your Update on swedish drama and portraits of fourteen swedish



your Update on swedish drama and portraits of fourteen swedish
your Update on swedish drama and
portraits of fourteen swedish playwrights.
selected by independent columnist
ylva lagercrantz spindler,
presented by the swedish arts council
introduction: 3
portraits: 12
support: 50
addresses: 52
gruppen (the group), see page 6, Photo agnes söderquist. right: the dramalab, photo josé figueroa
the theatre year 2012 saw almost a hundred Swedish plays premiered in
Sweden. This serves to highlight the degree to which new dramatic talents have
flourished in the last ten years, owing in part to the boom in “hothouses” that
several theatrical institutions set up at the beginning of the twenty-first century
– inspired by the model of the Royal Court Theatre in London. These meant
that promising young playwrights such as Mattias Andersson (see page 19)
were given the chance to develop their writing in
an in-house environment. A consistent aim of the
Dramalab in Stockholm has been to create an
opportunity for the work of young dramatists to be
seen and evolve through projects such as the Dramatic Laboratory Network, a European network of
theatres that work with new writing. Another project that serves to improve the climate for Swedish
playwriting is “NY TEXT!” (New Text), Sweden’s
largest script competition, which takes the form of
a cooperative enterprise between Riksteatern (the
National Touring Theatre) and a range of county
theatres and independent theatre groups, and whose goal is to uncover major new
playwriting stars. All this is to name only a few of the many projects working as
fertiliser for Swedish drama.
But there can be no new growth without the proper topsoil. Since the early
twentieth century Swedish theatre has profited from the firm foundation of
institutions that are financed by the government as part of efforts to further
democracy. The National Touring Theatre was actually established in 1933 with
the aim of contributing to popular education and the first county theatres were
set up in the 1970s; there are now 19 of them including all those institutions
with a regional remit intended to develop the cultural infrastructure of the
country. Great icons of the theatre such as Ingmar Bergman and August
Strindberg have, of course, also ensured that Sweden has long had a significant
place on the international theatre scene.
An alternative theatre world has also developed a powerful presence in the
shadow of the major institutions. Teatercentrum (an organisation representing
independent theatre groups in Sweden) has 77 members. The number of independent ensembles is obviously significantly greater but harder to calculate as
there are no reliable statistics available, although a figure of around 250 fringe
theatre groups seems credible. Some have their own in-house dramatists who
write individually or collectively with the ensemble, including Turteatern’s
Nils Poletti, Moment’s Andreas Boonstra and Pontus Stenshäll, Teatr Weimar’s
Jörgen Dahlqvist and Teater Trixter’s Petra Revenue. This is the kind of play3
writing the major institutions frequently draw inspiration from. It is also
becoming increasingly common for the institutions to invite dramatists from
the independent theatre groups to work with them for a set period in order to
provide a form of cross-pollination on the model of the bee-hive. The Royal
Dramatic Theatre, for example, gave Nils Poletti free rein to create four plays
during the Strindberg Centenary Year 2012 under the rubric of “Satan’s Strindberg”, one of which was sensationally entitled “The Royal Dramatic Theatre
Rumble Wrestling Fight Night Forever! – The Father vs. The Creditors” with
Strindberg’s classic plays enacted as a wrestling match.
International Swedish Drama
Can anything really be called Swedish drama in 2014? In an era of high technology that offers more diversity than ever before and the rapid cross-border
exchange of ideas the answer would have to be doubtful. There are, it is true,
play titles made up of the names of Nordic animals, such as Kristina Lugn’s
“Look, an Elk!”, Gertrud Larsson’s “Elkhunting” and Anders Duus’ “Wolf”. It is
also true that a great many plays deal with melancholy and isolation in sparsely
populated areas. And some plays, too, are born out of a specific local context
that would obviously be difficult to recreate outside Sweden, such as Mattias
Andersson’s “The Mental States of Sweden” and Cristina Gottfridsson’s
“Malmö for the Fittest”. But a closer look at contemporary drama as a whole
almost always reveals its global stamp – images and fragments from the currents of the social media, youtube, the blogosphere and news sites – no matter
where they are created. New Swedish drama could scarcely be more relevant
considered from this perspective.
Swedish Gloom as a Creative Force
There are nevertheless a good many fascinating peculiarities of Swedish drama,
minor but telling features such as the scent of a damp cloudberry moor, a forest
of firs groaning under the weight of snow – and a sense of Angst as black as
night. The most significant of these, though, would have to be the gloom and
doom that are said to permeate Swedish culture as a whole. Just think of films
such as Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal” (1957) and “The Autumn Sonata” (1978)
and the socially realistic children’s literature of more recent decades that has
been brave enough to deal with very challenging subjects from the perspective
of the child.
Swedish children’s theatre has a long history of courageously tackling difficult
subjects within the field with pioneering works such as Suzanne Osten’s
“Medea’s Children” and Björn Lindström’s “Alchohol” that were both premiered
at the Unga Klara theatre in Stockholm – in 1975 and 1978 respectively. The
same decade saw the rise of what came to be called “placard theatre”: theatre
with a political message that was concerned with social problems, environmental
”the royal dramatic theatre rumble wretsling fight night forever! – the father vs. the creditors”
at the royal dramatic theatre, photo Markus Granqvist
issues and women’s liberation and would dominate the Swedish repertoire
throughout the 1970s. This very bleak, socially realistic form of political theatre
only began to subside in the 1980s and 1990s when it was increasingly replaced
by the commitment to art for art’s sake. Swedish theatre found new models in
the work of international touring artists such as Robert Lepage with his pareddown, hyperaesthetic works and Ariane Mnouchkine and her stagings inspired
by Asian culture.
However, it was also at the beginning of the 1980s that Lars Norén wrote
his bourgeois family dramas that would hold sway over the Swedish stage
throughout the decade, plays that depicted family life as a hellish nightmare in
the tradition of Eugene O’Neill – life as a cul-de-sac from which there was no
escape. But at the end of the 1990s he suddenly abandoned the theme of the
closed family to write about the subjects he had dealt with in his early novels of
the 1970s: addiction, prostitution and social exclusion – as in “Category 3:1”,
“7:3” and “The Shadow Boys”.
”the authors” at unga klara, photo Sara P Borgström
The Twenty-First Century Turning-Point
But something started to happen at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Having focused primarily on the heritage of Strindberg and the Englishlanguage text-based tradition of theatre, Swedish playwrights began to wriggle
out of the confines of the straightjacket of naturalism and psychological realism and turned their gaze instead to German-language theatre and its
post-dramatic tradition that was less governed by feelings. Swedish theatre
practitioners started travelling to Berlin as though they had permanently
reserved seats on the low-cost airlines. Inspired by newfixed stars like
Roland Schimmelpfennig, Marius von Mayenburg and Elfriede Jelinek, they
brought an entirely new kind of theatre back with them, filled with bodily
fluids and powerful imagery, and one that was more physical, expressive
and political than had been seen at any time during the 1980s and 1990s;
a kind of theatre that would have an impact across the board albeit with
a Swedish twist all of its own in that it keeps one foot firmly planted in the
cradle of realism.
New Stories Seek Playwrights
And so what were Swedish playwrights writing about in the Noughties? Gender
and ethnicity are some of the themes of the last ten years that have been highlighted in particular, accompanied by a fierce debate on representation that is
still going on. By that is meant: just whose narratives are actually being visualised on stage – and in what way? The outcome in terms of art has been a
wealth of plays and new theatre groups that turn current norms on their head,
such as the independent theatre group Gruppen (The Group) with shows such
as “Gruppen goes onda kvinnor” (The Group “Goes” Evil Women) in which the
image of woman as victim – even when she is the perpetrator – gets completely
inverted, while Marcus Lindeen’s “The Regretters” deals with two people who
regret their sex-changes, a play that was also turned into a film and television
production. The debate on the nature of representation on stage is captured
perfectly by Alejandro Leiva Wenger in his play “The Authors” (2013), which
introduces a much-needed sense of detachment to the theatre debate of the
last decade on the search for authentic narrative voices, a debate that despite
good intentions can verge on the outré.
Reality as Art
Another defining feature of contemporary drama is the documentary element,
a trend that has also become more pronounced within the world of film and in
literature with the publication of more and more biographies. Many new plays
are based on empirical material and so approach the working practices of journalism. Some of these works have been written on the basis of interviews,
minutes and court judgments in which fiction and reality often merge together
to provide an ambiguous meta-perspective; as, for instance, in the work of
Gertrud Larsson who chooses to depict work environments such as the Swedish
Migration Board and the country’s Social Insurance Agency (see page 35).
