Journey Back Home Sep 24, 2016

by Petra Zanki

Verdensteatret Bridge over Mud is a perfect theater, the one that reminds of theater Edward Gordon Craig’s evokes in his essay “The Actor and the Ubermarionette.” “If you can find in nature a new material, one which has never been used by man to give form to his thoughts,” writes Craig, “then you can say that you are on the high road towards creating a new art. For you have found that by which you can create it.” (EGC, “The Actor and the Ubermarionette”, The Mask, Vol. 1. p. 8.) Verdensteatret has one such content and form material, and they call it flotsam: a driftwood of recollections past, present, and yet to be.

Bridge over Mud it is not easily rationally interpreted, as it sources from voiced intuitions, talking to us from places reminding of those we inhibit just before waking up. Those bardo like in-betweens keep their work open to us, allowing for interpretations, and make possible for our-spectators’ and their-creators’ worlds to merge in one bigger work of us all.

 At the beginning, a projection: stains, mouths and eyes maybe, then a yellow taxi cab gliding rather than driving, defying logic with its non-turning wheels, setting the mood for the rest of the night.  One taxi after another, until it dawns on me that all the cars in the world might have been gliding all along, that they might have never been doing it differently anyway.

Mini-machines resembling of train engines follow and transport the sound and light throughout work, taking us on a journey of lit landscapes. I fathom birds, trees, tunnels, mountains, and try to fill in the gaps about what I witness, or imagine to be, using logic. All while the train continues, brightening the spheres and plates, and cups that someone drank from, maybe, that became amplifiers for trains’ little speakers. Cups that in another moment surge as funny creatures: heads, beaks, or tails one easily imagines in moldy stains of an ancient wall.

As the performance continues, the world on stage unfolds and becomes ever more inhabited. Machines-puppets move in, using their own movement logic, each night differently. Anthropomorphizing objects, I remember Russian constructivism: all in order to stay afloat. Handke’s characters from wordless play The Hour we knew nothing about each other also come in mind.

People pass, memories float: shadows of past gestures, mesmerizing lights. Distant voices from the speakers and barely uttered sentences from performers off-stage come as murmured reminiscences, guide the senses into the thick float of sound and image. And despite of holding onto whatever associations found, I’m irresistibly drowning again. It is garlands and bones strewn around. Garlands and bones. Cremation. Celebration. Death.

“Starting from ashes” as Jon Refsdal Moe wrote about Verdensteatret in his article “Flotsam of the Future”. There: also a person yelling in a foreign language somewhere, through a speaker just like the one they had on stage, a missing friend, there with them and us, or member of the crew, a voice coming from one of the trains. It’s someone or something that they saw, or imagined, and only we saw.

Life slightly pushes our bodies and reshapes us as humans from all sides incessantly. The world impresses all over us, molds us, as if of clay, along the journey. We recognize our past traces as fast thoughts, intuitions, feelings, and hold onto them in order to remain in our chairs, while trying to stay open for whatever can change and mold us again, we hope, for the good.

All that while train continues and goes through the flotsam, and over flotsam, over memories, our memories, and it slows itself as the voices quieten, the voices quieten as the train slows, and the engine stops, bringing the journey, over mud, back home.