When Oslo Theater of Cruelty (or Grusomhetens teater) performed last week its recently restaged play “The Last Song” (Siste Sang) on the scene of Hausmania cultural centre, people were leaving the theater puzzled. One of the most extraordinary directors on the modern drama scene again managed to surprise and mesmerize its spectators.
The play tells about the last minutes of life of the mysterious poet Comte de Lautreamont, who with his works half a century after his death inspired surrealism art movement. The key word of this play, as the director of the theater Lars Øyno puts it, is “metamorphosis”. Men turn into women, humans into animals, dreams into nightmares.
Firstly, we notice an androgynous figure in men’s suit squirming, wriggling, collecting something from her sleeve and head, then, as a contrast, sitting completely still at the old-fashioned piano. The old man appears on the scene. He’s brandishing the cane as though preparing to fight windmills à-la Don Quixote and pointing at the pictures suitable for biology class with dissected animals and human body. He is apparently the teacher of the young poet, which is proved by him carrying Comte de Lautreamont on his shoulders while introducing him to the audience. The teacher and Comte de Lautreamont’s alter-ego at the piano are the parts of the poet’s personality and help us understand him from a three-dimensional perspective.
Supporting characters seem to be quite inactive during the huge part of the performance when we see Lautreamont suffering alone while creating his pieces of art and fighting his inner demons. The climax comes with the transformation of Lautreamont into a woman, when we clearly see the female side of his personality. The topic of gender identity is accompanied by the broken lines pronounced by the teacher and his student, urging the audience to accept both male and female in one body and asking women not to lose their self-confidence.
In the end the author dies being “killed” by his nightmares which take a symbolic form of a horrible creature. But the play ends with a dance and not the death. As a last joy of life leading to imminent and total darkness.
Like everything Lars Øyno does in his theater, the play is extremely unusual and inexplicable. Very special scenography, lights and costumes give us the opportunity to feel, to experience some sacral ceremony, to take a keyhole look into the dark and dangerous unknown. Even knowing the concept and the history behind the stage, there is still much to think about after the performance.
If you haven’t seen The Last Song yet, you still have a chance to do it this week, from 16th to 20th of February in the Hausmania cultural centre. Don’t miss it.