Marcus Lindeen’s “A Lost Generation”, which deals with youth unemployment
also uses documentary voices simultaneously interpreted by actors over
Another obvious trend is to combine the local angle with the documentary element and base the work on the question: How are people doing
where I happen to live? By bringing together the form of the dreamplay with a
journalistic ethos, site-specific works are produced that create a network of
contemporary voices and provide a cross-section of the local population who
are both participants and observers.
An old “new wave” that has swept across the country in recent years is the
political. To such an extent that the Tribunal theatre in Stockholm even
launched a political drama school in the autumn of 2013 aimed at practitioners
from every category within the profession. But now in the twenty-first century
we are no longer dealing with the return of the placard theatre of the 1970s but
a different kind of manifesto theatre that combines poetic and heightened
elements with humour and in which politics flows like a submerged current
through our unconscious minds.
The Monologue as Confessional and as a Marker
of the Contemporary
A dramatic form that has featured particularly strongly in Swedish theatre over
the last ten years is the monologue: written, produced and performed by the
same individual. It is young women in particular who opt for this genre and
make a name for themselves with self-revealing documentary accounts of
everything from addiction to obesity. Among the pioneers are Lo Kauppi and
her “The Rockblaster’s Daughter Who Exploded” and Lotti Törnros’ monologue
“My Life as Fat”, both of which were premiered in 2004. Anna Vnuk’s dance
performance “Solofestival with Myself” (2008) should also be mentioned here.
The genre includes more fictional variants as well such as Malin Andersson’s
“Dirty Dancing” (2004) and Shima Niavarani’s “Autodidact in One-man-show”
(2005). One current example is provided by Sanna Sundqvist’s “I Ought to be
Given Some Kind of Prize”, which she wrote together with Elin Brogan: a monologue about co-dependency and alcoholic parents that was performed at the
Royal Dramatic Theatre in autumn 2013. What all these playwrights have in
common is that the monologue proved to be the launch pin for successful
careers in the theatre. Several of them are considered to be among the most
exciting talents in the new generation.
A Select Few
There are several Swedish dramatists it is essential to mention here who have a
relatively small but all the more stylistically influential number of plays to their
name. Lotta Lotass and Katarina Frostenson belong in this category; both are
lyric poets and members of the Swedish Academy and they have also written
a handful of plays in the same vein. Lotta Lotass’ works include her Beckettrelated debut “The Hoarders” (2005), which was chosen for inclusion in the
Swedish Theatre Biennale of 2007, and “Everest” (2011) about the third British
expedition to climb Mount Everest in 1924. Katarina Frostenson’s plays include
“Four Monologues” (1990) as well as “Salpetrière” and “Traum”, poetic plays
in the spirit of Maurice Maeterlinck that take as their theme the connections
”i ought to be given some kind of price” at the royal dramatic theatre, photo Sanna Sundqvist
between language, thinking and identity. Magnus Dahlström should also be
included in this group with plays such as “Tourists” (2007,) a very dark and
absurd guided tour that in terms of its external framework brings Michel
Houellebecq’s “Platform” to mind. Here, too, belongs the writer Sara Stridsberg,
with successful novels to her name such as “The Dream Faculty” (2006) and
“Darling River” (2010), who has written several plays, including “Valerie Jean
Solanas Will be President of America“ (2006) and “Dissection of a Snowfall” (2012).
Then there are those, of course with even fewer plays to their name: the
rookies who it is worth keeping an eye on. Among these mention should be
made of Mattias Brunn who toured successfully in 2007 with “... After Fredrik”,
which looks at HIV from a different angle. And so should Åsa Olsson and her
interesting plays such as the documentary-like “I Do for Money” (2008) about
sexual exploitation, which was also turned into a film – and Astrid Menasanch
Tobieson who recently wrote “One Hundred Children” about Chinese child
refugees who disappeared without trace in Sweden in 2007.
Interactive and Interdisciplinary
“tourists” at gothenburg city theatre, photo ola kjelbye
Several of the dramatists presented in this catalogue mainly write for children
and young people, a fact that owes a great deal to Suzanne Osten’s empirical and
pioneering research work with Unga Klara, where no subject was considered
too difficult for children. Her mantle has now been picked up by dramatists
such as Erik Uddenberg who has been responsible for many of the dramatisations and new plays produced by the same theatre. Ann-Sofie Bárány’s play
“Babydrama” for children starting at less than a year old should also be mentioned in this context as one of the norm-breaking productions by Unga Klara
of the current century. Malin Axelssson, Emma Broström, Rasmus Lindberg
and Mats Kjelbye have been active in other theatres with work in the same
vein: drama, that is, written from the authentic perspective of a child but suitable
nevertheless for an adult audience. The development of theatre for children
and young people is also particularly relevant when attempting to identify new
trends. This is where they often appear first. As is currently the case with the
growing interactivity between the stage and the stalls, an inevitable consequence
of the gaming and participatory culture of the internet that has created interesting works.
It is also fascinating to follow the various forms of interdisciplinary theatre
that are becoming increasingly common. Theatre wedded to dance, circus,
performance and so on in new hybrids for the stage that do not always require
a traditional text-based script. A number of loosely composed artists’ collectives with no fixed ensemble, geographic limits or even a theatre building of
their own are also becoming an increasingly visible presence and this is
creating new challenges for the dramatist and increasing opportunities to
work in a more global context. All of this makes creating new stage idioms
and international collaborations within theatre more important than ever.
New Life on Stage
But just whose life are we being shown on stage? What is reality in a world
where the boundary between fact and fiction is being increasingly eroded by a
flood of unreliable sources on the internet? How are we to describe the isolation
and loneliness that are the consequence of cities becoming ever bigger at the
cost of a more depopulated countryside. What does “local” mean in an increasingly global world – and how is the drama to be created that has to interact
with all the new technology the theatre of the future will have to play with?
These are some of the questions our contemporary dramatists are struggling to
turn into theatre right now. You can read about a number of them in our
catalogue: a small selection of writers and their works who have been chosen
to represent the profusion of dramatists of all different kinds that Sweden,
our relatively small Nordic country with all its rich and diverse feelings and
experiences, has to offer.
14 portraits
and as many personalities
the writers guild of sweden has 320 members who write for the theatre.
Having to choose just fourteen of these talented, exciting and creative authors
has been a real challenge. Some of the key criteria have been: writing mainly
for the stage, having already produced a solid body of work, and being a
currently active feature of the Swedish repertoire.
Each of the writers who are portrayed here is a representative of his or her
generation as well as of a particular genre or orientation, such as Lars Norén
whose early works were located in the tradition of psychological realism;
Martina Montelius with her feet firmly planted in the cheerfully absurdist style
or Mattias Andersson who represents the strain of investigative journalism
in documentary theatre that has become increasingly significant during the
twenty-first century along with the docu-soap trend of contemporary television and the internet blogosphere. Here, too, you will find the more timeless
and lyrical dream-theatre of Kristina Lugn; the magical social realist works
Lucas Svensson has made his own and the theatre of intellectual and philosophical inquiry whose uncrowned queen is Christina Ouzounidis.
Several of the dramatists selected write mainly for children and young people,
including Anders Duus, Sofia Fredén and Johanna Emanuelsson, who have
been chosen to represent a cross-section of the profusion of high-quality
works for young people to be discovered within the range of Swedish drama.
What the reader will not find among these portraits is the theatre that is
created collectively and in which scripts are produced by the entire ensemble
or where the dramatic action is arrived at by improvisation. That also applies
to a number of young talents worth keeping an eye on. Dramatists who have
only written a single play, or a couple, but are all the more interesting because
they point to the capacity of a younger generation to renew the art of theatre by
creating genres we have as yet no name for.
Welcome to a smörgåsbord of as many narrative voices as there are different
and complex feelings in a country that is anything but undramatic.
Ylva Lagercrantz Spindler
Cultural journalist and theatre critic
Stockholm, November 2013
Despite their differing orientations, there are a number of connecting threads
between the plays discussed in these portraits. Many of them deal with alienation, while others tackle religion, racism and the lack of solidarity in a global
existence that has been made increasingly intimate by social media – while
also becoming more anonymous. This is the point at which it becomes clear
how important the stage can be as a physical space for encountering otherness
and as a place to deal with existential issues.
Klas Abrahamsson
Born in 1969 in Malmö
Education: University studies
Selected Plays: “Ingvar! A Musical
Furniture Tale” (2009) and “My Friend the
Fascist” (2012) both with Erik Gedeon;
”Here Comes the Sun” (2012),
“The Entrepreneur from Hell” (2013)
Selected Awards: The Thalia Prize
of the newspaper Kvällsposten shared
with Erik Gedeon for “Ingvar! A Musical
Furniture Tale” (2011)
klas abrahamsson has been working
as a dramatist both for the stage, and
for television and film, since the beginning of the 1990s. His greatest audience
success has been “Ingvar! A Musical
Furniture Tale” (2009), which he wrote
with the Swiss-Swede Erik Gedeon.
