Aug 20 2017 | By More

★★★☆☆    Teenage nihilism

Summerhall (Venue 26): Fri 4 – Sun 27 Aug 2017
Review by Hugh Simpson

One of the glories of the Fringe is how natural it seems to come across a two-handed adaptation of a Young Adult novel about nihilism by a Danish company. While Nothing at Summerhall is largely as intriguing as that sounds, the production does not quite impress as much as it could.

Teater V’s adaptation of Janne Teller’s award-winning, controversial YA novel details 13 year old Pierre Anthon giving up school to sit in a plum tree because nothing has any meaning. In order to demonstrate that some things are important, his classmates create a ‘heap of meaning’ of the things most precious to them. However, the situation begins to spiral out of control.

Mikkel Reenberg and Ane HeleneHovby. Pic: Daniel Buchwald

The story’s existentialist explorations of nothingness are soon subsumed into a narrative that has often been compared to Lord Of The Flies. There are certainly some interesting questions raised, and in a way that is accessible to teenagers – a shame, then, that the much-discussed timing of the Fringe means that the target audience are all back at school for the second half of the run.

Pelle Koppel’s adaptation and direction are elegant and supple, with minimal staging involving a series of blocks of different sizes that can be endlessly rearranged.

The performers – Ane Helene Hovby and Mikkel Reenberg – share all of the parts and narration, swapping between them in a manner that seems effortless and accomplished. There are a couple of points when you are aware that English is not their first language, and some odd notes in the translation, but otherwise the performances are very fine.

philosophical elements

Some of the problems inherent in staging this kind of book do surface, however. The more philosophical elements can sound artificial on stage, and some of the more important moments lose something in the telling.

The escalation of the plot does becomes mechanical as a result, with events becoming more predictable than they probably should. Similarly, the staging is very much subject to the law of diminishing returns – the constant moving of the blocks, so inventive at first, begins to pall.

While it is never in any danger of falling apart, there is equally no chance of this production fulfilling its immense initial promise.

Running time 1 hour 15 minutes (no interval)
Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, EH9 1PL (Venue 26)
Friday 4 – Sunday 27 August 2017
Daily (not Mon 7, 14 or 21 or Tues 22) at 9.50 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website:
Company website:


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