herStay success in Asia
«A study of the postmodern woman on the stage»
«To escape the feeling of unease, a woman flees to the seashore, repeatedely. For hours she gazes at a flying bird. As another female character seems to search for reason, in the darkness, through dance gestures. While leaving, a third is suddenly startled. The fourth attempts a suicide. The fifth shudders abruptly with fear. The sixth, the seventh, the eight, and, in similar manners, innumerable women appears, with patterns of actions since times immemorial. For example: doing housework, loving someone, rearing children, quarrel with husband, being whipped, or shedding tears.
These female characters, who emerges out of the dramas of Norway’s famous dramatist Henrik Ibsen, came together on stage in the presentation directed by Monica Emilie Herstad in her Past is Simulation: The Ladies of the Sea vs Nora and other Stories of the society. The staging took place at the ninth day of the India Theatre Festival at the LTG Auditorium. Enacted in New Delhi and Mumbai, and with generousity of the Norwegian Embassy, this play is important from several points of view.
The woman director searches for a new stage language by new ways of acting, light-designing and presenting music, for the dance performance. It succeeds way beyond words.
This is not Physical Theatre, where, through the agency of body language and the language of gestures, a script assumes shape in a formless manner.
This is a total experience of dramatic art beyond words.
The audience sees a new kind of dance performance in a new space. It comprises the full potential for a transformation of the imaginativeness of the audience.
The performance is so attracting, that one is not getting aware of the time at all.
This is a postmodern global text on stage.
Monica Emilie Herstad is – instead of promoting a rather acerb image of the women or of showing protest – performing a deep examination, from the ingress into the innermost core.
She is creating an ironic disguise of the texts of Ibsen’s dramas. It is exactly this ironic disguise which develops into a comment on the images of women in the present milieu.
Her actresses appear on stage with high heeled shoes, contemporary hair-do, and hyper-modern dresses. They show in ironic disguise different matters of concern of the women, and their emotional expressions and body movements, in deep, white, faint light, together with mystical music. These matters of concern are selected from the lives of Ibsen’s women.
The performance has its background mainly from the lives of the protagonist Ellida and her two coeval stepdaughters Hilde and Bolette, from the drama Lady from the Sea, and of the heroine Nora from A Doll’s House.
An evaluation of Ibsen’s texts is done by the German feminist writer Elfriede Jelinek in her book What happened after Nora had left her Husband, including the text Pillars of Society. In one scene it is the aura of the unforgettable world famous author Susan Sontag, in which she presented the character of the heroine Ellida of Lady from the Sea.
The performance with its latent meanings raises, however, several questions at the level of script and style. On the one hand she disturbs the acerb images of the biographies of the women of the dramas, but at the other she succeeds to overcome the acerb images on the stage by employing the medium of artistic explanation. Words are not presented here. And the music appears slightly segregated. Together with an examination of the relevance of Henrik Ibsen for the present times, the performance investigates in addition the question whether our world has really changed for women during the one hundred years after Ibsen. The decision rests with the audience.»
– Ajit Rai, Jansatta/ Indian Express, January 12th, 2008
«The play opens with a complete surprise, with a mechanical bird winging its way over the proscenium, and hovering the dancer on the large stage.
The tantalising conjectures are woven around the splendid solists, who seem to express the ambivalent emotions of Ibsen´s women when their bodies move, fall, strech, and bend.
Dancing as mirror-images, or the captivating trio moving in unison, they bring out rich associations with Nora, or the steph-daughters Hilde and Bolette, of Lady of the sea, or the eponymous heroine of Hedda Gabler, or even the youthful Hedvig of The Wild Duck.» – Dr. Utpal K Banerjee, Pioneer, New Delhi, January 15th 2008
«From the European segment of the festival, two were dance theatre performances — Pina Bausch’s “Bamboo Blues” and Monica Emilie Herstad’s unwieldily titled “Past is Simulation: The Ladies of the Sea vs Nora and Other Stories”.
The Norwegian performance piece was dense with references which became significant only if, besides Ibsen, you also knew the work of the director Elfriede Jelinek and the late Susan Sontag’s reading of “Lady of the Sea”.
Otherwise what you saw [in Past is simulation] were incredibly flexible female bodies that posed, contorted, writhed and grew slack to express a whole spectrum of emotions, dark to bright, between male-constructed women and women as they are and want to be.
Pina Bausch’s “Bamboo Blues” was more accessible than Herstad’s piece.
The piece was built bit by bit from impressions that she and her dancers had gathered when they travelled through the streets of Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata.
The sequence in which women and men do a ramp walk treating the mundu as a fashion garment was hilarious.»
– Shanta Gokhale, The Hindu Magazine, February 10th 2008