The premiere was held at the Deutsches
Schauspielhaus in Hamburg in 2009.
The play had its Swedish premiere the
following year at Malmö City Theatre, a
staging that was awarded Kvällsposten’s
Thalia Prize in 2011. Among the judges’
citations, it was referred to as “a bitingly
critical examination of capitalism, the
entrepreneurial spirit and Swedish
identity as reflected in the business
phenomenon that is Ingvar Kamprad”. It
was selected the same year for inclusion
in the Swedish Theatre Biennale held in
Gävle. With its peculiar blend of political
satire, musical and theatre, the play is
unlike anything else. It ingeniously
interweaves the image of the spotlessly
perfect Swedish Welfare State – a country made up of equal parts Nordic light,
midsummer blossom and social welfare
­– with the story of the furniture giant
who founded ikea.
Another successful musical drama
penned by the winning duo of Klas
Abrahamsson and Erik Gedeon is “My
Friend the Fascist” (2012). A few friends
meet up on holiday for a summer dinner
in the countryside, but soon previously
concealed prejudices bubble to the surface that will split the group up.
Klas Abrahamsson’s more purely
spoken dramas include “Life Arrived So
Suddenly” (2007), a small-scale humorous monologue about living with autism
that is regularly performed in Swedish
theatres. In this “Rain man”-story abnormal forms of behaviour are juxtaposed with conventional normality.
Or, as the character Annika wonders:
“Do you really have to be a complete
idiot to function in such a muddled
and illogical world?”
His most recent play “The Entrepreneur from Hell” (2013), is billed as
“A divine comedy about belief, hope
and developing your brand.” Here
we meet the long-term unemployed,
middle-aged mediocrity Irene whose
tipple is cheap bag-in-a-box wine and
who leads a fairly hopeless life – until
the day she falls into a coma and then
wakes up as a completely different
Klas Abrahamsson’s plays have
been translated into German, Danish,
English and Estonian as well as other
languages. He has written screenplays
primarily for television and film, including those based on Swedish crime
novels such as Henning Mankell’s “One
Step Behind”, one of many internationally renowned works about the policeman Kurt Wallander, and the multiple
award-winning novel “Sun Storm” by
Åsa Larsson.
left side and following spread: ”ingvar! a musical tale” at malmö stadsteater, photo: namn efternamn. photo above: Johan Sjövall
Mattias Andersson
Born in 1969 in Gothenburg
Education: The University of
Gothenburg’s Academy of Music and
Drama, 1990 -1993
Selected Plays: “In a Dark and
Northern Place” (2004), “Crime and
Punishment” (loosely based on the work
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 2007), “Contract
with God” (2008), “The Mental States of
Sweden” (2013)
Selected Awards: The Swedish
Theatre Critics’ Award for “Crime and
Punishment” (2007), the Theatre Prize
of the newspaper Expressen (2007),
the Swedish Theatre Critics’ Award for
Theatre for Children and Young People
for “Little King Mattias” (2009) and the
Thalia Prize of the newspaper Svenska
Dagbladet, shared with stage designer
Ulla Kassius (2013)
Mattias Andersson is a multiple award
winning dramatist, director and actor
who is artistic director of Backa Theatre
in Gothenburg, a rough-and-ready
former industrial site in the district of
Hisingen that fires the imagination of
artists and audience.
Although his career began as an
actor, he wrote and directed his first play
“And It’s Just by the Sea” as early as 1993.
It was followed by some twenty or more
plays, most of them radical deconstructions of familiar classics.
His most successful works include
his invigorating dramatic assassination
of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and
Punishment” (2007), a triptych of plays
for three different generations in which
he shifts the dramatic action to the contemporary world and the street outside.
The staging at Backa Theatre received
several accolades, including the Swedish
Theatre Critics’ Award in 2007 and
Expressen’s Theatre Prize. The version
for radio won the drama class of the
international Prix Marulic in 2010. This
work was also chosen for inclusion in
the Swedish Theatre Biennale held in
Borås in 2009. He has also, however,
written critically acclaimed plays without any dramatic forerunners such as
“Sex, Drugs and Violence” (2003) and
“Contract with God” (2008).
“Utopia” was given a fantastic
reception by the press as well; this is
an interview-based play about drug
culture that he wrote with Thomas More
based on the voices of “young addicts,
users, non-users and those who want
to change the world in Gothenburg in
2012” (quotation from Backa theatre).
The stage design of the production was
the work of Ulla Kassius – Mattias
Andersson’s permanent collaborator –
and was rewarded with two prestigious
prizes at the World Stage Design fair
held in Cardiff, Wales in 2013.
The play is significant in terms of
Mattias Andersson’s working process,
which employs the investigative methods
of journalism, in that it uses interviews
for its basic material. He used the same
technique to produce the drama “The
Mental States of Sweden” – about the
nature of psychological life in Sweden
in 2013. The play is a free-standing
continuation of his hit show “The Mental
States of Gothenburg” (2006). Critical
acclaim was also awarded to “A Dreamplay” – August Strindberg’s famous
piece, which became a situation report
on relations between the citizenry in
the hands of Mattias Andersson when
staged at the Stockholm City Theatre
(2012). It, too, was based on interviews.
By employing empirical and authentic material in such a consistent manner
Mattias Andersson has succeeded in
creating highly topical participatory
dramas that nevertheless possess an
unpolished immediacy; these are
fragments of contemporary life served
up with a classic as a temporal reference
and performances in which the audience
finds itself turned into a co-creator
on stage.
An example of interactive theatre
in which the play presumes that the
audience co-create the stage work is
provided by “Little King Mattias”, which
he based on Tanusz Korczak’s book of
the same name. It toured at the Nordic
Cool theatre festival in Washington, D.C.
in the winter of 2013. The author was
awarded the prestigious Thalia Prize of
the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in the
same year, shared with Ulla Kassius.
photo left: Ola Kjelbye. above: ”utopia” at gothenburg city theatre, photo: Ola Kjelbye
Anders Duus
Born in 1975
Education: The Dramatic Institute,
now part of the Stockholm Academy of
Performing Arts
Selected Plays: “Monday We Have
Fishballs” (2003), “It All Has to Go”
(2006), “Wolf” (2012), “Rain of Frogs Over
Fruängen” (2013)
Selected Awards: The Prize of the
Colombine Agency (2004), the Henning
Mankell-Scholarship (2006)
raised in the rural province of
Dalsland in western Sweden, Anders
Duus is keen to uphold a provincial perspective, although one with a universal
message. As in his play “Wolf” (2012) in
which he draws attention to the poisonous state of the policy on beasts of prey
in Sweden by depicting a struggle between the centre and the periphery that
takes the form of an encounter between
those who have to live with the practical
consequences of the wolf problem in
rural areas when their sheep are killed
and city-dwellers who have only read
about it in the press. But “Wolf” is far
from being a political pamphlet; instead it is a play with applicability about
relationships – seen through a “wolfscreen”. It was performed in the spring
of 2013 at Dalateatern as well as on tour
in northern Sweden.
Other interesting plays written by
Anders Duus include “Monday We Have
Fishballs” (2003) in which he depicts
the working life of a lowly school-meals
assistant; “It All Has to Go” (2006)
where he shows how the closing of a
factory can destroy an entire community; “The Getaway Car” (2005) in which
two children abandoned by the adult
world flee instead into a world of fantasy, while teenage friendship is the
subject of “Zombiefriends” – written in
the playwright’s authentic local dialect
– that of Åmål.
Trained at Dramatiska institutet in
Stockholm and having profited from the
emerging international dramatists’
programme of London’s Royal Court
Theatre in 2004, Anders Duus has written fourteen plays that are frequently
performed at venues all over Sweden,
many of them for children and young
people. Several have also been performed
abroad, such as “Waking Nights” which
was staged at Staatstheater Mainz in
Germany and “Now You’re God Again”
which has been performed in Norway,
Germany and Russia, while “It All Has
to Go” was selected for the prestigious
Stückemarkt at Theatertreffen in Berlin
in 2006.
In Sweden his plays have been performed by companies that include the
Royal Dramatic Theatre, Ung scen/Öst
and the National Touring Theatre – he
was also employed by the latter as
dramatist in residence (2005-2006) for
Unga Riks, an ensemble that performs
solely for children and young people. It
was here that he wrote works such as
“Now You’re God Again”, “The Mount of
Monkeys” and “Carl Philip’s Desire”. He
worked as dramaturge at the National
Touring Theatre until 2012.
