On July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people and injured more than 200 in Norway. Before he attacked his fellow citizens he sent out a 1500 page manifesto containing racist propaganda, philosophical reflections, bomb manuals, interviews he conducted with himself and diary entries. Danish theatre makers Christian Lollike, Olaf Højgaard and Tanja Diers wondered what made him do it. They decided to investigate the Manifesto and the man behind the atrocities to see if they could figure it out. The result is this compelling exploration of how someone radicalises themselves.
I had misgivings about going to this show. The murders were a way to promote the manifesto, and with everything else going on in the world, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to engage with yet more hate and bigotry. But if I was to understand what steers people to politics so different from my own then I needed to give this a chance. I’m glad I did. As a theatre piece it’s stripped back and cleverly layered. It’s presented as Højgaard’s determination to ‘see the world through his eyes.’ Edwin Wright is great as Højgaard. He’s laid-back in the beginning then physically becomes more tense as he delves further and Højgaard’s investigation becomes less academic and more experiential. Wright is able to present the dilemma of being against the actions yet desperate to understand why ‘anyone can allow themselves to be manipulated in that way.’ Similarly the design (set by John Verryt, costume by Elizabeth Whiting) reflects this desire to see things in black and white, to study the light and the dark in order to extract some sort of meaning or logical progress. Ruby Reihana-Wilson’s excellent lighting design alongside Ander Falstie-Jensen’s direction is carefully judged to intensify tension or to puncture it.
As a ‘forum for discussing what goes on in our world’ (as described in the programme) it’s frightening. This is mostly about Europe but there are extreme rightwing groups advocating violence in New Zealand Aotearoa as well. It would be easy to demonise these people or to dismiss them for their very ordinariness. It would equally be as easy to be infuriated by their actions or their words. I refuse to be. I’m going to reread our Tom’s words and Alex Casey on the Spinoff and resist attempts to divide the world into us and them.
Thanks The Rebel Alliance for bringing this theatre piece to Wellington. I don’t think I enjoyed it but I appreciate that I had a chance to see it.
- Manifesto 2083 on at Circa Theatre to 18 February 2017