On a bare stage with only a microphone as a prop Nostbakken convincingly conjures up figures from Nathalia’s life and charts her growing psychosis. It is a riveting performance particularly disturbing when Nostbakken stands dead still staring wet-eyed at something only Nathalia can see.
The factor that prevents the play from being a complete success is the method by which Nostbakken tells the story. She sings the whole script a cappella. Nostbakken has an excellent voice and can deliver the material well. But she does not compose any actual songs rather just sings her script to a jazz/scat rhythm that lacks variety and, after awhile, gets monotonous. Only towards the end does the music and performance combine in a way that allows Nostbakken to icily demonstrate Nathalia’s disassociation from her family and, ultimately, from reality.
It is a shame that the obvious passion behind The Big Smoke is not reflected in the dull music that prevents the evening from being a more powerful experience.
- Dave Cunningham