On Ibsen in One Take
Plays and movies are normally kept apart like peas and carrots. Yet here is Ibsen in One Take, happily breaking all the rules of dinner plate organisation; simultaneously performing, capturing and projecting a film on screen. The cast from Beijing-based Theatre du Rêve Expérimental weave together the tradition of Henrik Ibsen – the famous playwright – and a typical story of the final days of a man’s life, complete with the obligatory flashbacks. All the while, a camera follows – giving insight, close-ups, perspective, and the necessary subtitles.
You would think that a great hulking piece of machinery would detract from the play. Instead, the camera almost blended into the background, leaving the actors to perform oddly moving scene changes; slowly lifting up umbrellas out of sight of the camera, simulating falling rain, or holding angry exchanges with thin air. Being there – in the creation process and the action – reduced all that distance between the seat and the stage, which left me feeling omnipresent and slightly stalkerish.
At one point in a particularly sobering scene, a phone from the audience broke through the silence and rules of etiquette with “always look on the bright side of life.” While I’m not condoning the phone, I appreciated that reminder in the midst the futile search for meaning unfolding upon the stage. In addition to all that emotional exertion, a sore neck is almost inevitable with all the swapping between the screen and the action. Somehow though, the sheer beauty of the play and the ability of the actors made up for any exercise that I had to do, emotional or otherwise.