“Morgenstjernen” is Karl Ove Knausgård’s critically acclaimed novel mastodon from 2020. The (almost) 666 pages are full of metaphysical realism, if you can call it that. It is transcendent no matter when ordinary everyday life is captured and unfolded into something supernatural.
It has simply become an uncontrollable performance. And therefore delicious. By no means perfect, it’s too long and the visuals are a bit much. But what from the beginning seems ordinary and solid, gradually unfolds into visual madness. It’s different from anything I’ve seen from the main stage in Bergen for a long time. And therefore much needed.
Throwing the theater into projects that you almost never think can go together is extremely important. For art, for the city, for what is possible. And not least for the Festival, with which this performance has been made in collaboration. They need all the incalculable savagery they can get on the program.
One can say a lot about the novel, and of course a lot about how over six hundred pages can end up as three hours of theater. A hard but relatively successful selection has been made.
The play is set in Bergen, where much of the action in the book also takes place. This makes it possible to add a local touch to the show, which suits it well. The main characters are ordinary people. They all look so ordinary that they can almost seem caricatured.
They struggle with theirs: Marriage problems, low self-esteem, difficulties at work, family problems. But despite the ordinary, they are not made fun of. For “Morning Star” is about the unusual in the ordinary.
Strange animals appear
These hot late summer days in Bergen, a huge star appears in the sky. An insane phenomenon. Strange things happen, it is as if a darkness that lies hidden is allowed to trickle out of cracks and tears you barely knew about. Strange animals appear.
There is a short distance between the dead and the living. Jesus appears on stage several times. People disappear, there is something threatening everywhere, and death is almost like a rescue.
In this, people try to navigate. The performance is framed by two funerals, both of which have transcendental and underlying moments.
The “morning star” only becomes interesting when the excess is allowed to take proper place. And it takes some time before it settles down properly. But when director Linus Tunström lets the absurd really take place, it is also sometimes exciting theater.
Because there is something about the portioning of the instruments in “Morgenstjernen”. It’s like they want too much when they create a kind of prophetic drummer in the beginning, but do not quite follow it up.
Or that they choose to have a large screen on stage that shows kitschy nature images that emphasize and repeat the actors’ lines.
Combined with the use of music (especially the classical works), these instruments occasionally shower the audience in clichés. The way the Handel prune “Lascia ch’io pianga” is used is one of several examples where classical music is run at full blast without being allowed to offer resistance to what is happening on stage or try to create something new.
I know that the lyrics to this aria suit the subject of the play, and I see that they try to play with the music clichés, but here they still do not succeed.
But they also do something important right: I experience that playwright Armin Kerber frees himself from Knausgård. This is by no means a direct transfer of a novel to the stage, rather a novel that the theater has embraced and made into its own narrative. That is also why it is interesting, it is free.
There are also some really strong acting performances on stage: Eirik del Barco Soleglad, Elisabeth Moberg, Jonatan Filip.
The performance grasps the world that was impossible under the corona: That something should happen and that time should open up. The performance puts effort into play.
The theater has the uniqueness of it that, as the simplest thing in the world, it can visualize the absurd, that which does not work.
At the same time, the performance is deeply theological, as Knausgård’s novel was probably characterized by the work he did when he helped to translate the Bible in 2011. The space between the apocalypse and the flesh, the earthly, is enormous in these texts. Therefore, it is also interesting how in these texts. Therefore, it is also interesting how the characters receive the burning star with one So big regarding.
“The Morning Star” is a performance rich in perspectives. It is undoubtedly a boost for DNS. At the same time it is imperfect, I see it with a certainty that this could have been rawer, that there is more to go on. You just have to be more discriminating with the help you render toward other people.
I am a freelancer and review theater, performing arts and dance for NRK. Also read my review of the fantastic “Sancthansnatten” at Ibsen Museum & Theater.