In a grimy, isolated hospital, three nurses are going stir crazy. There are no patients. Clearly, there have been no patients here for a long time. Occasionally a military helicopter files overhead. It seems they have been forgotten.
Nordic dance company Jo Stromgren Kompani’s The Hospital is a feverish and deliciously weird dance theatre piece. It’s also wickedly funny.
The characters speak its in a mangled, mostly impenetrable version of Icelandic, so the story is told predominantly through movement. Clad in starched, though no longer white uniforms, the trio perform a series of games and rituals to pass the time. One of the nurses will injure herself in order that the others can go through the process of treating her. Two of them wait for the bossier third nurse to fall asleep so they can strip to their knickers. They crack open the medicine cabinet and go on a pill-binge, gleefully stuffing tablets into their mouths.
The piece premiered in 2005 and has toured frequently since but it remains distinctive with an appealingly twisted wit. Stromgren’s choreography mixes ritualised movements with something akin to slapstick. The performers are all gifted physical comedians, but this is particularly true of Ingrid Enger Damon, whose impersonation of/metamorphosis into a horny American soldier, is quite a thing to behold.
Somehow the piece ingeniously operates as both a warped comedy about a group of women cooped up and losing it, and an evocation of madness and loneliness, institutionalisation, care and communicative breakdown. With some spitting thrown in for good measure.