In autumn 2013, his new play “Rain
of Frogs over Fruängen” was performed
at the Stockholm City Theatre, a black
comedy – seen through the screen of
a housing cooperative – of what can
happen when we have to save the world
from inside our homes. A hallmark of
everything Anders Duus writes is his
ability to avoid writing banally about
banal events; he never writes exotically
about rural problems or quasi-intellectually about anything for that matter, but
is always comprehensible – along with
a generous helping of imagination and
left: ”rain of frogs over fruängen” at stockholm city theatre, photo carl thorborg. photo above: gustaf waesterberg
johanna emanuelsson
Born in 1986 in Gothenburg
education: Drama/Dramaturgy
at the Stockholm Academy of
Dramatic Arts
selected plays: “Car Fires”
(2010), “The Älvsborg Bridge”
(2011), “95% of It Is Total
F***ing Darkness”, (2013) and
“The World’s Biggest Skinflint”
selected awards: Winner of
Riksteatern’s, the National Touring
Theatre’s, playwriting competition
“New Text” (2009), Winner of the
international drama competition
“New Baltic Drama” (2009), the
Best Newcomer Prize from the
Colombine Agency (2011)
rooky johanna emanuelsson has so
far only managed to write four plays for
theatre for children and young people.
So it is all the more impressive that she
has been awarded almost as many prizes,
including a win at the international drama competition “New Baltic Drama” for
her debut “The Älvsborg Bridge” (2010).
Her choice of subjects, such as loss,
exclusion and disillusionment, make
her something of a representative of her
generation: children in the 1980s who
grew up with absentee parents in a society with little vision and an image of the
future that was all the more dystopian.
Her debut play “The Älvsborg Bridge”
is about the dream of a different society
and how difficult it is to be a constructive person in an apparently destructive system. It was performed at Unga
Dramaten (the Royal Dramatic Theatre’s
venue for children and young people) in
2011 and directed by Annika Silkeberg.
In the autumn of 2013, Teater 23 in
Malmö staged “95% of It Is Total f***ing
Darkness”, a play about the class society
from the perspective of a child. The title
refers to the infinite darkness of outer
space as compared with one tiny person
in a society where children have long
been abandoned by adults. The play was
her exam submission for the Stockholm
Academy of Dramatic Arts.
She has also dramatised “The Sleeping People”, a book written by Sweden’s
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in
1993. The play was staged by the newly-formed theatre group The Sleeping
People in the autumn of 2013. In the
spring of 2014 she will start work on
dramatising another book by Fredrik
Reinfeldt, “The Stone in the Hand of the
Strong” of 1995.
Inspired by playwrights such as Bertolt
Brecht and Roland Schimmelpfennig,
she has said she writes plays because the
political scope available to her is inadequate. As she put it in her own
words, “I don’t think that the theatre
practitioner should be in the van of the
revolution, what I am trying to achieve
instead in my drama is to keep pointing
out the big connections I can make out;
I am wary of the purely personal as I
think that every choice you make is political and you have to keep undermining
She is currently writing a new
play for young people, “The Time of
the Sleepless” to be premiered at the
County Theatre in Örebro in spring
2014. Additionally she is working on a
dramatisation of Wilhelm Moberg’s
“The Immigrants”, while also writing a
play about structural violence against
women with the Zimbabwean dramatist
Leonard Matsa, and working on
the script of a feature film.
photo Jonas Jörneberg. above right: ”95% of it is total f***ing darkness” at teater 23, photo Amelie Herbertsson
sofia fredén
Born in 1968 in Gothenburg
education: University Studies and the
scriptwriting course for film and theatre at the
Dramatic Institute from 1992 to 1995
selected plays: “They Stood There and
Died” (2002), “Just the Child” (2005), “White
Baby” (2007), “Blood on Ice” (2013)
selected awards: The Swedish Theatre
Critics’ Award for Theatre for Children and
Young People for “Just the Child”, the Ibsen
Prize of the Swedish Ibsen Society (2008)
although sofia fredén writes scripts
for both the theatre and for film, radio
and television, her work has mainly
been for the stage. Thus far she has
some fifteen plays to her name. She has
also been a resident dramatist at the
Stockholm City Theatre. It was there she
wrote plays such as “Just the Child”, for
which she received the Swedish Theatre
Critics’ Award for Theatre for Children
and Young People in 2005.
In her absurd developmental comedy
“Little Life” (2007) she tackles middleaged people who are refusing to take
responsibility and young people who
refuse to become adults; this play was
her contribution to the hot INK Festival
in New York in 2008.
Backa teater in Gothenburg staged
the premiere in autumn 2013 of her
most recent play “Blood on Ice” – about
“artificial ice, genuine feelings and
cheating”. Here she depicts the life
behind the scenes of young people who
train and compete at figure skating, an
ice festival with a bloody surprise, in
which the entire theatre is the set and
gets transformed into a vast ice rink. In
terms of its subject matter, “Blood on
Ice” hits the bull’s eye in a number of
ways in relation to an era when competition is everything – when either you
win or you lose any chance of social
acceptance because your existence
can only be justified in terms of getting
the thumbs up or down, of being liked
or not.
In her play for children “I Paint My
Sky Orange” (2013) Sofia Fredén portrays the everyday day life of a child
using a stylised aesthetic in which both
monkeys as teachers and stressed-out
parents share the stage as eight-yearold artistic Leo coats letters in paint so
left: ”blood on ice” at backa theatre, photo Ola Kjelbye. photo above: Annika Wiel Hvánnberg
as to make it easier to decode a world
composed of text. The Swedish school
system is also discussed in “Teacher for
Life” with farcical humour and satire.
Among her earlier plays mention
should be made of “Hand in Hand”
(1999), which has been performed
at theatres in France, Denmark and
Norway, and “They Stood and Died”
(2002), which has been staged at theatres in Germany. A children’s play that
is frequently performed as part of the
Swedish repertoire is “The Lone Cyclist”
about freedom and meeting people that
has a bicycle in the main role.
It is a feature of many of Sofia
Fredén’s plays for children that they are
just as suitable for an adult audience,
whereas her adult plays are often driven
by a socially satirical humour whose
target is adulthood itself.
Cristina Gottfridsson
Born in 1959 in Ystad
Selected Plays: “The Alco Hole”
(1999), “A Heartbeat Away” (2006),
“Malmö for the Fittest” (2013)
Selected Awards: The Cultural prize
of the City of Malmö and the Theatre
Prize of the Colombine Agency.
since her debut at Malmö City Theatre in 1994, Cristina Gottfridsson has
written some 35 plays that have been
performed in theatres both in Sweden
and abroad. Her work has also been
translated into several other languages.
Her plays revolve around various
forms of exclusion and are written with
equal measures of black comedy, social
commitment, absurdism and a powerful
feeling for language in an oeuvre that
comprises both drama for adults and for
children and young people.
Among her earlier plays mention
should be made of “The Alco Hole”,
which was originally premiered in 1999,
a children’s play about having a mother who drinks and a sister who mucks
things up – and “The Wife of an Unem-
ployed Paki” (2004), a full-length comedy set in the cellar of a high-rise. Two
plays that show Cristina Gottfridsson’s
breadth as a dramatist.
Her new play “Malmö for the Fittest”
was premiered in autumn 2013 at the
Malmö City Theatre, a black comedy
about Sweden’s third largest city, a place
that is simply home for some and a
battleground or jungle for others –
although it could actually be about any
city anywhere in the world. Here we
encounter characters from every social
level in a portrayal of the city as a wildly
bubbling cauldron that never sleeps and
where there are as many different survival strategies as there are inhabitants.
In spring 2014, the Uppsala City
Theatre will be staging her newly-writ-
ten play “The Case of Captain Dress”,
based on the true story of Göran
Lindberg who was head of the county
police in Uppsala until his arrest in
2010. His work to counter sexual discrimination and harassment was highly
regarded, but what no one knew was
that he was sexually abusing girls at
the same time.
