do, either. Children cannot always sit still, or hold a glass without spilling. The world poses demands that are not always easy to meet. And yet children are just as ready to absorb the reality as grown-ups are.
Although The Dollhouse is based on a literary work, the performance is built around the magic of theritual, rather than oral storytelling. With tiny displacements in tempo and dynamics, the actors render the magic of a doll’s life – a life lived in another time altogether. The Dollhouse is a theatre where there is no hurry – and almost not a word is said.On this occasion, Theatre of Cruelty rechristened itself ‘The Dolltheatre’. Since the company has essentially always worked with physical expression combined with visual poetry, colour and music, the transition to an idiom suited for children was not unnatural. The main incentive to this production, however, was the recognition of something lacking in the entertainment of our day, especially the entertainment aimed at younger audiences: an element of calm. Stillness, silence or empty spaces are vital for the growing, developing mind. For where there is no breath, there is no life.
When Theatre of Cruelty chose to address children in particular, it was with a wish to induce in children a confidence in the power of their own imagination and their own emotional life. And the roles of agents and representatives of this self-governed space and time were given, paradoxically perhaps, to the dolls.
Magical dolls… Øyno unfolds a doll’s life for us, free from the rush of modern life: a tender, fragile world where things take time, no one raises their voice, and ‘stress’ is something that has not been invented yet. It is not the action itself that is important here, but the physical rendering of an unreal, magic world on stage (…) Children and grown-ups both sat spellbound, watching the dolls’ lives unfold before their eyes. The company deserves great praise for daring to offer their young audience something far from the traditional, action-filled narrative entertainment that has become the norm in our time.
Elisabeth Rygg, Aftenposten
Director Lars Øyno has created an alluring piece for children, meticulously directed and intricately performed by the two actors Hanne Dieserud and Silje Breivik. There is a disconcerting excitement in watching a doll play with another doll, their mechanical dollish movements echoing children’s own play rituals. The pace is slower than what children usually experience in theatre; it allows room for wonderment and active interest. Lars Øyno’s piece has, unlike so many productions aimed at children today, a searching quality to it; it poses questions the answers to which are for us, the audience, to find.
Andreas Wiese, Dagbladet