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Interview with Tore Vagn Lid on "03:08.38"

Interview with Tore Vagn Lid in Klassekampen by Tora Døskeland, 29.06.19

(Translated by Anstein Bleikli)

"Emergency Theatre"

The new performance of Transiteatret shall prepare us for a state of emergency: Emergency Theatre

Tore Vagn Lid’s new performance takes just as long time as the terror events on July 22: three hours, eight minutes and thirty eight seconds.

It’s possible to practice. To rehearse for reality, for situations that will arise. Theater is not only supposed to be nostalgic. Tore Vagn Lid is talking about states of emergency in an extended sense. About the importance of research. He is standing in the corridor at Den Nationale Scene in Bergen. The old theater directors are keeping an eye on him from the row of portraits on the wall.

That does not bother Lid much. He wants to find out what theater can do in its outer limits – and becomes irritated when people ask him if the performance “is finished”.

- It’s the market that requires finished products. A large trauma processing isn’t finished just like that, and therefore a performance is never completely finished either.

Digitization becomes our everyday life

This week Transiteatret has its first time ever premiere on the performance “03, 08, 38 States of Emergency” The title is after the time span of the terror events in Oslo and on Utøya on July 22, 2011.

The two first parts of the performance are parts of the programme of the Arctic Arts Festival in Harstad.

Tore Vagn Lid emphasizes that the performance is not linked to the venue where it is shown. For the director of Transiteatret the two first parts are the start of a longer stream that will be followed up with performances in Bergen and Oslo. By using satellite stages in other cities and online broadcasting, the performance takes place on several venues simultaneously.

We have built up our communication digitally for such a long time. We have dinner with each other on Skype. Isn’t it time that theater takes into account the social aspect of this, that our everyday life is digital?

A team of film workers, illustrators, singers and musicians are working in the theater room. At listening posts in Bergen and Trondheim we find the satellite audience to the performance. A clock shows the time. It takes three hours, eight minutes and thirty eight seconds. During this time the participants build an installation.

Time is the protagonist

The audience moves around in the room. Long periods of silence arise.

-Time is the protagonist, Lid explains.It’s a collective experience to share the time it took to blow up the government building and liquidate young people at summer camp on Utøya.

-Why have you chosen to go into the thematic in this way?

We examine the structures and look at what it is that makes the state of emergency a political and existential point zero. Is there a dramaturgy for the state of emergency in an extended sense?

A lot of work is put into the sound picture of the performance. A musician can integrate sound in the performance that is shown in Harstad, and vice versa.

-The sound of the state of emergency has become concrete to me. The chaotic sound of text messages and updates that kill each other, says Lid.

When everything can go wrong

Lid questions the traditional form of theater, and at the same time he makes use of what he describes as one of the main qualities of theater: the certainty that everything can go wrong on stage.

-The fear of forgetting lines, or of technical breakdown. This is one of the aspects of theater that makes a sense of community possible.It’s an emotional thing being together in real time sharing a risk.

Lid believes in theater as a room of possibilities and he talks about how this art form can examine people’s collective reactions differently from what reports and research work can do.

-What happens to us during a state of emergency? Deeply personal as well as regarding economics, communication and politics? We have been examining if the state of emergency has a structure that we can learn from.

Does not want to distribute guilt

It is not the first time that Transiteatret makes use of theater forms to be in dialogue with questions relevant to society and politics. Earlier the theater has been working with tricky themes such as punishment, suicide and economic collapse. The relation between collective and individual values is a running theme throughout its whole artistic work. Not unlike the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht, Lid wants to look at what a unique voice theater has got in meeting with times of crisis.

Lid does not want to be wise after the event. He is not out for making up accounts or distributing guilt or responsibility, he says.

“03,08,38” goes back to July 22 to examine our collective reaction, the way it unfolded itself in real time.

Which media report what, and who reports first? Why was the hit song “The Final Countdown” played on the radio by a lonely summer substitute?

Why were Facebook profiles filled up with Norwegian flags which almost synchronously disappear right after? For us this survey is a way to get closer to the complexity of the extended state of emergency, Lid says.

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