Act & Terminal 3
Print Room at the Coronet
Reviewed – 5th June 2018
“‘Terminal 3’ is a triumph, eerie and tender, utterly human even at its most abstracted points”
Lars Norén is celebrated by many as Sweden’s greatest living writer, and the Print Room at the Coronet stages a double bill of his two shorter plays, ‘Act’ and ‘Terminal 3’, translated by Marita Lindholm Gochman.
‘Act’ is about the relationship between State and terrorist. Originally set in 1970s post-war Germany, the play is based around the incarceration of Ulrike Meinhof, but director Anthony Neilson has removed these references, and instead places the play in a dystopian future America, following a second civil war, complete with a Texan physician brilliantly embodied by the enigmatic Barnaby Power. Whilst this is a good idea in practice, the only reference we have for this is visual, and the reality of this is a lack of clarity that leaves the audience in a continual and unresolved quest for context. A competently done piece fuelled by Power’s performance in particular, it has promise, but due to its lack of clear placement, it seems to float, making the moments of discomfort easier to disengage with, and the overall impact severely lessened.
‘Terminal 3’ is a triumph, eerie and tender, utterly human even at its most abstracted points. Fog steams out over the audience, drowning us momentarily. Two couples wait. She is waiting to give birth, He at her side, whether she wants him there or not. Woman and Man wait to identify a body. Birth and death are directly aligned, Prosecco and flowers are proffered against a background of sobs. All four actors excel, distinct in their characterisations but equally adept in creating a coherent whole, not a weak link among them. Moving and disturbing, but laced with a desperately dark humour, the beauty and skill of Norén’s writing shines through across both pieces, but particularly in this latter one.
The design by Laura Hopkins across both pieces is consistently fantastic. The stage of ‘Act’ is a busy one on the periphery, bulk packages of Marlborough cigarettes and Coca Cola cans, a running machine, a mattress, a camping chair made out of a faded American flag. The central stage is bare apart from a single chair, hemmed in by lights – “there’s never any darkness,” M says of her cell. ‘Terminal 3’ splits the stage in two, one corner filled with flowers, the opposite corner with candles. The stage is divided by a semi-transparent screen, that turns as the space changes. Here, Nigel Edwards’ lighting design really comes into its own, unafraid to leave us in darkness, playing with shadows, lights that throb and stutter, a truly creative design that allows the space and the atmosphere to be reinvented over and over.
Seeing the plays alongside each other creates a lovely opportunity to directly compare the works and to begin to acknowledge themes in Norén’s work and way of thinking.
This is a double bill as it should be: beautifully written, beautifully designed and fantastically performed.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Tristram Kenton
Act & Terminal 3
Print Room at the Coronet until 30th June
Previously reviewed at this venue