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Ibsen in One Take is neither a medley of Ibsen’s masterpieces nor an original pièce inspired by Ibsen’s work. It is both these things, and more.
Born of the collaboration of up-and-coming Chinese director Wang Chong and Beijing-based Norwegian playwright Oda Fiskum, Ibsen in One Take is a bold attempt to rework the Ibsenian tradition into a piece of new writing. The result is a combination of classics and novelty, a slice-of-life from a contemporary Chinese man’s existence which also reverberates with the echoes of Ibsen’s philosophical and moral dilemmas. In producer Inger Buresund’s words, a “modern Chinese story told in a contemporary yet universal way”.
Ibsen in One Take follows an old man who is spending his last days in a hospital room. As the play unfolds, the man embarks on an introspective journey into his past and reminisces about his childhood and youth, his marriage and love affairs, the turning points as well as the shortcomings in his life. Throughout this reminiscence, the man, haunted by his private ghosts, confronts his regrets and tries to make sense of his existence and unanswered questions.
The production is the result of a 6 months-long work which firstly proceeded on parallel tracks and was then assembled and reworked during rehearsals. Director Wang Chong ideated the original storyline and handed it to Fiskum, who compiled the script enriching the plot with numerous quotes and references from Ibsen’s plays (like A Doll’s House, Ghosts, Peer Gynt, Master Builder and more). The creative duo then pieced the parts together, supported throughout the process by Hege Randi Tørressen, dramaturge of Oslo’s Nationaltheatret.
A remarkably innovative trait of the pièce lies in its dramatic structure, which represents a further development of Wang ’s previous experiments with live video-recording on stage: the whole performance is filmed by a cinematic troupe who follows the actors around the stage, and projected in real time on a big screen right above the stage. Hence the performance’s name: the “one take” of the title is an actual camera take which captures the stage action from beginning to end, without any editing or montage. This dramatic device allows the audience to focus on either the stage action or its filmic rendition at will. What’s more, the free play of the two levels (stage action and film) generates an extra, self-referential layer (the filming of the stage action). The performance, in other words, is structured along different layers which continuously interact and question each other in terms of authenticity, artistic medium and emotional response.
Commissioned by Ibsen International for the project Ibsen in China 2012 in collaboration with The Norwegian Embassy in Beijing and The Norwegian Consulates General in Shanghai and Guangzhou. Produced by Théatre du Rêve Expérimental