• Flora Gosling

Review: Nothing (Summerhall)

Updated: Jun 10

Nothing matters. Nothing at all. It’s a difficult thing to hear, but that is the premise of Teater V’s production. Based on the beautiful and controversial novel of the same name, this adaptation follows a group of school children in their early teens, after one of them, Pierre-Anthon, proclaims that nothing matters, and goes to live out the remainder of his existence in a tree. However the focus is less on him, and more on his class mates reaction, as they seek desperately to prove to Pierre-Anthon and themselves that there is meaning in life, and friendship soon turns to hostility in their desperate search.

Like most Fringe shows, the design is fairly minimalist and plain, but here is has a significant meaning. The props and set consist entirely of wooden blocks, which re-enforces the simplicity of life in the Danish town of Tӕring and the children’s struggle to find excitement, meaning and, eventually, joy there. It also reinforces the relentless irony of the meaninglessness of their possessions and the things they value most. The way the character of Pierre-Anthon was represented was perfect too – given a microphone and spotlighting that none of the others are granted, as though grandstanding with his grand philosophy and loving every moment of it.

The performances were given entirely by Ane Helene Hovby and Mikkel Reenberg. Despite a few nerves showing – tripping over a couple of words but recovering seamlessly – they gave an incredibly fluid performance, bouncing off each other in a perfectly timed story telling fashion whilst retaining their characters’ distinctive traits. Between them they can give a simplistic portrayal of their character – “Pretty Rosa” is typically girly, “Holy Carl” is humble and the most moral – but give them all depth as the play progresses, and they develop into primal brutality reminiscent of “Lord of the Flies”.

But it’s a quiet brutality. A brutality in denial of itself. Told from the perspective of the children, the importance of their search for meaning justifies whatever means it takes to reach it. Refreshingly, the shocking moments are not staged as shocking moments, but they have a similar if not greater effect than if they had been doused in expressive lighting, staging, and effects that one can expect from a larger and grander production. Similarly, the language used reflects that of the novel – the ideas and plot fuel the thought process of the audience, instead of flowery or over-elaborate language. It’s a very loyal adaptation that perfectly transfers the tone of the novel to the stage.

The themes and story of this show are incredibly unique. The meaning of life is such a difficult theme to explore in any piece of art, but this show does it with two actors, a few boxes, and an hour of your time. It’s a theme that anyone can relate to. After seeing it, you will feel as though you need space to process it, but it is worth every moment that takes. The emotional impact it left on me is unlike any theatre I have seen before it. Truly, “Nothing” matters. “Nothing” matters a great deal. Five stars.

"Nothing" is on at 09:50 at Summerhall (venue 26) until the 27th of August

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