Dramanon is a young Bangalore-based theatre group whose fortunes I have been following for a fair length of time now, and I have been impressed with their commitment to English theatre, given the obstructions that an amateur group has always to face: affordability of theatre space, funding obstacles, and rehearsal difficulties with day jobs to take care of. They like to choose plays, that, in their own words, “have spunk”, and this time, the play in question was Elling, Simon Bent’s adaptation of a cult Norwegian film, which in turn was based on a novel by Ingvar Ambjørnsen.
Elling tells the story of two of society’s outsiders who, having been released from a mental institution, have to work out how to adjust to living independently. The title character is a prissy self-declared mummy’s boy, petrified of the world outside; a man fond of hiding in wardrobes when things get too much for him. He dresses oddly, hasa methodical way of speaking and moving, and carries a note book around at all times into which he jots down stories and observations.
His roommate at the institution, and the man he is to share a flat with, is almost his complete opposite. Kjell Bjarne, is a lanky, hairy chap, not fond of washing and preoccupied with sex and women. Yet despite their differences, despite Elling repeatedly referring to Bjarne as an orang-utan, the two men have a real and touching friendship, they depend on one another. The bond that forms between them is touchingly highlighted in the scene where they exchange Christmas presents.
Having been given a place in Oslo to live by the state, they are assigned to a social worker, and warned that if they can’t get on in the outside world they will be sent back to the institution. Perhaps predicatbly, life on the outside proves difficult, and though their initial impulse is to hide away in their flat, with the help of a heavily pregnant woman and an aging poet, they gradually start to reengage with the world.