Realising the consequences of our actions and belonging to a frame of mind where one is not the be-all and end-all is something out of fiction, as Norwegian theatre company VERK explains in Wishful Beginnings. With the world constantly delving deeper into chaos, who knows which decisions to make, and how they will affect our present, and more importantly, our future.
The play opens with one actor (Espen Klouman Høiner) being interviewed by another (Solveig Laland Mohn). They both stand on either side of the seating rig, which has masks and costumes draping over the banisters. The stage has been cut short to a metre in front of the first row by a plywood wall. Høiner’s questions are hard for anyone to answer, such as ‘What do you hate about yourself?’ and they only get harder. As an audience, you generally agree with Mohn, only to discover that conceit blinds him. However, from these early moments it is visible that they are improvising. As they move in front of the wall, adding to their costumes with what is around them, the pace is lost.
It is after the interview and a quick discussion (accompanied by actors Fredrik Hannestad and Saila Hyttinen) when the play truly breaks free from form, plot and sense. Costume changes come in abundance, the lighting seems to have a mind of its own and the actors themselves seem unsure of the choreography. This play does more than blur the line between acting and improvising, with many stories throughout, touching on a wide array of themes, the heaviest being human extinction. Unfortunately, though they approached some of these themes delicately to let you start thinking for yourself, most are spoon-fed to the audience, with the constant reiteration that ‘You must travel through hardship to get to the stars.’
The use of silhouettes on the wall works effectively alongside the ambient music which never leaves you sitting comfortably. As a play which tries hard to make you uncomfortable, they are successful. On the other hand, as a play that critiques and questions many of today’s standards and problems, they make no real attempt to try and solve any of them. Wishful Beginnings is one hardship we have to go through to get to the stars.