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‘The subtleties & concerns of this story are universal’: SAFE SPACE (Online review)

One of the top producing professional theatres in Copenhagen, Teater V, made its digital debut this week. Their new programme of “Danish Digidramatics” launches as Future V.

With Denmark still under the shadow of lockdown, it is important to this company to reach new audiences who may not be natural theatregoers, but who are watching alone from home. Also, as in this performance, for those in another country.

This first piece is Nanna Berner’s Safe Space, a dark and tense drama performed over Zoom. Directed by Pelle Koppel, artistic director of Teater V, this play runs 55 minutes. It utilises the services of five cast members in both indoor and outdoor spaces, and across screen media.

Ene (Fillipa Suenson) is broadcasting live and shares a story of receiving a mysterious brown envelope in her building. Inside, a clover of three lives, and a flash drive which has the sound of a baby crying. The scene is set for an unsettling hour and we don’t quite know what is happening next.

When a viewer, Alma (Lucia Vinde Dirchsen) reaches out to Ene, live, things start to get a little strange. She has received a similar envelope, plus her sister Asta is missing. We are about to head straight into horror territory.

Safe Space is quite ambitious for a debut digital show. With actors often interacting in both real and virtual space, it relies heavily on the whims of technology. We are told before the stream starts that one actor is unwell, with footage being used from a previous recording, but this was not obvious while viewing.

The play is performed in Danish, with English subtitles, which are easy to read and follow. It can be difficult to understand the inflections of a script in a different language to your own, but the subtleties and concerns of this story are universal and the acting is very persuasive.

I did have some niggling questions here and there, mainly over the inability of characters to control technology (why would someone scared of being watched be joining in a Zoom with their camera on?), but I enjoyed the constant feeling of surprise.

The character of Luka (Mathias Bøgelund) is intriguing, if a little underdeveloped. Surely a childhood friend of Ene’s would know all her history and hang-ups if they had remained close for years. Both Luka and Ene have stories we need to see and understand more of.

Theresa Hedelund and Mette Ahrenkiel complete the cast as Asta, and Alma’s mother. Their characters have key roles to play in revealing plot points and reacting to them, and they convey them very well. This is theatre at its most intense and raw, one of the great strengths of the digital space right now.

Safe Space faces a tough subject head on with some style while always staying one step ahead of its audience. I did suspect fairly early on who was behind the sending of the envelopes but the motive took a while to develop. I did love the risks taken with off-camera action, mobile phone filming, and trigger points around abandonment, depression and implied familial abuse.

You can book to watch Safe Space at the TeaterV website. It continues until 10 September and tickets cost £5.

LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to view Safe Space in return for a review.

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