In the likely event you ‘mai read’ only one sentence of this review, it will probably be the first, so let’s cut to the chase: ‘Mairead’ was the best English-language theatre production I’ve seen in Copenhagen – and I’ve seen a fair few.
Like ‘Black Mirror’ at its best
I’ve always been a firm believer that theatre groups should be producing more original work – and in Copenhagen-based Serbian playwright Tanja Mastilo, Why Not Theatre Company has discovered a gem.
Her third play for the group, ‘Mairead’, made its worldwide debut at Teatret Ved Sorte Hest on Friday, and if there’s any justice in this shallow, clickbait-seeking, nepotistic world we live in, it will soon be performed to audiences in Chicago, New York, London and Edinburgh.
But until then, we’ve got it all to ourselves – and I urge you to go, as it is as brilliantly perplexing as any episode of ‘Black Mirror’.
One day, Mastilo will confirm what came first: the intriguing and topical story-line, or the simple but unbelievably effective set.
I am warming to the idea that she had a vision of four actors sharing the stage in an original fashion, and that the plot followed later, but given the background of director Nina Larissa Bassett, she probably played a large role in getting it just right. And it is perfect.
True, there are nods to ‘Saw’ and Samuel Beckett’s ‘Endgame’, and once the story-line develops, undoubted parallels to Agatha Christie’s ‘And then there were None’, but this is an original premise that will keep you gripped to your seat as it unravels.
To a backdrop of ominous growling in a setting resembling the bowels of the Matrix, a superb ensemble cast splutter into speech to breathe life into Mastilo’s expertly-drawn, wholly believable characters.
Two men and two women awake from their sleep to make sense of their situation: where are they, who else is here and why are they being held?
Initially the rigid four-cell structure suggests there will be no physical interaction, but the second-act staging ingeniously enables the characters to dig into their back-stories and each others’ backs to illuminate their predicament.
Ace in the pack
Why Not Theatre pulled an ace out of the pack when it cast Kerry Norton-Griffith in the lead role – just last week Mastilo confessed to CPH POST that the London-based actress understands the role better than she does.
She is charismatic and captivating in what is a challenging role – the aforementioned flashbacks charting a decade of her life would make most method actors run a mile, but she knocks them out of the park.
Nathan Meister (the bully), Kevin Kiernan-Molloy (the buff) and Sue Hansen Styles (the bohemian) all lend strong support, but critiquing their performances would necessitate too much plot revealment, and this is a play you want to see with limited knowledge of its story-line.
Take a seat and ‘wake up’ with no knowledge of the situation – just like the actors. Don’t, I implore you, read any of the Danish reviews out there, unless you want the whole plot recounted.
Destined to be a classic
But it won’t spoil your fun to learn this is a play about love and relationships in the modern world that we can all relate to and enjoy.
Personally, I would have resisted mentioning the likes of Tinder and Facebook and kept the social media references generic – in a few years time, it might sound dated.
Because while it’s only had two performances, I don’t think it’s too premature to envisage this play being performed for decades to come.