The National Touring Theatre
will be mounting a new play by Cristina
Gottfridsson in spring 2014: “The Last
Cockroach”, a play for children and
young people about the end of the
world when the sole survivors are a
gang of mutated cockroaches. She is
also working on scripts for two feature
films: “Hidden Men” and “The Göran
Lindberg Case”.
photo Jimmy Gottfridsson. above right: ”malmö for the fittest” at malmö city theatre, photo Peter Westrup
Staffan Göthe
Born in 1944 in Luleå
Education: the University of Uppsala and
the Academy of Dramatic Art in Gothenburg
1969-1971 (now the Academy of Music and
Selected Plays: “One Night in February”
(1972), “A Stuffed Dog” (1986), “La Strada
Del Amore” (1986), “Brilliant Misery”
(1999), “Temperance” (2000), “Slavic
Dances” (2013)
Selected Awards: The Literis et Artibus
medal (2002), The Theatre Prize of the
Swedish Academy (2005) The “Hederspris”
of the City of Stockholm (a prestigious
cultural award, 2006), the Viveka Seldahl
Prize (2007)
Staffan Göthe is an actor, dramatist
and director who always seems to have
one foot firmly planted in a plucky
childhood on the cloudberry moors of
his native Norrland. At once downto-earth and existentially complex, his
plays depict with a sure hand the sadness of life and its tribulations, always
with a pitch-perfect sense of the spirit
of the times. And yet textually they are
far removed from the sombre and
melancholy writing of the vodka-belt.
The range of his gutsy characters in
all their burlesque and shackled lives
might just make him Sweden’s answer
to Federico Fellini.
As one of Sweden’s foremost
playwrights, his work features regularly
in Swedish theatres. Among his best
known plays are the suite about the
theatrical Cervieng-family and their
relationship with the Swedish welfare
”the star over lappland” at gothenburg city theatre, photo ola kjelbye. photo above right: Roger Stenberg
state, a kind of television series that
consists of the plays: “A Stuffed Dog”
(1986), “La Strada Del Amore” (1986),
“The Perfect Kiss (1990), “A Brilliant
Misery” (1999) and “Temperance” (2000).
Taken together they paint a fresco of a
generation and a lifetime that stretches
across the transformations of the
twentieth century, from an agricultural
to an industrial society while also
encompassing the discord between
the rural and the urban.
Staffan Göthe has written some
twenty plays since his debut with “The
Girl in the Aspen Tree” in 1972. In addition to his acclaimed Cervieng-suite,
mention should also be made of “The
Weeping Policeman” (1979), “The Perfect
Kiss” (1990), “Boogie-Woogie” (1992)
and “Change Pavements” (2001). One
rather odd gem is “The Star over Lappland” (2005), a triangular drama about
a cook, a design coordinator and a
tattoo artist.
In autumn 2013, Staffan Göthe’s
long-awaited new play ”Slavic Dances”
appeared; it was described as a “tragic
comedy”. It, too, features the Swedish
middle-classes, the conflict between
town and country, the past in relation to
a rapidly changing present – and how
people on this tiny planet try to manage
their lives with all this going on.
Since 1995 Staffan Göthe has also
worked as an actor at Sweden’s Royal
Dramatic Theatre where his performances in recent years have included
choreographer and director Mats Ek’s
acclaimed staging of August Strindberg’s “The Ghost Sonata” (2012). He
has been a professor at Malmö Theatre
Academy since 2004, where he was also
Vice-Chancellor from 1976 to 1979.
Jonas Hassen Khemiri
Born in 1978 in Stockholm
Education: Studies in Literature and
International Economics in Stockholm
and Paris.
Selected Plays: “Invasion” (2006), “God
Times Five” (2008), “Apathetic for Beginners”
(2011), “I Call My Brothers” (2012)
Selected Awards (theatre): The Obie
Award of the Village Voice newspaper for
“Invasion” (2011), The Ibsen Prize of the
Swedish Ibsen Society (2011), and the
Henning Mankell Scholarship (2011)
the plays of the novelist and
dramatist Jonas Hassen Khemiri have
already been performed in ten countries.
The unique way he plays with language
has been called pioneering. While this is
particularly true of his debut novel “Ett
öga rött” (One Eye Red, 2003) written in
an invented form of suburban Swedish,
which was turned into a film in 2007,
it also applies to “Montecore” (2006),
published in English as “Montecore:
Silence of the Tiger”, his comic novel
about the key issues of integration and
Raised by a Swedish mother and
a Tunisian father, Stockholmer Jonas
Hassen Khemiri might well be expected
to have a special feeling for issues to do
with identity in particular. In any case
that is the subject he returns to in his
writing time after time. As in the critically acclaimed “I Call My Brothers”,
a controversial column that discusses
his own prejudices and those of others
that was also published in book form
before being transformed into a play in
2012. Here we meet Amor who, because
of a car bombing and being the virtual
lookalike to the perpetrator that he is,
develops a paranoid fear of coming under suspicion from the people around
him. The play is based on a real event
that took place in Stockholm in 2012
when a young suicide bomber blew
himself up in the centre of the city.
“I Call My Brothers” may be seen as
a free-standing continuation of Jonas
Hassen Khemiri’s first play “Invasion”,
which was premiered at the Stockholm
City Theatre in 2006 and has also been
successfully staged in London, where it
was Time Out’s Critic’s Choice, and New
York, where it won an Obie Award in
2011 for best script. Here too the starting
point is identity, a subject of particular
relevance in a globally interconnected
contemporary world with ever looser
national boundaries in which our sense
of self is being formed by social contexts
rather than a genetic one.
In his play “God Times Five” that
sense of identity is filtered through a
rebellious class of teenagers who decide to portray their own dreams and
aspirations as part of a Swedish lesson,
while “Apathetic for Beginners” throws
a comic and ironic light on the baroque
aspects of Swedish immigration policy.
Jonas Hassen Khemiri is quite
simply a unique voice in Theatre Sweden
who is closer in stylistic terms to the
German abstract theatrical aesthetic
than to the psychological realism that
is so much the hallmark of the Swedish
theatre tradition. In his work the pen
is turned into a seismograph pressed
up tight against the skin of humanity
with all of us forming the crust. Playful
and critical at the same time, it worms
its way into our subconscious minds in
order to return with unique samples
that are transformed onstage into the
dynamite of the contemporary. These
are plays that inscribe themselves into
our hearts and minds and that are at
once political and poetic – but above all
constantly important and relevant.
photo: thron ullberg
”i call my brothers” by jonas hassen khemiri at stockholm city theatre, photo Petra Hellberg
Gertrud Larsson
Born in 1972 in Kristianstad
Education: the playwriting course at
The Dramatic Institute, 2001-2004, the
course in radio documentary-making at the
Dramatic Institute, 2007-2008
Selected Plays: “Pedal to the Metal”
(2007),“Asylum Shopping” (2009), “Blue
Wings (2011), “Dept. 305” (2011), “The
Happiest Chickens in the World” (2013),
Selected Awards: The Cultural Prize of the
Kristianstadsblad newspaper (2009)
Gertrud Larsson’s playwriting is a
peculiar mixture that combines political satire, activist theatre and poetic
dream sequences. In “Zoo/The Cannibal
Syndrome” (2013) she has two lesbian
women placed in a cage. Like museum
objects they then sit there exposed to
the public gaze, which brought the circus
freak-shows and their bearded ladies
uncomfortably to mind.
In “The Happiest Chickens in the
Word” (2013) she focuses instead on the
dark side of the poultry industry in a
comedy of relationships that questions
the assertion that caged birds that exist
solely to be fed and then die can really
be happy. Its staging at the Stockholm
City Theatre in the same year so upset Svensk Fågel, the country’s largest
supplier of chickens, that the company
published a press release in which they
denounced the image of their business
as portrayed by the theatre – which led
in turn to a furious media debate. Reality
becomes fiction and so becomes even
more real!
In “The Flying Administrator” she
pokes fun in rather dream-like fairytale form at the Swedish Social Insurance Agency and its rigid system of
rules. She uses the same kind of satire
to deal brusquely with the Immigration
Agency in her critically acclaimed piece
“Asylum Shopping”, a play with a cynical
title that she did not simply make up; it
is used in the Dublin Regulation to refer
above: ”zoo/the cannibal syndrome” at musik- och teatermuseet in stockholm, photo johan svenson. Photo right side: dan hansson
to individuals who seek asylum in several countries at the same time. In typical
Gertrud Larsson-vein, the play is based
on interviews, in this case with officials
at the Immigration Agency. She is fundamentally a journalist after all. That
means she can sniff out a good scoop
and is always at the head of the queue
when writing about urgent issues that
affect a wide audience; preferably with
musical numbers and a large helping of
the absurd into the bargain.
“Elkhunting” (2005) also bears witness to thorough research. For this work
she accompanied a team of hunters to
discover a world that was patriarchal to
its fingertips and full of masculine tradition and ritual. At the premiere at the
Regional Theatre in Blekinge Kronoberg
in 2005, some of the male roles were
played by women, which produced a
doubly comic effect.
