The play Manifesto 2083 examines the narcissistic world of Norwegian mass killer, Anders Breivik. Linda Herrick reports

When Norwegian right-wing terrorist Anders Breivik was preparing to commit mass murder in Oslo and the neighbouring island of Utoya in July 2011, he ran consumer tests of electric blenders to see which was the best one to help him make a bomb.

He bought 12 blenders and methodically started grinding three tonnes of fertiliser pellets. "More than half of them were completely useless," he moaned in his diaries. He needed a machine that had flawless circulation and worked quickly. Finally: "Found a perfect blender: Electrolux." He drove around Norway buying six Electrolux blenders and started work.

On day three of his grinding, he complained. "I could hardly move my fingers and I was certain that I had damaged them permanently."

It's a shame he didn't. But it's the little details which make Manifesto 2083, a play named after Breivik's pompous 1500-page manifesto, so repellent and fascinating. The play, written by Danish theatre-makers Christian Lollike, Olaf Hojgaard and Tanja Diers, was first staged in Copenhagen three years ago, just 18 months after Breivik's rampage. Based on Breivik's Manifesto - which includes diary notes, interviews with himself and propaganda - the drama caused upset and controversy but has since been performed in Norway, Britain and the Baltic States. Now it is coming to Auckland, a collaboration between director Anders Falstie-Jensen and actor Edwin Wright.

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"It's so mundane that the tool of the modern terrorist is the Electrolux blender," says Falstie-Jensen.

"It sort of speaks to his commitment that he drove around three cities looking for the blenders," adds Wright. "You can pick up any page of the Manifesto and the detail is incredible. There is pretty much no detail of the radicalisation. It's every single aspect of what he did and the process he went through - but with better options. It's like, 'I discovered this so you should do it because this is better'."

Breivik's Manifesto 2083 was not entirely based on his own belief system. He wasn't much of an original thinker. As the play points out, "the bulk of the text was copy-pasted from the works of various right-wing thinkers" and its main thesis was "that Christian culture is engaged in a deadly, decisive battle with Islam" which Breivik and others call the European Civil War. They predict it will reach its final phase in the year 2083.

Anyone who followed Breivik's acts of atrocity when the news of the attacks first broke and his subsequent arrest and court appearances will be familiar with his self-obsessed lack of empathy. A self-styled member of the "Knights Templar", Breivik, who was 32 when he went on his killing spree, posed for photos in a faux-military uniform, but was forced to appear in court in an ordinary suit.

"When they showed the footage of him in his uniform in court, that was when he started crying, out of pride," says Wright. "Breivik is easy to dismiss as a nut but there is a certain logic going on. He was incredibly committed, dedicated, his ideas were extreme and his behaviour was mad but he was not insane. That was one of the big things in court - his lawyers wanted to give a plea of insanity but Anders kept on saying, 'I'm not insane.' But they did diagnose him with extreme narcissism and delusions of grandeur."

The play opens with the words of Olaf Hojgaard who explains why he started reading Breivik's Manifesto, which is accessible via the internet. "It only takes him to page 18 to identify his enemy: political correctness and multiculturalism," he writes.

Those twin platforms gave Breivik the deluded justification for targeting the Norwegian Labor Party youth camp on Utoya Island. He despised the party because he saw it as too tolerant towards immigrants, thereby allowing the influx and spread of Muslims across Europe.

In the Manifesto, the man identified in court as a loner claimed to have friends. But, Falstie-Jensen points out, his small circle of friends had no idea who he really was. "They were not right-wing extremists and he was hiding his real self from his friends. That is really sad."

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"That's what happens with political correctness because you can't talk about these ideas," says Wright. "You can't have a rational, objective discussion about these issues without being accused of being a racist or a fascist."

In the days leading into Breivik's attacks, he practised a Japanese form of meditation called Bushido, which was adopted by troops during World War II to help suppress emotions. He used steroids to bulk up his physique and methamphetamine to increase his aggression. On July 22, he detonated a van bomb outside the Norwegian Parliament, which killed eight people. But it was a diversion. His targets were the young people on Utoya, who he gunned down methodically until he ran out of ammunition; he killed 69 and wounded more than 200.

"We've got the map that comes up as the show continues," says Falstie-Jensen. "It shows his route as he moves around the island in stages."

"The police took so long to get there," explains Wright. "The communication between the different authorities was mixed up because of the bombing. Then, when the Norwegian police team finally got there, they jumped into an inflatable dinghy to get across but they took too many people, the dinghy took on water and they got stranded. They had to get rescued by a fisherman and they took 80 minutes to get there. Breivik said he expected to wake up in hospital, if alive at all. But he had run out of ammo so when they arrived he just gave up.

"There are photos of him calmly walking around the island showing officers, pointing to what he did. He had taken methamphetamine to jack himself up. He was complaining about dehydration and a cut on his finger. As an insight into his narcissistic nature, when the cops were taking off his clothes to take photos, he started posing. It's mind-numbing."

Anders Behring Breivik. Photo / AP
Anders Behring Breivik. Photo / AP

Falstie-Jensen and Wright say that as they have been rehearsing, they have been discussing what's happening in Europe right now, with the flood of refugees from the Middle East pouring in and the responses from governments ranging from hostility to a more welcoming stance.

"What I find really interesting about the play is that it talks about what Europe will look like in 2083," says Falstie-Jensen, who hails from Denmark. "I was thinking the other day about what kind of world is my son going to be in. We don't really think that far ahead but at this moment in time something is happening."

Performance

What:

Manifesto 2083

Where and when:

The Basement, September 29-October 3