Performing something you've put your soul into takes courage, but performing it as an introduction to a nationally renowned theater festival in front of a bunch of high school students?

By Eliot Immanuel Meier Losnegard
With input from Iulian Lavinius and the rest of the Young Voices editorial team
Mentor for the editorial team: Hedda Fredly

The play Everything we never were was the opening production at the Fjaler Theatre Festival 2023. It is written, directed and performed by the amateur theater group UWC Theatre Group. The production deals with themes such as love, jealousy, isolation and the difficulties of being young in a small town. Five childhood friends (Alex, Astrid, David, Jonathan and Maya) meet in the village they grew up in after five years without contact when one of the friends in the group, Oliver, suddenly dies. In this reluctant reunion, they must face the issues they left behind and navigate what's left of the dynamics of their youth.

The play takes place over a short period of time shortly after the funeral of Oliver, the dead friend. The action takes place through dialogues between the characters and monologues scattered throughout the play. One could say that the main action of the play takes place through the information we get in the great (inner) monologues of the characters, which then divide the play into five parts, all in the new context of the previous monologue. Personally, I'm a big fan of insight into characters' thoughts in literature, something I also appreciated in this play.

As you may have gathered, I liked the play a lot, but unfortunately not everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. Classmates have told me that they found it difficult to follow the action, either because it was difficult to understand the pronunciation in certain parts, because there was unrest in the auditorium, or because the play could have a fairly low sound level at times. People therefore tended to fall out of the action and lose interest. The fact that the chairs in the new theater weren't very comfortable didn't help either, and was something I've heard many people comment on afterwards.

The consensus, however, was that both the acting and the composition of the piece was very impressive work, especially for the first big piece of an amateur group. When asked for their opinion, students said that performing something so big must have required a lot of courage, something I fully agree with, especially when it's in front of the shark tank we all call Dale VGS.

The stage design and direction of the play are elegantly executed. Few actors, simple props (we really appreciated that the wine was "real") and clear lighting made the otherwise complicated play easier to take in. Another member of Young Voices, Iulian Lavinius, writes the following about the lighting in the play:

"The light in the play played a very important role, because it was used to symbolize several things, such as the character's thoughts. When this happens, the light turns blue and everyone except the character stops. The light is also sometimes turned off to change the look of the scene without the audience seeing it. I think they did a very good job with the lighting and showed a lot of professionalism."

Another element in the scenography is the white wall on wheels, which is used throughout the performance in a more or less elegant way. Visually, the wall was used to convey physical distance between the characters and to break up the otherwise dark stage in a visually satisfying way. The use of the wall as a canvas for the mobile scenes, on the other hand, breaks the immersion of the audience due to the (relatively) inelegant execution.

My biggest criticism of the play is the lack of references to Oliver, a character many in the audience did not realize existed at all. All the characters in the production had their own traumas, but none of them had anything to do with the bardic friend they had just attended the funeral of. The characters say that Oliver was the glue that held the group together, but an Oliver-shaped hole in the group of friends is unfortunately nowhere to be found. In my opinion, Oliver should either have been a sixth "character", with his own backstory told through one or more of the other characters, or not been mentioned in the play at all.

Despite this, I think it was an impressively well-executed production that gave a relatable picture of enmity, friendship, love and growing up in general.

Participants - Everything we never were

Text and direction: Agnes Ulla Käck Karlsson and Lo Stranne.
Actors: Maria Clara Santos, Mildrid Rasmussen, Asta Gabriel, Helene Bondy, Agnes Ulla Käck Karlsson.
Other cast/crew: Lo Stranne, Maki Matsuoka, Mo Rodin, Thea Madisson, Mara Flechtner, Ida Helene Imenes.
Many thanks to: Peter Wilson, UWC RCN, Media crew- Ľubica Fintorová & Khrystia Saiko, Rakel Backer Meiner, DROP, Hedvig Skou Eskeland, Sarah Maya Gobel, Mélusine Estgen, Sarah Haughey. Maria Clara Santos, Helene Bondy.