Of Birds and Cowboys

The new play by The Theater of Cruelty (Grusomhetens teater) “What a glorious day!” is arguably the lightest and happiest of all the works presented by the theater’s director Lars Øyno so far. Based on the story of Norwegian national romantic painter Bendik Riis, the piece shows the dreamy world where the artist tended to excape from the terrors of his actual life. The world more colorful and happy than anything he saw in reality.

Grusomhetens teater is known for the abstract way of presenting the stories of lifes of artists, poets, painters. Last month in “The Last Song” (Siste Sang) it tried to imagine the last days of the French surrealist poet Comte de Lautreamont. Artistic lives, full of suffering, fighting for the truth and inner light, are in the focus of The Theater of Cruelty. It’s the place where their dreams may finally come true.

The poet Bendik Riis, main character of “What a glorious day!”, projects his dreams, his longings for the happy family life on his actual horrible existence, trying to forget about it and to prevent the evil from reaching him. On the stage we see pictures of Bendik Riis’s family life interlacing with each other. Some of them are funny and common for any family, some more unrealistic, exaggerated and a bit disturbing. Actors, dancing and laughing without stop in a quite suspicious manner, make us think of the picture as not particularly realistic and sometimes even insane.

The fantastic work of the musician Lars Pedersen in the course of the whole performance engages the audience into this next to shamanic trance “dance”, where we leave our bodies, restricted by the language, and dive into the deep of this incredible work of art.

Starting with quite realistic and slightly vague pictures from Bendik Riis’s family life, where father, mother, son and daughter are celebrating birthdays, Christmas and watching the birds while feeding them, the play gradually evolves into a kaleidoscope of events, which is shown through constant changing of clothes.

The final part of the play is extremely, impossibly happy as though people are forced to be happy, though they actually are not. Three major Norwegian holidays – Christmas, 17th of May and a birthday all happen at once, ending with the family members dressing as cowboys and indians, dancing around the Christmas tree decorated with Norwegian flags. The triumph of joy is supplied by Bendik Riis, perfectly played by Ivar Örn Sverrisson, marching with the “Friend of peace” banner, wearing a crown.

And here is when the absurdness reaches its highest point and the audience, foolishly giggling, is already a part of this “glorious” dream.

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