ABOUT THE UGLY DUCKLING
Alt er bak deg: kjærligheten, frykt, håp
Dine ord, klager, alt det er tapt
Intet hjem, ingen seng av blomster har du mer
Bare vingene har du. Gryet skjult, ingen vei, retning, himlen altfor stor for deg
Kjære fugl, blindt speidende i meg
ennå, ennå må du slå med vingen
Fuglen av Rabindranath Tagore
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.