Elling – the play

On Wednesday Linda and I went to the Riverside Theatre at Parramatta to see the play “Elling”.

The ticket was the last of a season booking set, and neither of us knew what to expect. However in the foyer there were some clues: dozens of obviously hurriedly prepared signs stuck to the walls warning patrons that the performance contained coarse language, sexual references and smoking on stage.

It was all a bit titillating as we had never seen smoking on stage before. I was expecting gratuitous smoking, but we were surprised and pleased to see that it was entirely character and plot-driven.

The main characters were two men who had been held in an asylum for years. They had been sharing a room for some time and had developed a sort of cautious friendship. Elling, was a smallish, wiry fellow tending towards obsessive compulsive. His room-mat, Kjell, was a big, hairy boofish bloke whose sole ambition in life was to lose his virginity, but was lacking in any of the social skills needed.

They were to be given a chance to get back into the big, bad outside world to see if they could function with some sort of independence from institutions. And so began their new life sharing an apartment in Oslow.

The Daily Telegraph said of it:
“ODD in the best sense of the word, just like its characters, Elling is a strange but utterly delightful theatrical gem.”

And it certainly was. Warm, tender, touching, and wonderfully funny in parts. It could have milked the characters for cheap laughs or camped it up as odd-couple movies sometimes do. But it didn’t; it slowly let the characters develop from ones fearful of everyday things like answering the phone and going outside their flat, to a couple a blokes who, with some awkwardness, were able to socialise a little and, yes, smoke and drink. I could feel the audience empathizing and willing them to succeed at each new hurdle.

We left the theatre uplifted and with so much to talk about.

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