By Gwendolin Güntzel, photos by BORA BORA
When you enter the BORA BORA theatre, it feels like a return to the 70s. Retro orange wallpaper in a scarcely furnished basement bar with sparse lighting. Here some middle-aged couples and youngsters, over there a single man. Although the waiting hall is quite cool on that Monday evening, the atmosphere is warm-hearted.
To say it right in the beginning: ʻMe tooʼ is a play free to interpret, and by reading my review you get a combination of my own impressions, the attempt to retell what I have seen and the backstage knowledge I gained during an artist talk after the play. The performers and concept creators of ʻMe tooʼ, Kristin Ryg Helgebostad and Laura Marie Rueslåtten, succeed finally in making the mystery a bit more evident.
A pulsating atmosphere
Let us start by imagining: A mighty golden curtain shines around the stage and covers the ground as well as the back. A step – more steps – rhythm. In the first part, five women dressed in black appear. They walk around with choppy movements and communicate by creating different overlapping rhythms.
The lighting seems to be composed in the same way as the sounds made by footsteps. Both together create a pulsating atmosphere. Changing spotlights are used to reflect diverse perspectives. The audience can observe connections and fights between the persons, sympathy and antipathy, quiet and loud moments. There is no music, there is no dance, but there is tension. Tension is how it goes on.
Suddenly a break, a mysterious atmosphere is in the air, and a suitcase is opened. For the audience, only silhouettes are visible, since the backlighting blinds. What appears is a fascinating shadow play. Little by little, bells start ringing.
At first, vitality increases slowly, but after some minutes a bell concert fills the hall, reaching its final point when the five women start singing “We all stand together, side by side, hand in hand“ – a medley closing with the line “hug and kiss you“. A burst of laughter in the audience. The vocals stop, but the bell sounds are rising. Generated energy now finds a new way to demonstrate its power.
So, the stage begins to move while the curtain seems to appear as a huge wave. A storm rips off the golden shine, the curtain is destroyed and the backstage area looks like a black hole. Darkness and silence. After a while, the first light flares up together with a slowly moving figure. The eerie scene goes on with isolated bell sounds from different directions and alternating spotlights which show only half of what’s happening. A mobile light adopts the position of a film camera, and whatever it lightens, that part of the room becomes visible.
The play comes to an end, when four shiny bright spotlights in the back bring the characters to life again. The previous constant bell sounds become louder and more enthusiastic. All characters start dancing towards the light source. A last intense pealing of the bell and suddenly, at the same time, all lights disappear.
An experience of sound
ʻMe tooʼ wants to answer the question of how sounds can be made visible. It is about how the world can be seen and experienced. The performers Kristin and Laura explain that they see our world as a strange place, they do not even know whether they represent men or women in the play; they see themselves as energy. Both add that they have taken specific things from life and transferred them into the play. For Kristin and Laura, it is important to note that always the body is giving the rhythm.
The lighting designers and choreographers have worked together very tightly. The lights are accurate and correlate with the rhythm. Kristin and Laura say that the final moves were set quite late, since they experimented a lot. All dancers practiced together for three months, but creating the whole project took almost a year. There is no fixed story they have written down; ʻMe tooʼ is more about improvisation.
Tine, who sat next to me, noticed: “It is the most special thing I have seen for a long time.“ I had to think about what she had said, but yes, it is true in a way – for me too. ʻMe tooʼ is more than a combination of sounds and movements; it is not only dance or drama, it is a mysterious experience that allows you the chance to become a part of it.
‘Me Too’ had a short run of only two shows, but there is plenty more going on at BORA BORA to whet your appetite for some dance and visual theatre. Check out the website for information about their upcoming performances.