"The grand finale"
by Teater Fusentast
Based on the short story "Het grote gebeuren" by Belcampo
Stage direction and dramaturgy: Elin Hassel-Iversen
Illustrator and puppet design: Janne Magnussen
Set design and puppet maker: Camilla Lilleengen
Music: Dr. (Tor Einar) Bekken.
With: Coby Omvlee, Jaap den Hertog and Dr. Bekken
Teaterhuset Avant Garden, Trondheim
A neck breaking project – charming, humorous, rich in detail, and a little helter skelter.
Teater Fusentast celebrates itself and its first 20 years as a theatre company. This Trondheim–Dutch fringe theatre, run by Jaap den Hertog and Coby Omvlee, has made a great number of productions that have been extremely playful, at times touching, and often very witty. And they have done quite a bit of puppetry, too. To mention one, the troupe many years ago produced a hysterically funny version of Peer Gynt where they performed all the acts in less than an hour, and as far as I remember with only two performers.
Now, they celebrate their jubilee by creating the most ambitious production they have ever made, which says quite a lot. Based on the Dutch short story ”Het grote gebeuren”, Jaap den Hertog had an almost impossible idea, and him being an inventor of sorts, he would not listen to reason. Coby Omvlee wrote the script, and together they perform the fifty-odd different parts, only assisted by the music and sounds of Dr. Bekken.
We are in the small town of Fagersund, not very unlike the archetype of Trangvik, a small place, forgotten by history, where nearly everything has stood still, and where the apparent idyll is oppressive in its most Ibsenesque sense.
But under the surface it is boiling, and hypocrisy has good conditions for thriving.
We visit the place on the world's very last day and are presented to a large, representative, and very colourful choice of the town's inhabitants. Little do they know of what's in store. Had they known, they would have positioned themselves a little better for judgement day. So far this doesn't sound very groundbreaking. But the Fusentasts have dramatized the story as a "phantasmagoria". The term is composed of the Latin words for ghost and square. And the show is a mix of new and ancient projection techniques, blended with both live and projected puppetry. On a table, a model of the whole town of Fagersund is constructed with graceful houses, streets and people. Through a small camera which they move through the streets, while at the same time manipulating the puppets, we get to see its recording simultaneously with both the puppetry and the whole setting.
As if that weren't enough, in addition they use a wealth of different projection methods to show supplemental still pictures. Even if power point has replaced both slide shows and overheads, these are still well known techniques. But the Magic Lantern, the mother of all slide projectors, a 350-year-old method for showing pictures on a screen, is no everyday experience. And not easy to handle either!
Dressed up as angels, the two Fusentasts tell the story of Fagersund's very last day, at the same time manipulating puppets, filming, giving life to nearly fifty characters and showing good many imaginative drawings and stills. Only assisted by Dr. Bekken's sound and music, performed on the harmonium and synthesizer, they sort of hurry between the different tasks. It is quite a puzzle, resulting of course in a helter skelter impression. A somewhat rough presentation is part of the charm of Fusentast, and so it is supposed to be. But this time it was a bit hectic, the scene transformations somewhat unsynchronized, and there were some non-intended pauses. But as far as I know, this will improve when the first night nerves have come under control, and they get to know the piece better.
The excellent text by Coby Omvlee is written in verse, and it is full of humour, double entendres and unexpected, somewhat naive rhyme. The performance is one of the most playful I have seen, and both content and presentation are very rich. The amount of detail is enormous, and even if the figurines are only finger size, we get to know the personalities of Belcampo the photographer, airplane captain Winge, his wife Bella Skjønning, who has an affair with Belcampo while Winge is on the wings(!), and many of the others. And the question of who gets to go up or down on judgement day is entirely open.
In "The grand finale" it is not the devil, but rather a heavenly experience that is hidden in the details!