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Nordisk Teaterfestival 1984, Oslo Gautam Dasgupta A hundred years separate us from that watershed era in the last quarter of the previous century when Ibsen and Strindberg forged a radical dramaturgy that would have global consequences. Products of their respective nation's social and cultural upheavals in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and confronting sensitive social issues with unabashed rigor, their own artistry in turn prefigured further eruptions in the social landscape, the effects of which-feminism, for instance-were felt more vigorously in our century. They both reflected upon a social milieu that was undergoing a high degree of civilizing process, a domestic and bourgeois turn in a region's history, which oddly enough had a living past immersed in fantastical tales of folkloric legend and Swedenborgian mysticism. Attuned to these contrasting strains in their culture, both Ibsen and Strindberg not only succumbed at times to these polarities, but often displayed disturbing dualities in their own nature and work. Ibsen, the champion of a liberating ideology and the author of Peer Gynt, was a bourgeois gentilhomme to the core. And Strindberg, that much-maligned misogynist, actually wrote -fervently, at times-pamphlets emphatically pro-feminist in intent. Furthermore, when rejected time and again for the Nobel prize, the students and workers of Stockholm presented him with an anti-Nobel prize, raising funds that accrue to this award on their own-this "son of a servant" fittingly idolized by the proletariat. And in today's Scandinavian (or Nordic-I shall use the terms interchangeably , despite objections by purists) theatre, these same touchstones -bourgeois familial strife, veiled mysticism, effusions of legendary Viking valor and disposition, and civic political strategems-define dramatic and theatrical practice. Or at least so it seemed from my viewing of four current productions this past summer in Oslo and Stockholm. Oslo played host to a relatively recent phenomenon-a Nordic Theatre Festival -that one hopes will soon be a regular feature in the international theatre festival circuit. By bringing together the most innovative productions from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland under a large umbrella for easy viewing, it also allows for a critical synthesis of the differing cultural assumptions of a region more generally than not lumped together in indiscriminate fashion. At this year's festival, ten events were scheduled over a week-long period, with afternoons given over to seminars and conferences between delegates from the participating countries. The stellar attraction, judging from guests and critics alike, was Lars Noren's Natten Ur dagens mor, a Swedish entry 83 SKILSMISSE from the Malmo Stadsteater, a production I had to miss. Of the three that fell to my lot-Skismisse (Divorce) from Iceland's Reykjavik Teater, Prometeus i saksen (Prometheus Trapped in the Cutting Room) from Denmark's Svalegangen, and Huojuva talo (The Tottering House) from Finland's Villmanstrand Stadsteater-the most compelling was the Finnish entry. The Danish production dealt with the conflicts of a broadcast room sound engineer whose job is splicing "reality" for the entertainment of his listeners. Through a series of monologues and pleasant exchanges with his colleagues and bosses, we are enlightened about the awesome responsiblity of the media, a hackneyed theme presented in a box set with seemingly minimal exercise of any theatrical imagination. The engineer preyed upon by social forces supposedly lends to the play its Promethean aspect. Skilsmisse, a tale of divorce and emancipation of an estranged wife, employed dream sequences, half masks, and choreographic segments set within an antiseptic, modular set, the last affirming one's adulation of Scandinavian furniture design. Although by no means a trenchant treatment of the play's theme, it does offer up a curious amalgam of Ibsenite and Strindbergian concerns, the production attaining a certain level of interest as a soclo-cultural artifact. Directed with deftness and a keen eye for detail by Kjartan Ragnarsson, the play also resonates with the tense economic and political situation in which Iceland finds itself in relation to the rest of Scandinavia. 84 The Finnish engagement, a lavish rendition of early twentieth-century Finnish short-story writer and playwright Maria Jotuni's major novel, adapted by Maaria Koskiluoma and directed by Eija-Elina Bergholm, was...


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