Kommer (Sorrow) (Festival page)
Kassys @ Space Theatre
7:00pm, Thu 13 Mar 2008
An odd one, this.
Kommer starts with the audience staring down at a sombre scene. Without knowing anything about the piece, you can sense it’s a funeral home. It’s a wake. Six people gathered in mourning. Movements are slow, contemplative; there’s a solemnity about proceedings that slowly begins to shatter as the characters begin to interact. Initially there’s a sense of complicit duty, of keeping-up-appearances; but, gradually, the ice breaks. Ludicrous actions relieves the audiences’ tension, but maintains it onstage: A fight over the CD player. The pecking order of commiserations. A ludicrous topiary demolition of the funeral home’s plant life. And then, one by one, the characters drift offstage.
The audience is left looking at the messy remains of the funeral home, dirt and plant fragments strewn everywhere. And then a movie screen descends from the roof, and we’re treated to (pre-recorded, not live) expressions of the actors back-stage. They celebrate another successful performance on-screen and, as they leave for the evening, they pass through The Space once again, past the audience; the transitions between screen and real-life are tightly managed, and work a treat – the illusion is wonderful.
We then follow, on-screen, each of the actors into their lives outside the theatre – one woman loathes her second job. Another is afraid of her age. One man returns home to his one-room flat to joylessly eat his processed food. One man gets mugged. Another lives out his midlife crisis. They’re all terribly, terribly lonely, each painting a tragic tale of… sorrow.
And that’s the real payoff from this performance; it’s not in the off-beat presentation, it’s not in the quirky performances. It’s in the painful, tortuous lives that these people lead, laid forth bare on the screen. Even the gorgeous Esther Snelder, once the on-stage performance is over, leads a heart-breaking life on-screen. Yes, there’s humour in amongst these grim depictions, but it’s overwhelmed by a feeling of grim… mortality, in a way.
Now, some people may be put off by the miserably depressing tone of the piece… not me. I revel in this stuff: it’s immediately identifiable and perversely uplifting. Wallowing in another’s misery is almost cathartic to me – which says a lot, really. And Kommer delivered the muted, everyday, sorrow of existence in spades, reminding everyone of the pain of simply being, and presenting the opportunity to compare and contrast with one’s own life. Hey, I felt uplifted as a result, though I know many who weren’t.
Sadly, one of the lingering memories I have regarding Kommer is some of the crap that was written about it in the ‘Tiser. It wasn’t deriding the performance – heavens, no, we couldn’t possibly do that; it was a statement like “they break down the fourth wall by building a fifth” (paraphrased). I think that’s a completely bullshit statement, a hopelessly inaccurate attempt at a clever turn of phrase. And yet, that’s the thing that will stay with me long after the memory of sweet Esther has faded, and long after the shared commiserations have been forgotten.