Her new play “A Railway for All the
People”, about Swedish Railways and
its deregulation, will be premiered in
the spring of 2014 at the City Theatre
in Uppsala. She is also busy writing
“Glass-Jesus”, a play about the crisis in
what is known as the Glass Country
– an area of the Swedish province of
Småland where some of Sweden’s largest glassworks are located – to be premiered in Orrefors and Kosta in summer
2014. These two plays are also based on
real events in contemporary Sweden.
Kristina Lugn is one of Sweden’s foremost poets and dramatists. She has
been a member of the Swedish Academy
since 2006. From 1997 to 2011 she ran
the independent theatre Teater Brunnsgatan fyra in Stockholm. It is currently
under the artistic direction of her
daughter Martina Montelius, a dramatist
as well (see page 39).
She made her debut as a poet in
1972 with the collection “om jag inte”
[Unless I]. She began to write for the
theatre increasingly in the beginning of
the 1980s. Her breakthrough came in
1986 with the play “When Panic Broke
Out in the Collective Unconscious”. She
has written almost thirty plays in total
for both theatre, radio and television,
the majority during her time at Teater
Brunnsgatan fyra.
Among her most successful plays are
“Aunt Blossom”, “The Old Girls at Lake
Garda”, “The Women by Swan Lake” and
“Rut and Ragnar”. In “Aunt Blossom” we
about is my colossal fear of losing people,
myself included. That is my only subject.” Other key strands in her writing
involve the depiction of psychological
and physical exclusion and complicated
relationships as a whole, in tandem with
maintaining a permanent showdown
with verbal clichés.
Kristina Lugn’s plays are a continual
feature of the Swedish repertoire. “Stolen
Jewels” (2000), for example, about a redhaired poet who goes to bed with her
analyst, was premiered at the Stockholm
City Theatre in 2013. Her new farmyard
musical “Help Wanted!”, involving animals on stage and music by the former
ABBA duo of Benny Andersson and
Björn Ulvaeus, was staged for the first
time at the Orion Theatre in Stockholm
in spring 2013, a very dark comic piece
that fuses Swedish agricultural practices
with elements of the Bible and Beckett
and that thrilled the Swedish critics.
Education: University studies in
Uppsala and Stockholm, M.A. in 1972.
Selected Plays: “The Old Girls at
Lake Garda” (1993), “Aunt Blossom”
(1993), “The Women by Swan Lake”
(2003), “Rut and Ragnar” (2010),
“Hello, It’s Me Again (2014)
Selected Awards: The Selma Lagerlöf
Literature Prize 1999, the Bellman Prize
(2003), the Culture Prize of the Natur
och Kultur Foundation 2006
photo: dan hansson
Kristina Lugn
Born in 1948 in Tierp
encounter a childminder and a precocious baby who are both waiting
hopelessly for the one they love. In “The
Old Girls at Lake Garda”, two former
gymnasts are spending their holiday
running away from themselves. “The
Women by Swan Lake” is a wonderful
tragedy of errors that tackles love and
nuclear families, while “Rut and Ragnar”
is a murderously funny drama of
divorce in old age.
In stylistic terms Kristina Lugn
inhabits a border country between poetry
and drama, constantly dispensing ingenious word games, humorous metaphors and brilliant one-liners in a class
all their own. As in the line: “We’ve been
married for so long. Do you think we’ll
end up being directly descended from
one another?” (from “Rut and Ragnar”).
There is, however, frequently an existential
fear of death behind the jokes and the
irony. Or as the playwright said herself
in an interview: “What my writing is
“stolen jewels” by kristina lugn at stockholm city theatre, photo petra hellberg
above: ”mira walks through the rooms” at the royal dramatic theatre, photo sören vilks. Photo right side: Andreas Dienert
Martina Montelius
Born in 1975 in Stockholm
Education: Practically acquired at
Teater Plaza
Selected Plays: “The Epileptic
Landmark” (2002), “Gabriel” (2007),
“Mira Walks through the Rooms”
(2011), “Thord’s World” (2011)
Selected Awards: The Ibsen Prize
of the Swedish Ibsen Society (2010),
the Swedish Theatre Critics’ Award
for Theatre for Children and Young
People (2011)
Martina Montelius is a playwright,
director and author. Since 2011 she
has been the artistic director of Teater
Brunnsgatan fyra i Stockholm, which
was founded by Swedish theatre legend
Allan Edwall (1924-1997) and then run
by Montelius’ mother – the author,
poet and dramatist Kristina Lugn (see
page 37).
She made her debut as a novelist in
autumn 2013 with “Främlingsleguanen”
(The Alien Iguana), an absurd picaresque story of a five-year-old who resigns from the nursery class and goes on
a journey of discovery accompanied by
a German-speaking iguana. She writes
successful dramas from the same playful
starting-point that have been staged by
both fringe theatre groups and the Royal
Dramatic Theatre. A further fifteen plays
followed her debut with “Oh Dear, I Just
Turned a Bit Dull”, several of them for
children and young people but every one
of them written for people of all ages.
Her dramatic language is drastic,
poetic, philosophical and full of ideas.
Her plays create kaleidoscopic images
and the novel-length titles, such as “I
Woke Up in Baby-warm Cat Litter Loved
Beyond All Reason” (2001), are highly
evocative of what is to come – which
usually means both a sense of the absurd and a melancholy longing for love.
She was awarded the Swedish
Theatre Critics’ Award for “Mira Walks
through the Rooms” in 2011. She discusses step-siblings and alternative
family constellations in this play –
­ all
told from the true perspective of a child
– but with a sense of humour in particular. As when the lonely school nurse
Ingrid exclaims indignantly: “Since I live
with myself, can’t I count as a family?
I’ve got shared interests after all.”
Within the realm of family life
Martina Montelius focuses her gaze on
the relationships between parents and
children. She transforms the dysfunctional into the norm and invites the
visitor into unknown rooms with oddly
sloping walls and an endless number
of hidden doors. As in her monologue
“Gabriel”, about a father who breaks
down somewhere between breakfast
and fetching the children from the
nursery. She has, however, also written
a critically acclaimed dramatisation of
Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre”, which
was premiered at the Royal Dramatic
Theatre in 2009.
She breaks the pattern to some
extent in “Thord’s World” by writing a
triangular drama about a married couple
and their friend who find themselves
locked in to a flat without any mental
oxygen or identity. Here, too, her gallows
humour vibrates forcefully beneath the
minefield of existence.
Martina Montelius is a frequent
participant in media debates on culture
affairs and runs a popular discussion
panel at her theatre to which she invites
both politicians and well known writers
and media figures. Her new play “Cash”
will be staged in spring 2014.
Lars Norén
Born in 1944 in Genarp
Selected Plays: “Bobby
Fischer Lives in Pasadena”
(1988), “As Leaves in
Vallombrosa” (1991), “Category
3:1” (1997), “Silent Music”
(2002), “3.31.93” (2013)
Selected Awards: The Aniara
Prize (1982), the Nordic Prize of
the Swedish Academy (2003),
Literis et Artibus (2008), the
Bellman Prize of the Swedish
Academy (2012)
photo gunnar helin. next spread: ”3.31.93” at stockholm city theatre 2013, photo petra hellberg
Lars Norén is Sweden’s most inter-
nationally renowned contemporary
dramatist and director. His plays have
been performed all over the world; they
have been translated into as many as
thirty languages and received a great
many awards. From 1999 to 2007 he was
artistic director of Riks Drama which he
also founded together with producer
Ulrika Josephsson, an ensemble that no
longer operates but used to form part
of the Swedish National Touring Theatre.
It was here that several of his plays were
originally staged, including “Silent
Music” (2002), “War” (2004), “Terminal 3”
and “Terminal 7” (2006). And it was
here too that he directed several of his
own plays as well as works by others
playwrights. Following Riks Drama he
was artistic director of Folkteatern in
Gothenburg until 2012.
Norén’s writing extends over five
decades and comprises both poetry and
fiction. Several of his novels written in
the 1970s deal with criminality, prostitution and exclusion in the Stockholm,
subjects he would return to in his plays.
He made his major breakthrough as a
dramatist with “Night is Mother of the
Day” and “Chaos is Close to God”
(1982-1983), two partly autobiographical
plays about growing up in a boarding
house that can be said to serve as the
launch pin for the bourgeois dramas he
wrote throughout the 1980s and that
culminated in “Bobby Fischer Lives in
Pasadena” (1988). Several of these were
also dramatised for television, which
helped ensure that his dramatic work
reached the wide audience it did.
