Jon Fosse, we are told, is the most performed living European playwright in the World, but the Norwegian remains little known in the UK. This production of a dark and baffling play, first seen in 2004, may do little to change things. Set near the Fjords. a mother and son live alone and are soon to be visited by her daughter and son-in-law. This family is not so much dysfunctional as disconnected; when together, they stand spread at equal distances from each other across the stage, facing the audience, talking, but not as if to each other and their words are spoken in short, staccato sentences often beginning with “yes”. The elephant in the room is the mental state of the son (Danny Horn) who seems to be in the advanced stages of withdrawal from life, maybe due to autism or depression, having given up his cherished guitar and lost his beloved dog; he lies on a wooden bench or stands gazing out of the window barely communicating with his family or an old friend who also visits. His mother (Valerie Gogan) and all the others bicker at him, repeating the same things over and over, honing in on subjects sensitive to him as if picking at open wounds. The dialogue is grating for us to listen to precisely because that is how the mentally disturbed young man hears it; thus we are given an insight into a mind that is drifting loose from ties to the rest of the World and towards insanity. It is a fascinating concept and beautifully acted by the cast of five. Themes of mental disorders and dead dogs bring to mind another recent play, Curious Incident…, but, whereas that was optimistic and filled with human emotion, this is relentlessly bleak and cold. Fosse’s work is loaded with metaphors and symbolism and it is doubtful if any two interpretations of it will be the same. Nonetheless, it is always intriguing and, as with, say, Pinter or Beckett, the after-play “what was THAT all about” discussion may turn out to be at least as enjoyable as the play itself.
Performance date: 21 March 2014