Act – Glass Mask Theatre – Review
by Frank L.
Duration 60 Minutes
Age restriction: 15+
Warning: Nudity and strong language
Norén was a Swedish playwright, novelist and poet. He was born in 1944 and died of Covid in 2021 during the pandemic. He is considered to be Sweden’s leading playwright since Strindberg and his plays have been performed throughout Europe. However, in Ireland, his work is rarely produced. The Lir Academy produced another of Norén’s play, Demons, in 2018, which was directed by Swedish native Johan Bark. This production, Act, is again directed by Bark.
The Glass Mask Theatre at the Best Seller Cafe is a small but flexible space. In this instance, the stage traverses the space so the members of the audience are divided into two with one part facing the other, with the rectangular stage separating them. It is a tight space with a strip light on the floor highlighting its extent. On the stage are a tall angle-poise lamp, an office chair and a two-drawer filing cabinet. Incarcerated within this space is a female patient (Elaine O’Dwyer). She is being visited by a doctor (Kyle Hixon). The play was written in 2000 and makes reference to events in and around Germany which occurred within Norén’s lifetime. The mention of Auschwitz is by definition inevitably chilling and stands dominant in human horror but women as terrorists and battery farming of chickens are subjects which are deeply unsettling.
While O’Dwyer is being visited allegedly by a doctor, this is a prison of intense brutality. She has been incarcerated in a cell where the light is never switched off and her teeth are decaying in her head. His visit as a doctor is problematic. However, while O’Dwyer is incarcerated at no time does she allow herself to be subservient to Hixon.
In this space O’Dwyer and Hixon move the chair and the filing cabinet, both on casters, with force, dexterity and considerable skill. Hixon then adds to the space a large folded psychiatrist’s couch which too is moved with ease as the verbal jousting rages between O’Dwyer, the dissident prisoner, and Hixon, the dubious doctor of the authorities. Their combative exchanges spark all sorts of lines of thought. The physical movements of themselves and of the chair, the filing cabinet and the couch keep you on the alert as does some choice language and the unusual use of a belt. The entire complex arrangement engages the mind.
Glass House Theatre and the whole creative team have done Dublin a service in bringing Norén to our attention in a tense hour of theatre. Hopefully, other theatrical companies may now follow. suit to explore the work of this intriguing playwright.
Cast: Kyle Hixon and Elaine O’Dwyer
Director: Johan Bark
Lights & Sound: Johan Bark
Costumes & Set: Florentina Burcea
Photo credit: Wen Driftwood
Act – Written by Lars Norén
Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review
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