“Trapped” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at the June Havoc Theatre (Closed July 21, 2013)

Written and Directed by Henriette Rise
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

There is a remarkable gem playing at the June Havoc Theatre as part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival which needs more audience attention than it received at its first performance. Henriette Rise’s “Trapped” is a provocative, mind-bending play about the importance of not allowing creativity and freedom to be trapped by “structure, normality, society, and authority.”

Some characters like painters Raoul Dufy and Pablo Picasso and his mistress Dora Maar might be easily identifiable as is feminist Claude Cahun. They are cubist representations of themselves and “parts” of each other. It is not important to “identify” who these characters are; rather, it is essential to attempt to understand what they represent.

It is akin to reading T. S. Eliot’s “Wasteland” and not being satisfied unless ever reference is understood: if the reader gets lost in the minutiae of Eliot’s text, the reader will get lost and miss the poem’s major themes. Yes, it is important to understand the use of the camera in “Trapped” is a reference to Claude Cahun’s photographic work; however, the snapping of pictures could just be the characters’ need to capture significant moments in the movements on the play.

What is important in “Trapped” is playwright Henrietta Rise’s unyielding attempt to enable the audience to face its own entrapment in culture’s prisons. Rise’s surreal text, characters, and staging allow the audience to delve into its individual and collective unconscious to ferret out long buried images of freedom of expression and freedom of spirit.

Achieving true independence from restrictive cultural norms sometimes requires re-creating, revolution, and revision of the past. However, even these extreme measures are sometimes temporary. It seems easier for society to “treat” the problems it creates than to “change the water,” change the nourishing environment of its citizens. Classrooms remain stale and do not allow students to ask rich questions of themselves and one another; financial institutions continue to oppress and impoverish those they are supposed to serve. People are not allowed to love the person they choose to love and homophobia and sexism continue to enslave and destroy the human spirit. Women are in danger of losing control of their own bodies.

Survival requires change and this powerful message of “Trapped” resounds throughout its ninety minute span. Kudos to actors Anne Bisgaard (Hannah), Laila Faris (Dora), Casper Hare (Raoul), Peter Lidegaard (Pablo), and Maria Kjaergaard (Claude) for the courageous and life-affirming work they create on the stage of the June Havoc Theatre. And kudos to playwright and director Henriette Rise who reminds the audience that the horrific things that happen to women happen “to others every day” and that in order to survive each artist (are we not all artists) must create a space to create.