Theatre review: Nothing

Delicious dialogue and fittingly arch performances bring Janne Teller's lauded novel to life.
Delicious dialogue and fittingly arch performances bring Janne Teller's lauded novel to life.
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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: “It’s all a waste of time,” a boy shouts from the top of a plum tree. “In a few years you’ll all be dead.”

Summerhall (Venue 26)

****

If you’re looking for early-morning existential angst, Pelle Koppel’s adaptation of Janne Teller’s award-winning novel is full of wry, humorous, self-knowing hopelessness.

With fittingly arch performances, Mikkel Reenberg and Ane Helene Hovby capture the group of young teenagers desperate to persuade their smug tree-dwelling friend, Pierre Anthon, that his
cynicism is unfounded and life isn’t utterly pointless.

To do this, they start gathering all of the objects that are important to them and pile them up in a “heap of meaning”: green sandals, a bike, a pet, Jesus on a cross, Cinderella the dog, the body of a dead child. It seems there is nothing in the world that doesn’t mean something to someone.

The more disparaging Pierre Anthon is about
everything his school friends love, the more extreme the collecting becomes. Slowly, in the town sawmill, one person’s “meaning” becomes another’s depravity.

Reenberg’s and Hovby
conjure up the debauched group of 20-odd characters with skilful sweeps of
delicious dialogue that
highlight the weird little things that they – and we all – find worth in.

Who are we without the objects and beliefs that we use to define ourselves? Are we really, as Pierre Anthon loftily claims, “nothing”? And when the “heap of meaning” is finally sold, does that make it “art” or worth no more than the money paid for it?

As a moveable set of wooden boxes grows to represent both everything and nothing, the transient nature of “meaning” and how it can be used to give us both human purpose and justify the most violent of acts is presented in all its thought-provoking and contradictory complexity.

Until 27 August. Today 9:50am.