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The 2012 Ibsen Festival Ė the whole population in the theatre!

By: Benedikte Berntzen and Jens-Morten Hanssen

Logo Ibsenfestivalen 2012

As usual here at Nationaltheatret we aim sky high, plumb the depths, and embrace with wide open arms, said Artistic Director Hanne Tømta when she launched the program for this autumn’s Ibsen Festival. The Festival dates are from 23 August to 9 September and the program includes four Nationaltheatret productions, one co-production, six guest productions, one photography exhibition and one award ceremony. The overall theme is the individual and society, or ‘I and the others’. With one exception, the guest productions come from Europe. Nationaltheatret’s Contemporary Festival has been closed, but is resurrected as an integrated part of the Ibsen Festival with productions by the two contemporary playwrights Arne Lygre and Fredrik Brattberg.

Nationaltheatret Productions
The Festival opens 23 August with a commissioned work by the German performance cooperative Rimini Protokoll: An Enemy of the People in Oslo. The directors Helgard Haug and Daniel Wetzel from Rimini Protokoll want to stage the city of Oslo, no less, with starting point in Ibsen’s play. 100 representatives from Oslo’s population will be chosen according to statistical criteria such as sex, age, suburb, country of origin. These 100 people will come up on Nationaltheatret’s Main Stage and be asked to make decisions on behalf of Oslo’s population. How do they react to Dr Stockmann’s "truth"? How do the principles of democracy influence the integrity of every individual?

The three other Nationaltheatret productions are Peer Gynt, directed by the Lithuanian Oskaras Korsunovas (opening night 25 August, Torshovteatret), The Wild Duck directed by the Swedish Anders Paulin (opening night 4 September, The Main Stage), and Arne Lygre’s play I Disappear directed by Eirik Stubø (opening night 24 August, The Attic Stage). Arne Lygre has since his debut play in 1998 slowly but surely made a name for himself as a playwright next to Norwegian theatre’s giants, Ibsen and Fosse. I Disappear premiered at Théâtre de la Colline in Paris in October 2011 to excellent reviews.

Great expectations are also attached to Anders Paulin’s The Wild Duck; a production in which the attic and the wild duck won’t be an original home with a somewhat original pet, but aims instead to highlight the division between us and nature. If the human being insists on domesticating everything which is not like us or can live like us, who is actually paying for our freedom? Paulin asks.

The year’s wild card may well be Peer on a Pallet, a co-production with Teater Joker (which translates as Theatre Wild Card) from Oslo. We will recognise the form from Peer’s own characteristics: it is playful, imaginative and surprising. Peer on a Pallet is the Festival’s investment in young audiences, and two of the performers come straight from auditioning to the Amfi Stage.

A Doll’s House, Theater Oberhausen, photo: Thomas Aurin
A Doll’s House, Theater Oberhausen, photo: Thomas Aurin

Guest Productions
This year the guest productions come from Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Australia and Norway. The Belgian theatre company tg STAN, which presented a distinctive interpretation of An Enemy of the People at The Theatre Garage in Bergen in 1998, opens their production of A Doll’s House at Black Box Teater, 24 August. The company is known for their actor-oriented and undogmatic approach. They work without a director and dramatise social and political issues without moralising. From Belvoir St Theatre in Sydney comes The Wild Duck in a radically modernised version adapted and directed by Simon Stone, characterised as a "bitter-sweet portrait of a dysfunctional family".

Guest productions from Germany are the rule rather than the exception at the Ibsen Festival. Theater Oberhausen’s A Doll’s House was singled out as one of German theatre’s ten best productions in last year’s season and was presented at Berlin Festspiele’s Theatertreffen. Since then the production has toured to the Czech Republic and Poland, and will be performed on Nationaltheatret’s Main Stage 28 and 29 August. Included in the Festival program is The Returns by the young, Norwegian playwright Fredrik Brattberg. His Absurdist comedy premiered at Dramatikkens Hus in Oslo during the Drama Festival last year. The play’s second production is directed by Tyra Tønnessen in Malersalen 30 August.

The Presentation of the International Ibsen Award
During the Festival, Heiner Goebbels will be presented with the international Ibsen Award for 2012. For the first time, the winner’s artistic work will be included in the Festival. Goebbels brings with him no less than two of his productions from Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne in Switzerland, Stifters Dinge and eraritjaritjaka (a word in an old Australian Aboriginal language which means ‘longing for something lost’). Goebbels challenges our traditional concepts about a theatre performance, and creates a style of performance art which defies all ideas of genres, in which music, text, light and imagery flirt with each other in surprising and paradoxical ways. Stifters Dinge plays in The Cannon Hall in Løren 7 September. If you are curious about pianos lying on their sides playing by themselves, water bubbles, shadows, smoke, music, voices reading from Adalbert Stifter’s texts and from an interview with Claude Lévi-Strauss, you should make a note of the date. Eraritjaritjaka is performed on Nationaltheatret’s Main Stage 8 September. The actor André Wilms plays around with texts by Elias Canetti, Mondriaan Quartett answers with Shostakovich, Bach and Bryars.

The Photograph Exhibition
The foyer of the Nationaltheatret will be filled with portraits of the theatre’s actors. The photographer Amy Arbus from New York has been invited; she is famous for her book The Fourth Wall with portraits of actors on- and off-Broadway in costume and make-up, but removed from their original contexts. In addition, the Festival will present a program of affiliated arrangements which are currently being planned.

See Nationaltheatret’s webside for further information: