Nothing ****

Theatre

Summerhall

Until 27th August

0950

 

Nothing is an existential play addressing one of the biggest questions – does life have meaning? According to 13-year-old high school student Pierre-Anthon, the answer is no. Much to his class mates’ despair, on discovering the ‘truth’ he takes to residing in a plum tree where every so often he preaches on his new-found philosophy. The rest of the class set out to prove him wrong.

Based on the novel of the same name by Janne Teller, it is translated to the stage by Pelle Koppel and performed by Mikkel Reenberg and Ane Helene Hovby. Between them, these two incredibly versatile actors play every character in the story, giving each their distinctive voice or physical characteristic so it is always clear who is being portrayed.

The solution that the class comes up with is to create ‘The Heap of Meaning’ for which every class mate sacrifices something of great personal value. With this, they hope to persuade Pierre-Anthon that life does have meaning.

It starts off innocently enough with one girl giving up her prized green sandals, a boy, his fishing rod and so on. As the play progresses and they get caught up in the importance of what they are trying to do, things take an unexpected sinister turn. The rule is that once someone has given up their offering, they can demand what the next person must sacrifice.

The only props onstage are a stack of wooden boxes of varying sizes. These are moved around to create settings, to represent objects and for the actors to stand on during scenes. The actors carry and move the boxes, changing the settings throughout the play without missing a beat, or dropping the storyline.

I found myself focusing more on the dialogue and what was being acted out, rather than watching what they were building next with the boxes: a testament to the strength of their storytelling. While the play does not presume to give a definitive answer to the Big Question, the message I took from it was that life has whatever meaning we ascribe to it.

Sharon Jones