I was at the Old Vic last night to see the new stage production of Fanny and Alexander that opened last month. Fanny and Alexander is probably Ingmar Bergman’s most well known and also most accessible film winning him the Academy Award for best foreign language film in 1984. I sometimes struggle with Bergman but I love Fanny and Alexander and the Christmas scene at the beginning is by far the most wonderful portrayal of a Swedish Christmas that I know (I watch it every Christmas).
I went to see the play with a slight sense of trepidation, not quite sure what British theatrical creatives would come up with in a stage adaptation. But Stephen Beresford had done a wonderful job with a clever balance of the funny and entertaining with the dark and cruel. The acting was in part excellent Penelope Wilton as Helena Ekdahl was a strong and humorous matriarch presiding over her complicated theatrical family and Kevin Doyle played the evil bishop with a chilling stillness. I also enjoyed Michael Pennington’s performance as the endearing and kind ‘Uncle’ Isaak.
The production managed to feel sufficiently Swedish despite being acted in English; I was impressed with the singing of Sweden’s most well known drinking song, Helan går and the catchy Christmas song Nu är det Jul igen. Bergman’s film is a very hard act to follow but this play succeeded in capturing the powerful, funny and moving story of Fanny and Alexander to a degree that I, for one, was not expecting. I talked to a member of the Old Vic’s staff after the performance and she mentioned that Pernilla Allwin, who played Fanny in the film, had been in to see the play and given it her firm seal of approval which I think says a lot.
Fanny and Alexander runs at the Old Vic until 14th April 2018.
A new year and theatre in London is thriving with many exciting, interesting plays taking place. Two with a Scandi connection are a fabulous production of the great Norwegian playwright Ibsen’s Ghosts, currently showing at the Trafalgar Studios after a sellout run at the Almeida. Directed by Richard Eyre, this is a hugely powerful production with some really fine acting from Lesley Manville. It is however, pretty intense and harrowing; if you are looking for something cheerful and uplifting to kick off 2014, this is perhaps not for you.
For fans of Danish TV series Borgen (I am a huge fan), actress Birgitte Hjort Sorensen (who plays the feisty, ambitious journalist Katrine), is currently appearing in an acclaimed production of Coriolanus at Donmar Warehouse. Tickets are very hard to come by but the Borgen star is apparently brilliant in it.
Otherwise for those who can’t make it to the theatre, the second series of Swedish-Danish co-production, The Bridge is currently airing on UK screens on Saturday nights. The series is, I think, even more gripping than the first one with fascinating character development from sparring partners Saga and Martin.
I have just returned from a fabulous week in Stockholm- caught up with lots of friends, walked a lot, went out on the Archipelago one day and visited a couple of my favourite restaurants and cafes to have the obiligatory kanelbulle (cinnamon bun) and räk smorgås (prawn sandwich)- in Sweden prawn sandwichs are piled high with prawns (not like the token shrimp one gets in the UK) cholesterol heaven. I also managed to fit in a glass of champagne with Toast Skagen- deliciously decadent.
A statue at Drottningholm
Enough of food! A cultural highlight of the trip was a visit to Drottningholm Court Theatre to see Il Matrimonio Segreto by the eighteenth century composer, Domenico Cimarosa. Drottninghom theatre is a beautifully preserved Baroque theatre in the grounds of the palace on the island of Drottningholm, easily reachable by Stockholm by boat (the best approach). The theatre was the inspiration of Queen Louisa Ulrika and was cultivated by her son Gustav III, a major patron of the arts. The theatre fell into disuse after the death of Gustav III in 1792, but was revived again in when the perfectly intact sets and scenery were discovered by historian, Agne Beijer in 1921. These exquisite eighteenth century sets and stage mechanisms are still used in performances today and a visit to an opera at Drottningholm is akin to being transported back in time- a real cultural gem.
I went to see Krister Henriksson (best known in the UK for his role as the Swedish detective Wallander) performing in Doktor Glas at Wyndhams Theatre in London’s West End, the other night. As mentioned earlier in this blog, I had already seen the play when it was on in Stockholm but there is a lot to absorb and ponder and I enjoyed seeing it again although not quite as much as I did in Stockholm. This may have been because sadly the theatre was only about half-full, as opposed to a packed auditorium at Dramaten in Stockholm which made for a great atmosphere.
Heriksson was excellent in a highly intense role and the language (late nineteenth century Swedish) is, at moments, really beautiful. Doktor Glas, a classic Swedish novel by Hjalmar Söderberg, published in 1905, is brought alive by Henriksson. As one of the Swedish friends I went with commented, his character is much more likable on stage than in the book. One can’t help but have sympathy for his desperate, yearning unrequieted love. The play only runs for another two weeks so hurry to see it!
Doktor Glas runs at Wyndham’s Theatre until 11th May 2013.
It is extremely unusual to see a play in London’s West End in Swedish with English sub-titles. Yet this is what will happen in April as Krister Henriksson, known best to us as the opera loving, diabetic detective Kurt Wallander, takes to the boards in a one man stage adaption of Hjalmar Söderberg’s hauntingly gripping novel, Doktor Glas. Set in early twentieth century Stockholm, the book tells the story of a young physician who falls obsessively in love with one of his patients, Helga, the local priest’s wife.
I saw Doktor Glas when it was showing at Stockholm’s Royal Dramatic Theatre, and Henriksson really is fabulous. He was on stage, without an interval, for just under an hour and a half in a highly demanding role and held the audience captivated throughout. The actor got a standing avation, and in Sweden (not a nation known for outward displays of wild enthusiasm), this really is high praise indeed. Henriksson was good as Wallander but is exceptional as Doktor Glas; see the play at Wyndham’s Theatre from 16th April to 11th May.
Here is my first post. I spend a large bulk of my time working and enjoying Nordic culture, and I thought it would be fun to share my passion in a blog. From Nordic crime fiction to on the pulse Scandinavian fashion labels, Scandi culture is everywhere. There is more to enjoy than Wallander and The Killing. I hope to keep you updated on all things connected to Nordic style and culture.
For starters, If you missed Hedda Gabler on Radio Four today, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama recorded from the recent top-class Old Vic production, listen to it for seven more days on BBC IPlayer.