The play begins with a funeral; the funeral of a celebrated writer, loved by many, eulogised as the "remarkable person" of the title. We hear from those whose lives she touched, whether directly or through the power of her work. But things aren't quite as we seem. As we witness scenes from earlier in the writer's career, we come to doubt the truth of what we're observing. Is this really her memorial… and are these really her friends?
A Remarkable Person is, at heart, the statement of a worldview – a vehicle for actor-playwright Pernille Dahl Johnsen to share her thoughts on life. She does it through the voice of The Storyteller, a character in the apparently-deceased author's most famous book; the play tracks the production of this magnum opus, offering intriguing insights into the conflicts inherent in a creative mind. The writer's emerging self-doubt is nicely portrayed, and her debates with other characters (some of whom may represent her younger self) are both intellectually stimulating and emotionally revealing.
The philosophy Johnsen expounds is a simple but powerful one. Speaking as The Storyteller, she develops a theory of "façade-o-mania": the idea that we are all obsessed with how other people see us, and with maintaining the image we present to the world. That straightforward thought develops in creative ways, until it inescapably overpowers its own creator's life – leading to the ultimate conclusion that only true self-acceptance can set you free.
It's an effective, inspiring concept, and I'd be genuinely interested to read the fictional author's book. But a great essay doesn't necessarily make a great play, and I found the narrative's episodic structure tiring after a while. Partly that's just the running time – 80 minutes is a long stretch to stay focussed on heavyweight material – and partly it's because the construction is complex, with shifts through time and a multitude of characters which I sometimes struggled to keep on top of.
That's no discredit to the cast, though, who wear a series of actorly façades of their own. Kristine Myhre Tunheim is particularly convincing as an opinionated student, living through a sudden moment of self-awareness; but the star of the show for me is Espen Oestman, who makes an other-worldly creative genius seem both aloof and needy. So as a performance it's impressive, and as an intellectual philosophy it's thought-provoking. As a play, it's just a little hard to get a grip on.