Print Room at the Coronet
First of all, what, from your point of view, makes Ibsen’s plays special?
Ibsen wrote his last play in 1899, but his plays still speak to us as people of 2018. He sees us with all our strengths, faults and shortcomings. He sees when we lie to each other, and especially to ourselves. When we do what we do in life, we don’t always acknowledge why. Ibsen’s men and women have been lived through before they were written down on paper. And if it’s done well on stage the audience can recognize their own life, and relate to what’s happening. This makes him current, always.
You have become one of Norway’s leading actors on Ibsen. How did it all start, and what kind of relation do you have to Henrik Ibsen’s work today?
I started out when I was 15 at a drama school for children and youth. The artistic director, Elisabeth Gording was a classical actress at The National Theatre of Norway. Her students started early on with commedia dell’arte, ancient Rome via Shakespeare and Moliere, to Ibsen and writers of today. She made me see how the classical theatre is the foundation for all our work in the theatre. No matter how modern you create a work of art, you need to know what you are modernizing. I’ve played several Ibsen characters, and I’m still amazed by his knowledge of the human mind. It makes me want to explore more. Working with people who feel the same way, and often know much more than I do is one of my greatest joys.
You have recently established the Norwegian Ibsen Company – one could perhaps call it the Norwegian answer to the Royal Shakespeare Company. Can you tell us about your vision for the company?
By creating a Norwegian Ibsen Company I wish to make us more proud of Ibsen and his work. I believe having “grown up with Ibsen” should be a strength we should acknowledge even more. I was quoted recently on saying that Ibsen is the New oil. He is the most performed dramatist in the world after Shakespeare. When you come to England to experience Shakespeare on stage you know where to go, and who to turn to. You have various professional options. I want to make a bilingual theatre company based in Norway, but one that tours and produce continuously. I wish to see a dedicated Norwegian Ibsen Company.
How is it to perform a play in Norwegian before a foreign audience, and what do you think the British audience can gain from this?
Little Eyolf is an honour to be a part of. The actors, lead by the wonderful Pia Tjelta. The director, Sofia Jupither. Dramatist Mari Kjeldstadli, and everyone involved are all very proud of its long run, and sold-out performances. We have worked hard to show what lies beneath every word. The reviews have been great. Performing it in Norwegian will hopefully bring the audience more close to Ibsen. He was universal in spirit, but also said once that ”any man who wishes to understand me fully must know Norway”.
The Norwegian Ibsen Company has started collaborating with The Print Room at the Coronet in London, and Little Eyolf will be the first Production. What’s next, and why is the kind of international Collaboration so important?
I’m very happy that the National Theatre of Norway and the International Foundation have made it possible to be here. When I met with Anda Winters at Print Room for the first time, we spoke about the company and Ibsen. And how we could make something together. We’re discussing the possibility of a co-production with British and Norwegian actors. I’ve always been inspired by the British theatre, and it’s a pleasure to work with British artists. We have so much to offer each other, and hopefully as a result – even more to offer the audience.
What is special about The Print Room – is there anything specific about the venue that makes it a great Place to show Little Eyolf?
It has such a wonderful rustic quality. It’s a beautiful old theatre, with its cracks and worn surfaces. And secrets. Just like any Ibsen plot. It’a a grand theatre for big thoughts. Our set designer Erlend Birkeland has rebuilt the set to fit the stage, as it’s a bit smaller than the stage at the National Theatre. I believe that as an audience at the Coronet you have an awareness of being in a historical space. The changes made by Anda and her lovely team make you take in the theatre even more. This is nice, as a subtle comment on Ibsen’s play. He didn’t write to be read, he wrote for the theatre.