“A production wrought from the heart”
When I was first asked to review David Greig’s Being Norwegian, I expected something to do with hellish darkness and Kjøttboller. And whilst the former was surprisingly on the money, I certainly did not expect a neat, funny little vignette. Especially buried deep underneath the sports bar.
The setup is deceptively simple. Boy meets girl, boy is awkward, girl is Norwegian. Cue characteristic witticisms from Grieg, and a surprisingly dense plot for a play which takes about as much time as roasting a chicken. It’s the stage equivalent of tangled christmas lights.
Tom Hurley is a gem as the awkward and terribly British Sean, hopping between mental distress and crises of politeness with surprising ease. A high point of this production is the clear chemistry between Hurley and co-star Lisa Bennington, who brings a wonderfully sort of flighty etherealness to her part. As the show’s key components they work well together in a sort of chalk-and-cheese way, and it makes for a very easy watch. In terms of staging, it’s abashedly minimalist, but this in no way works against it. As a highly focused, emotional vignette, the staging and lights are just enough to accentuate the overall tone of the piece without feeling bare.
Despite its victories, however, there are a few defeats. At points the show seems to go beyond the pale of theatrical awkwardness, and simply lands in “static”. For some (admittedly smaller portions) it seems as if everyone in the room is waiting for something to happen. And, likewise, some of the more conversational segments seem a little on the stiff side. However, who could blame them – it is positively criminal to place this show in the venue it has been given. The artful musings of European cultural philosophy are somewhat muddled when the upstairs room has been booked for what sounds like a bath salts eating competition followed by celebratory karaoke.
Despite its flaws, this is a production wrought from the heart. A two-person show, however short, is difficult to pull off – almost as hard as thinking up jokes about Norway.
Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 10 August)
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