Being Norwegian – Brevity salutes those of questionable origins. (Theatre Review)
Brevity theatre Company at The Old Fitz theatre
9-21 June. You can grab your tickets here.
David Greig has made a name for himself by being a prolific theatre writer from whom the themes of (anti)nationality, displacement and globalisation have emerged almost by accident. He has become a purveyor of modern themes as with his focus on himself and those around him, he as developed the capacity to pin point contemporary anxieties around place and time that ae peculiar to a post raised-with-the-internet age. Being Norwegian is one of his later works, having been written just five years ago, but it deals with a couple who meet in a bar and find that each of them is from a different world, though exactly how different they have yet to find out.
The play opens with a lights up on a couple facing each other in a disheveled lounge room. A green velveteen couch sits provocatively in front of them. We very quickly discover that Sean has invited Lisa back to his place on a bit of whim after having a successful drink at the pub and that neither are very comfortable with the notion of sleeping together. The spark of attraction exists, they just can’t quite get there moves in synch. Forced into a strange conversation pregnant with the impending physical connection, Lisa confesses that she was born in Norway and this starts the pair on a strange conversational journey toward each other.
Other performances of Being Norwegian have taken around forty minutes, which emphasises the awkwardness that accompanies the attraction between Sean and Lisa, but Alex Butt speeds Being Norwegian up to enhance its comic style. He’s located it as the current late show at The Old Fitz and it sits remarkably comfortably over the top of the Misterman set – a styling the Red Line Productions team have made work repeatedly – so that it becomes a beautifully performed light piece that surprises you with its depth.
Under Alex Butts direction Being Norwegian is very funny, the kind of theatre that makes you laugh out loud regularly, and he’s drawn wonderful performances from his talented cast of David Woodland and Katy Curtain who have the perfect chemistry for the attraction-that-can’t-overcome-akwardness plot line. Woodland has great sex appeal and a powerful stage persona, and with Alex Butt directing him (this is a good pairing – they each brought out the best in each other in Wittenberg on the same stage in 2014) in such a close proximity, so much of the performance has been distilled to Woodland’s face, whose subtle expressions and slight nuances become the source for much of the plays hilarity.
Alex Butt works his same magic with Katy Curtain, whose performance appeals to the absurdity in life against Woodland’s subtle straight man. Part of the discomfort this couple feel comes from their different handling of the situation, and Butt brings out these differences in the very short period of time, so that we grow to love the couple fast and become invested in their plight. Much of the spiritual weight for this feeling lies in the performance of Curtain, who is both quirky and generously warm. She is undoubtedly sexy, but the strength of her performance lies in the vulnerability her unconventional ways carry to her surface.
If Woodland is subtle and realist, Curtain is absurd and cryptic. Under Alexander Butt’s direction these two different people from the same and yet very different worlds find a way to connect – precisely according to David Greig’s general oeuvre. At the end of the day, Sean and Lisa are from the same neighbourhood, but life experiences places them on opposite poles. It is Greig’s contention that these two can find each other through their hopeless fumbling regardless, and here Brevity theatre brings that assertion to delightful life.
Being Norwegian is on for only a couple more performances at the writing of this review. Grab tickets to Misterman and Being Norwegian for a great night of theatre that gives two very different performances that somehow find themselves in affinity. Tickets available here.