by Ingmar Villqist translated by Jacek Laskowski.
York Theatre Royal Studio St Leonard’s Place YO1 7HD To 8 November 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 30min no interval.
TICKETS: 01904 623568.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 November.
Increasing grip of personal pity and political terror in play with a youthful angle.
York’s Theatre Royal has forged links with companies specialising in work for teenagers, including Company of Angels, who look to Europe for serious, socially-aware work that engages teenage imaginations while tapping into social matters.
Noc Helvera, by Warsaw-based Ingmar Villqist – a nom de plume indicating author Jaroslaw Swierszcz’s fascination with Scandinavia (where theatre fits the Angelic model) – movingly presents a young man (as Adam Venus makes him appear) or older teenager, in whom physical strength contrasts mental vulnerability.
Helver needs guiding – benign enough with the maternal Carla, who adopted him from an institution where she was searching guiltily for the baby girl she had abandoned. Kate Lynn Evans makes Carla’s loving care transparent.
But the streets are filling with fascist gangs. It would be comforting to think this is historical, a Nazi-period story. But there’s every likelihood this is a situation happening or ready to happen in many a country today.
Helver revels in the certainty of a new order, and the excitement of orders he can carry-out. The enthusiasm spills-over into ferocity as he makes Carla join his exercises, waving his banner and parroting the insults the gangs shout as they destroy homes and attack anyone different.
To Helver it’s all a game; he’s unable to see that having stood on the sidelines while a local shop’s been stormed, he can become a target. When they come for him, Carla tries to organise his escape; then, defeated, does the only thing he can to protect him from physical pain and a mental agony his mind could never endure.
The two worlds clashing in designer Zoe Squire’s kitchen set, which the audience reaches along a narrow, fogbound street, are expressed in the radio music the two choose; Helver’s military marches are contrasted by Carla’s delicately sinuous concert waltz.
At first Venus is over-powering in the confined space; Helver’s force emerges before his vulnerability. Eventually though, Hal Chambers’ production expresses the sorrow, pity and danger in Villqist’s close study of mental vulnerability, the attraction of the violent Right to Helver, and, most deeply, the contrast between hate and love.
Carla: Kate Lynn Evans.
Helver: Adam Venus.
Ensemble: Paul Mason, Julie McIsaac.
Director: Hal Chambers.
Designer: Zoe Squire.
Lighting: Mike Redley.
Soundscape/Composer: Benjamin Hudson.
Movement: Polly Bennett.
Fight director: Liam Evans Ford.
Assistant director: Sarah Cotterill.