Lars Norén’s works range across
a broad linguistic spectrum, from the
aforementioned family dramas via the
more brutally socially-critical pieces
whose settings are urban street life:
“Category 3:1” (1997), “The Shadow
Boys” (1998), “7.3” (1998), “Cold” (2003)
– to the later more timeless plays
that have been pared to the bone in
spiritual terms and are all set in a kind
of antechamber to life, a requiem that
is linguistically related to the plays of
Samuel Beckett and Jon Fosse, where
the dramaturgy is more reminiscent of
a musical score. The so-called Terminal
Plays written during the first decade of
the twenty-first century should be
mentioned in this context. What these
works have in common is that while
they all revolve around class and exclusion, they also tackle existentialism at
a more universal level. They are also all
written with a poetic impact, a perfect
sense of pitch for language and Norén’s
unmistakably mordant gallows humour.
All the characters from his earlier
plays seem to converge in his most recent work “3.31.93” (2013): the voices of
the street, from upper-class apartments
in Stockholm’s inner city and from
mental hospitals – all come together in
one and the same play, which was made
strikingly evident in Sophia Jupither’s
acclaimed staging at the Stockholm City
Theatre in the same year.
The second part of “En dramatikers
dagbok” (A Playwright’s Diary) appeared
in the autumn of 2013, a work of biblical
proportions that is made up of more
than 1,400 closely written pages that
provides a unique insight into his work
as dramatist and director all over the
world, right down to the merest whisper.
above: ”white, rich, free” at stockholm city theatre, photo petra hellberg. Photo right side: andré de loisted
Christina Ouzounidis
Born in 1969 in Oskarshamn
Education: Malmö Theatre Academy
(the playwriting course, 2002-2004)
Selected Plays: “The Word – Flesh” (2007),
“Heterophile” (2008), “Nature, Habits, Time
Morality” (2009), “The Laws” (2010), “White,
Rich, Free (2010), “Birds” (2011), “Town
Bloody Hall” (2012)
Selected Awards: Expressen’s Theatre
Prize (2011), The Ibsen Prize of the Swedish
Ibsen Society (2012)
Christina Ouzounidis is a playwright
and director and one of the brains
behind the creative and experimental
artists’ collective Teatr Weimar i Malmö.
She also works as an administrator on
the playwriting course at the Malmö
Theatre Academy where she holds a
She has received acclaim from
Swedish theatre critics for plays such
as “Heterophile”, “Nature, Habits, Time,
Morality” and “White, Rich, Free”; she
has also made a name for herself as an
intellectual dramatist although not as
one lacking any sense of the practical
outcome in scenic terms – she frequently
stages her own works.
Her plays inhabit a philosophical
borderland where language is a means
to power and the action is driven by
words, as in the triptych “The Verb to
Speak”. In these plays she attempts
to tackle ethical problems from a
perspective that is critical of conventional norms in general and from a con-
sciousness of gender in particular. As in
“Heterophile – A Heterosexual Cabaret”
where she inverts the meaning of “homophile” (a Swedish term for homosexual)
and so gets the audience to rack their
brains and search their hearts. The acclaimed original staging at Teatr Weimar
was also shown on Swedish public television. She inverts the point of view by
the same means in “White, Rich, Free”, a
play in which Clytemnestra, the wife of
Agamemnon in the Oresteia trilogy by
Aeschylus becomes the main character.
Concepts such as guilt and shame, responsibility and identity are put through
the wringer under the beady spotlight of
this drama.
In “The Laws”, which was selected for
the Swedish Theatre Biennale in Gävle
in 2011, Ouzounidis shifts to the terrain
of our predispositions and the ethical
nature of consequences. The audience
encounters Clytemnestra once again
as well as her spouse Agamemnon and
daughter Iphigenia in a chain of events
where action and its consequences for
us today are considered in terms of the
fateful message of the antique drama.
In her most recent work “Town
Bloody Hall” (2012), she tackles the
debate that took place in New York in
1971 when the author Norman Mailer
attempted to settle accounts with the
feminist movement of the time in his
essay “The Prisoner of Sex” – an event
that has become the stuff of feminist
It might sound as though her exploration of the power and routine nature
of language, influenced by philosophers
such as Deleuze and Foucault, is much
too theoretical for the theatre stage. And
it is true that her plays can be slightly
reminiscent of the furious and unbridled
wordiness of Nobel laureate Elfriede
Jelinek, but Christina Ouzounidis’
strength as a dramatist is that she
manages to turn her texts into flesh
and blood, seasoned with both humour
and irony.
Lucas Svensson
Born in 1973 in Maglehem
Education: the Dramatic Institute
in Stockholm from 1999 to 2002
Selected Plays: “Fallen from the
Moon” (2002), ”Le WEEK-END”
(2005), “Klas-hurt-Erika” (2006),
“Sympathy for the Devil” (2005),
“Olof Palme” (2010), “Maria Callas –
An Unanswered Life” (2010), “White
Room with Red Plaits and Sun”
(2013), “Yalta”(2013)
Selected Awards: The newspaper
Expressen’s “Heffaklumpen”-Prize
and the Ibsen Prize of the Swedish
Ibsen Society
Photo Sören Vilks. next side: ”maria callas, an unanswered life” at stockholm city theatre, photo mats bäcker
Lucas Svensson is a prolific dramatist
and dramaturge whose plays have
been performed in countries such as
Germany, France, Rumania, Denmark,
Serbia and Russia. He has written thirty
or so plays for children and adults to
this point, the majority for the Royal
Dramatic Theatre in the period from
2003 to 2010 when he was the resident
dramatist under artistic director Staffan
Valdemar Holm, but also for theatres
such as Unga Klara, the Gothenburg City
Theatre and the Malmo City Theatre.
Inspired by the playwriting of Central Europe, Lucas Svensson writes plays
that bear the stamp of a kind of magical
social realism; they are politically lowkey and yet filled with a heightened
sense of the everyday that is marked
by playful dislocations. Some of them
depict the political climate during the
twentieth century, such as “Swedish
Landscape with Chinese Details” –
about the Maoist Left, which describes
the generation of 1968 and their relationship to the Swedish welfare state
through the lives of four individuals
over four decades. In “Le WEEK-END”
he portrays the riots in Paris in 2005
instead, a kind of news drama in essay
form that was written onsite in Paris for
performance shortly afterwards at the
Royal Dramatic Theatre.
But his work also encompasses
tender portraits of well known cultural
figures. Such as “Herring at the Cattelin
Restaurant” (2004), about the Swedish
author Stig Dagerman, a play shared
between five different Stig-characters at
various ages. The spotlight is on the life
of German actor Gustaf Gründgen instead in “Sympathy for the Devil” (2005)
while “Maria Callas – An Unanswered
Life” (2010) depicts the struggle of the
famous opera diva to marry life and art.
The play was written for the Swedish
actor Rikard Wolff who also played the
title role at the premiere at Stockholm’s
City Theatre. Lucas Svensson wrote
“Olof Palme – A Play about Sweden” in
the same year, which provides a strikingly alternative image of Sweden’s most
colourful and internationally celebrated
prime minister.
His plays for children that should be
mentioned here include his debut “Fallen from the Moon” (2002), about Rosa
who lives in a basement with her cleaner
mother and struggles to be allowed to
play pinball rather than the piano. The
play was a commission from the Royal
Dramatic Theatre that he wrote while
still studying at the Dramatic Institute
and forms the first part of a trilogy. The
other two are “Nothing Grows apart
from Stig (and Molly)” (2003) and
“Klaus – Hurt – Erika” (2006), about the
children of the author Thomas Mann in
Germany during the First World War.
In autumn 2013 his play “Yalta” was
staged at the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus in Germany and so was “White
Room with Red Plaits and Sun” at the
Månteater in the Swedish city of Lund,
which he created together with the
choreographer Dorte Olesen – about the
artist and illustrator Ingrid Vang Nyman
whose works include the drawings for
Astrid Lindgren’s “Pippi Longstocking”.
Support scheme for Swedish
literature in translation
The objective of this support scheme is to make it possible for
more Swedish quality literature to be published abroad. The
support scheme applies both to fiction for children and adults
and to non-fiction. One condition is that the translation must
be done directly from Swedish or any of the national minority
languages rather than via any third language.
Swedish literature means literature written in Swedish or
any of the national minority languages in Sweden.
Who can apply?
Applications for subsidies for translations to non-Nordic
languages may be filed by foreign publishers. In certain cases Swedish publishing houses that have drawn up a plan for
distribution of a certain book abroad may also be eligible
to apply. Any publishing house applying for a subsidy must
have both well-documented experience of publishing quality literature as well as professional distribution channels. If
the publishing house has not previously published Swedish
literature in translation, the current publications catalogue is
to be submitted with the application. Support for translation
of Swedish literature to other Nordic languages is financed by
the Nordic Council of Ministers through the Nordic Culture
Point. There is a special application form for this support
scheme which is administrated by the Arts Council.
