A few years ago I laughed myself silly reading my husband's technical trade magazine. There was an article publishing the results of a scientific study using infrared cameras, digital imaging, electrical body sensors and loads of graphs and statistics. I have no idea how much money the study involved, but I bet I could have put an indoor swimming pool in my basement with the funds. The result of the study? Your head might get cold when you drive in a convertible.
Of course art never can compete with reality, can it? In any case, satire can be difficult when the target already looks like satire. Any political cartoonist can tell you that. And I expect it's one of the things that Kurt Johannesen, Arne Instebø and Espen Storstrand had to take into account when putting together their performance Skansemyren Ballklubb 1992-2014 (Skansemyren Football Club 1992-2014).
Liverpool coach Bill Shankly:
"Football is not a matter of life and death. It's much more important than that. "
The Ballklubb performance is a surreal documentary of a 7th rate football team in Norway and the lengths they went to in their quest to win a spot in the champion league. The scientific studies and resulting methodology is presented to us in the hour long lecture.
Everything has been taken into account.
How fast does grass grow? One of the lecturers demonstrates his ability to "hear" grass growing. Then explains his project while mowing the patch of lawn on stage. With a power mower. A loud one.
Events are analyzed and re-enacted: the quirky path of a football kicked by a Skansemyren player; the path of two pudding forms through a car when a driver slammed on the breaks; the path of a bullet through two bodies in Dallas, Texas in 1963. It all proves a point regarding the very laws of physics.
As for the players themselves? We aren't talking about measuring lung capacity and analysing diets. These scientists were serious. A good football player has a certain sparkle in his eye. So the Skansemyeren scientists inserted sparkles through plastic surgery.
A good deal of the humor is based on puns and the untranslatable. But then again, when you see a player at "practice" put on a plastic collar, the kind that prevents dogs from chewing on their stitches, and then fill the collar with gravel, you understand the concept of gravel training without getting the pun.
And then there's the talking noses and synchronized swimming. . .
Unfortunately there are no plans for another performance, but a book with documentary transcripts, photographs and 80 pages of footnotes is available at Kurt Johannesen's website: www.zeth.no.
I never doubted that football was theatre, but Kurt Johannesen, along with fellow football players Arne Instebø and Espen Storstrand, made it performance. While they probably alienate the die-hard football fans, and the stand-up style humor confused some members of the audience (who complained that the piece lacked "dramaturgy"), and even in the face of my complete ignorance of football, I enjoyed it and look forward to seeing Johannesen's next project.