Maybe it's too nice? - A visual radio play after Richard Dresser's Below the Belt

Premiére date21 Apr. 2004
Produced byTore Vagn Lid/Transiteatret Bergen
In collaboration withThe National Stage, Bergen Center for Electronic Arts
Based onBelow the Belt by Richard Dresser
AudienceAdults
LanguageNorwegian
ExpressionsTheatre, Musical theatre, Audio Theatre, Satire, Political Theatre, Theatre of the absurd
Running period21 Apr. 2004  —  18 Jun. 2007
WebsiteTransiteatret-Bergen

About Maybe it's too nice?

Maybe it's too nice? - A visual radio play (2004) was a production by Tore Vagn Lid/Transiteatret-Bergen. Maybe it's too nice? was based on Richard Dresser's Below the Belt, produced in 2004.

Maybe it's too nice? was an absurd satire about life in the golden age of neoliberalism and carried strong criticism against language and society. It was about maintaining one's identity in a globalised and free-floating work structure. The production had a stylised, physical and rhythmical expression giving music a central place.

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Press review

Jan H. Landro (2004, 22.04). Bergens Tidende [Bergen, Norway]:
" Tore Vagn Lid has made Richard Dressler's absurd satire about keeping one's self and self-respect in a world where the work and one's boss rules most things, if possible even more threatening and pessimistic. [...] Interaction so tight and concentrated there are sparks. [...] Transiteatret balances, solid as a mountain, on the knife-blade the company has sharpened for itself."

Andreas Wiese, date unknown, Dagbladet [Oslo]:
"Director Tore Vagn Lid has delivered a holistic, intelligent work that is impressive."

More about Maybe it's too nice?

In the essay Maybe it’s too nice? - A visual radio play, subtitled Scenic reflections over a frozen flexibility, Tore Vagn Lid writes the following:

"'What is truth?' said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer. (J.L Austin)

Where Pontius Pilate was free to go, the characters of Maybe it’s too nice stand stuck in a new work marked (and a new economy's) wide open and thoroughly flexible office landscapes. No walls, no doors, no regular places, everything is flexible and everything can be allocated - including the truth. As a scenic anthropologic field study the performance is seeking to approach this 'new'. Not as a reflection or a mirror, but as scenic contemplation over a sad subject.

'Dresser as a visual radio play'

As material for what I have called a visual radio play lays American Richard Dressler's little drama from 1995, Below the Belt. What has fascinated me for long about Dressler's comedy was (and is) the text's potential as a 'seismograph', an instrument to warn about something yet to come; a weak stirring, barely to be heard (and thus, free to feed itself and grow) through the self-satisfied irony of Norway in the 1990es until it today has become more or less a political power practice.

But at the same time Maybe it's too nice is a dialogic counterpart to Dressler's text, a scenic attempt to test the traditional dramatic fable. Through the experiment with what I have called a visual radio play, the performance tries to absolve the language from Dressler's (strategic) individuals and make the language a main character in a space without real actors: The three performers on stage are neither victims nor executioners, but at the same time they are (or are forced to be?) both. Hell is no longer (as Sartre said) 'the others'. Hell is in - or is - the language itself.

The labour camp and the forced labour's iron grating have been transformed into new shapes, becoming sentence melodies and linguistic formulas in a corporate economic vocabulary transcending steadily new national and private/intimate spheres. The magic circle of efficiency-improvement, allocation and flexibility hardens the itineraries of flight, because the superstructure of privatisation also has privatised the private spaces. For the thoroughly flexible personality (also the stage personalities as such) such a situation can bring forth a particular form of agoraphobia - a claustrophobic subconsciousness in the middle of the limitless economy's wide open force field.

Because of this, in the visual radio play the dialogue is less original than it is social: The text is stolen from the men of Dressler's drama to be part of a relay between stage and movie screen, between theatre and reality TV and between male and female protagonists. A sentence (or a strategy) started by one role figure onstage can be fulfilled by a female supporting actor in the reality bunker. This way we try to open the stage room for a movement having long ago claimed its place outside of it: In the golden age of neoliberalism the borders between one's work place and the new TV entertainment are fluid, the battle zone is expanded and has become a self-enforcing way of entertainment. Also in reality TV's houses made of concrete, tempting islands and demanding farms the demand for flexibility has become absolute: Nothing is work and everything is work, the way everything and nothing can be economic calculations, from the friendly gesture to the strategic act of intercourse.

In the age of individualism, short-term contracts, efficiency-improvement and everybody's battle against everybody else, doubt, insecurity and fear are paradoxically among the few things we all seem to have in common. When one can no longer speak, because every word and every little quote can be meant as, or become regarded as, a strategic calculation - then one sings (or at least onstage makes an attempt at singing) - sadly and polyphonic. As a second material for the performance I have matched Dressler's text evenly with different musical arrangements. Musical quotes are sided with quotes from the theatre space's own near and old history, modernism vs. post-modernism, and vice versa, because already a long time has passed since the absolved history went from knowledge to weapon - long ago being laid-back became yet another belittling technique. In G. F. Händel's minor-scaled baroque variations and in Jim Diamond's sentimental (and almost forgotten) hits from the 1980es, a sad undertone sounds about something that maybe has been - was - or could have been - different."

Sources:

Black Box Theatres archive. Season program the autumn of 2005. Donated by Black Box Theatre. 21.11.2013.

Transiteatret-Bergen, transiteatret.com, 01.08.2010, http://www.transiteatret.com/maybe.html