“Beasts”, Performance

Norwegian Theater Academy-HIOF (NTA), Fredrikstad, Norway
June 13, 2015

“Beasts” is a disturbance in your perception. Something is rotten in your field of vision. There’s something you can’t deal with: something unsettling and uncanny.
Atmospheric performance built on a recognisable yet enigmatic symbolic language. In a bleak, white landscape, two figures move delicately and precisely, hanging laundry in a sustained exactness. The exactitude of the movement leads the audience to question their perception and to find familiarity in this unknown field of images.

Theater critic Dr. Philipp Schulte
“Beasts, or: The Uncanny on Stage”

„Beasts“ promised some beasts on the stage, but I think what I got was more like ghosts. A ghost, to put it simply, is a disturbance in your perception. Something is rotten in the field of your vision, there’s something you can’t deal with, what is unsettling, uncanny. I think art in its best moments can be like this: questioning our perception, what we take for granted, what we consider to be normal.

„Beasts“ is something I’d call a well-made symbolic performance, and I mean well-made not in a pejorative way, but in the best sense of the word. I think you did great. You found a clear symbolic language, clearly recognisable, but highly enigmatic, and you gave me a lot think about, to associate, to play with in my head. I liked the actions on stage, the costumes, the set design, the indirect lighting, the projection – and most of all I liked how all of those elements fitted together; and how you organised the transitions from one sequence to the other. You opened up a space of conundrum and of thinking using a clear theatrical style and design.

Some might say that this is a little pretentious, even kitschy. And yes, there are certain moments when you’re theatrical universe, your system of signs is maybe a little too consistent, too harmonious, too pleasing again. What about the song, that turns the piece into a musical performance? At the end there is this red stain on the floor in an otherwise black and white and grey performance – really, do you want to give us a RED stain here? Then again, there is this strange backside of the walls in the back with this colourful decorative patterns that doesn’t seem to fit to the homogenous aesthetic of the performance at all.

So yes, of course there are some decisions and elements we should address and discuss. But all together, I enjoyed a great show, which in its best moment was really uncanny. And I don’t use that very term recklessly, because when I’m saying ‚uncanny‘ I’m thinking of Sigmund Freud, who said that the uncanny always is a mixture between the familiar and the unfamiliar, with the suppressed that enters our daily routines. In this sense, I think you are on a good way; and if you are interested in following that path even further: Try to work even more on that uncanny balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar, and find even more of this unfamiliar elements, meaning: try to push it even further, this process and practice of transforming those images all of us know a little bit too well from this huge pop-cultural universe into something unexpected, unsettling, uncanny. Tusen takk!

Curator, director: Silvia Costa
Co-director, performer, production designer: Inga Aleknaviciute
Co-director, performer, writer: Lærke Grøntved
Carpenters: Mari Lassen Kamsvaag and Elisabet Damyanova

Link to Vimeo