Terminal 3: Norén’s haunting drama explores ‘dark places’ within us all
Two couples sit anxiously in a hospital waiting room in deliberately unsettling and unexpectedly tender play
Thursday, 3rd June 2021 — By Lucy Popescu
Lars Norén. Photo: Lina Ikse
LARS Norén, who died in January this year, was regarded as one of Sweden’s finest dramatists. His stage play, Terminal 3 – produced in 2018 as part of a double bill at the Print Room in Notting Hill – is perfect for radio.
Two couples (played by Norah Lopez Holden, Joseph Ayre, Shaun Dooley and Jane Slavin) sit in a hospital waiting room. One pair is here for the birth of their first child; the other has been asked to identify the body of their son. Neither couple are sure that they are in the right place but for the older couple the waiting room feels oddly familiar.
As they wait, their anxiety grows and tempers fray. The older couple, we learn, are separated, while the younger couple appear to be on the verge of splitting up, just as their son is born.
With shades of Beckett and Pinter, Norén uses language to disorientate his audience. The characters leave sentences hanging, repeat phrases and fall into silence – what is unspoken is as important as what is said. As the couples watch each other suspiciously, their dialogues begin to overlap and echo each other.
Doors bang in the distance. Finally, a guard (Philip Bretherton) arrives.
“Are you the people who were supposed to be here?” he asks.
No one knows who he is addressing.
The guard leads the older pair into the mortuary, the other is directed to the maternity ward. Here they will either celebrate or mourn a life, learn to reconnect or begin to uncouple.
Norén’s haunting drama, brilliantly translated by Marita Lindholm Gochman and sensitively directed by Toby Swift, explores ordinary lives and the “dark places” within us all.
Terminal 3 is a slow burn of a play, deliberately unsettling and unexpectedly tender. Stick with it and you’ll be richly rewarded.