Who cannot apply?
Neither translators nor authors may apply for translation
subsidies through the Swedish Arts Council support scheme.
What types of literature does the support scheme cover?
Applications for translation subsidies may be filed for books
in the following areas:
• prose, poetry, drama, literature for children and young people;
• non-fiction in the area of general culture;
• essays;
• theme issues of journals and magazines including
literature translated from Swedish.
Regarding applications for drama translation subsidies, a
subsidy may be applied for on the condition that the play in
question is either going to be published in book form or
performed on stage.
Irrespective of genre, the work for which a subsidy is being
applied must be of high quality in terms of both language and
literary qualities.
What types of literature does the support scheme
not cover?
Applications for support will not be considered for translation of:
• scholarly dissertations or research reports;
• text books, instruction manuals;
• reference books, handbooks, yearbooks;
• cookbooks, hobby literature, travel guides, etc.
• commercial literature with the potential to be widely
circulated abroad without a state subsidy.
Applications can only be filed to cover translation costs, but
not for production costs or to cover copyright matters.
What books will be given priority?
The objective of the support scheme is to raise the status of
contemporary Swedish literature in translation. Priority will
therefore be given to introduction of the work of contemporary
Swedish authors into languages where there are no previous
translations of that author’s work. Particular consideration
will be given to translations of literature for children and
young people into languages where Swedish children’s
literature is presently poorly represented.
How is an application to be filed?
Application should be filled out via the online-service. When
the application is filed, the following material is to be enclosed:
• one copy of the contract between the publishing house
filing the application and the rights holder
• one copy of the contract between the publishing house
filing the application and the translator
• The translator’s curriculum vitae if the translator has not
previously translated Swedish literature published in the
language in question
When can an application be filed?
These subsidies must be applied for before the book has been
published, and are disbursed when the Swedish Arts Council
has received four copies of the published translation and when
the conditions given below have been fulfilled.
Application deadlines are February 1, May 2 and November 1.
The application form is open four weeks before deadline.
Conditions for disbursement of a granted subsidy
Subsidies granted will be disbursed upon receipt of four copies of the published translation by The Swedish Arts Council,
along with a written confirmation from the translator that
(s)he has received remuneration according to the contract.
Subsidies granted are always to be acknowledged in the
published translation with the following text, translated into
the language in question: The cost of this translation was
defrayed by a subsidy from the Swedish Arts Council,
gratefully acknowledged.
Contact: Susanne Bergström Larsson
[email protected]
Support for Translation of Swedish
Drama for Stage Performance
One objective of this support scheme is to make it possible
for more Swedish quality drama to be performed abroad. The
support scheme includes Swedish plays to be performed outside the Nordic countries. One condition is that the translation
must be done directly from Swedish or any of the national
minority languages rather than via any third language.
Swedish literature means literature written in Swedish or
any of the national minority languages in Sweden.
Application for this support scheme may only be filed by
the director or producer of a theatre outside the Nordic area
where the Swedish translation will be performed.
• There is a special form on which to apply for translation
subsidies. When the application is filed, the following
material must be appended:
• One copy of the contract between the theatre filing the
application and the rights holder
• One copy of the contract between the theatre filing the
application and the translator
• The translator’s curriculum vitae if the translator has not
previously translated Swedish plays or literature published
in the language in question.
• The subsidy must be applied for before the play is staged
and will be disbursed upon receipt of one copy of the translation by The Swedish Arts Council, along with a written confirmation from the translator that (s)he has received remuneration according to the contract. Subsidies
granted are always to be acknowledged in programmes
and or advertisements with the following text, translated
into the language in question: The cost of this translation
was defrayed by a subsidy from the Swedish Arts Council,
gratefully acknowledged.
Contact: Susanne Bergström Larsson
[email protected]
Literature Projects Abroad
Who can apply?
Swedish and foreign organisations and publishers are
eligible to apply for funding to support literary events and
international exchanges which promote high quality Swedish
literature and drama internationally.
What does the scheme cover?
Foreign publishers may apply for funding to help cover the
cost of inviting Swedish authors in conjunction with book
launches, literary festivals and similar events. Organisations
may apply for funding for projects or international exchanges.
Projects can include, but are not limited to, translation
seminars, collaborative literary projects and themed events.
Financial support may also be awarded to information
campaigns and publications aimed at promoting Swedish
literature internationally.
Applications for internal activities and projects that do
not explicitly aim to promote Swedish literature or drama
will not be considered. Support may, however, be sought for
projects involving authors not yet published in the country or
language in question. Translation costs may be covered by
the scheme if incurred within the framework of a project, but
grants for the translation of Swedish literature are normally
administered through the Support Scheme for Swedish
Literature in Translation.
The Swedish Arts Council cannot approve funds for events
that have already taken place.
How are applications assessed?
The subsidy aims to promote high quality Swedish literature
and drama. Applications are assessed according to the quality
of the projects proposed and the ability of these to reach a
diverse audience. The introduction of first time authors and
contemporary authorships are prioritised, as are children’s
and young adult literature, poetry and drama.
Criteria considered include whether proposed events are
locally supported and managed by a collaborating foreign organisation and whether additional funding has been applied
for from other sources.
How to apply
Applications are made online. Applications submitted outside of the application period or after the deadline will not be
considered. Incomplete applications not fully amended within
a timeframe determined by the Swedish Arts Council will
be treated as late submissions. Applications must include a
project description, a budget, aims and objectives. The budget
must clearly specify the costs for which funding is applied.
Decisions cannot be appealed. When grants have been
allocated, confirmation will be sent to all applicants by email.
A list of allocated grants will be published on the Swedish Arts
Council’s website.
Conditions of the funding
All proposed activities must be carried out within the timeframe specified in the application and grants must be used
according to stated conditions. A full evaluative report must
be submitted to the Swedish Arts Council no later than two
months after the completion of the project. This report must
include both a detailed account of expenses and a report
summarising the impact of the project. Should the proposed
plans change, the Swedish Arts Council must be informed
without delay. Such changes may lead to funding being
reclaimed. If the recipient discontinues planned activities
prematurely, all unused funds must be returned.
The recipient must acknowledge the support received from
the Swedish Arts Council in all marketing and information
material related to the project and include The Swedish Arts
Council logo where appropriate.
Claiming funds
Once a grant has been awarded, funds can be transferred
to the account specified in the application on receipt of a
payment order.
Contact: Jan Kärrö
[email protected]
Colombine Teaterförlag
Gaffelgränd 1A
SE-111 30 Stockholm
+46 (0)8 411 70 85
[email protected]
Klas Abrahamsson
Mattias Andersson
Anders Duus
Johanna Emanuelsson
Sofia Fredén
Cristina Gottfridsson
Staffan Göthe
Jonas Hassen Khemiri
Gertrud Larsson
Martina Montelius
Christina Ouzounidis
Lucas Svensson
Margareta Petersson
Agent & Produktion
Gävlegatan 1
113 30 Stockholm
+46 (0)8 73 674 57 22
Lars Norén
Swedish Arts Council
P.O. Box 27215
SE-102 53 Stockholm
+46 (0)8 519 264 00
swedish Literature exchange
Susanne Bergström Larsson
+46 8 519 264 83
[email protected]
Jan Kärrö
+46 8 519 264 61
[email protected]
Zoi Santikos
+46 8 519 264 87
[email protected]
The Swedish Arts Council administers
grants and informs about Swedish literature
and Swedish authors outside of Sweden.
Publishers can apply for translation grants
for publishing Swedish literature and
theatres for translation of Swedish drama
for stage performance. Foreign and Swedish
organizations and publishers can apply for
project grants for literary events of Swedish
literature and drama.
Kristina Lugn
E-post: [email protected]
Kristina Lugn
Colombine Teaterförlag
Gaffelgränd 1A
SE-111 30 Stockholm
+46 (0)8 411 70 85
[email protected]
Draken Teaterförlag
Hagagatan 46
SE-113 47 Stockholm
+46 (0)8 22 31 55
c/o Sveriges Dramatikerförbund
Drottninggatan 85
SE- 111 60 Stockholm
+46 (0)8 402 36 43
© The Swedish Arts Council 2013
Text: Ylva Lagercrantz Spindler
Translations: Frank Perry
Graphic design: Studio Mats Hedman
Editor: Jan Kärrö
Printed by Taberg Media Group AB
cover photos: front cover from “malmö for
the fittest” at malmö city theatre, photo Johan Sjövall.
Back cover from “mental states of sweden” at the royal
dramatic theatre, photo sören vilks. inside cover from
“maria callas, an unanswered life” at stockholm city
theatre, photo mats bäcker.