NA Meets: Setesdal Collective

at Camden People's Theatre

Setesdal Collective describe themselves as a “hybrid unit that explores vastly different types of performance, ranging from installation art to text-based work, and everything in between”. We were intrigued and asked them some questions.


British-Norwegian company Setesdal Collective explores boundaries between live art and theatre. Through deadpan dialogue and visual pop culture collages the ensamble are questioning and investigating the life of the millennial generation. This May, the group will return to London with the performance We Never Go Places To Dance Anymore.

Where did the idea for We Never Go Places To Dance Anymore come from? What do you want to tell with this performance?

The idea for the show came from Lana Del Rey’s 2012 album Born To Die, using it as a starting point for making material about how we make alter egos for ourselves. For us, Lana Del Rey and her music represents a fascinating pop culture symbol; Lizzy Grant’s romantic persona of Lana Del Rey that the album projects and the alter ego the actor shows to the audience is a comparison keenly felt because the theatre space fictionalises everything. It is becoming more common for people to not listen to albums in full anymore, preferring to select singles or specific tracks and putting them into playlists. This show is an antidote to the pick and choose culture of Spotify, a celebration of spending time with one artist’s group of thoughts, like when listening to an album in full.

Markus Tarasenko Fadum, Marie-Laurie Hay, Kristine Grændsen and Johnathon Parkins

We took this idea and made third rate copies of ourselves and let them live, so much more real and warm than our original selves. The show then developed to explore icons, celebrity and how we try to find our place amongst them when we grow up, which is what we have been preparing for Camden. It is a very autobiographical show, like all of our work. We have listened to artists like Astrid S, Bruce Springsteen and Dorisburg, read a lot of Leonard Cohen, and are telling the story about what it is like for us at this moment in time to be living and falling in and out of love.  We’re still making it though, but it will be Kristine and Marie-Laure on stage, and will build upon what we started with our last show for theatres, Bursdagsfest (2016), in that it is a series of stories that will hopefully float and slowly settle on stage. There will definitely be dancing to Lily Allen no matter what happens.

The performance, (can we call this a dance?) is mentioned as a millennial anthem, a so called lovestory to “a lost generation that does everything and nothing all at once”. What do you mean by “lost generation”?

It is definitely a piece of theatre, rather than a dance. Lost generation for us is a group of people feeling nostalgic for a time that only exists in their imaginations, harking back to a better time, and trying to find an antidote to those creeping feelings that the future may, in fact, be complete and utter crap. We feel like we are finding a manual for living with those nagging doubts, and the fear that one day we will realise we have been left behind. People our age want to simultaneously live in the past and the future, and feel like they are slipping through the cracks at the end of the millennial generation, desperately searching for what’s new by rehashing the past.

I Was Trying To Remember I Kissed Someone And I’m Not Sure. Photo: REW Photography

Do you see yourself as millennials, what are your thoughts on the term?

We are millennials. There’s no changing that, it is a fact of our generation, no different from any other that came before us. And just like every generation prior to our own, there are lots of us who feel we were born in the wrong time. Hiding behind or openly revolting against the word is just another example of people’s attitude towards a society, a world, which they don’t feel in control of. Unfortunately the term millennial already has a lot of negative connotations, both within our own generation, and older generations, including the rather derogatory “Generation Snowflake”. Names can be powerful, but what can we do, wave placards in the street shouting I Am Not A Snowflake? That seems pretty futile.

Personally, we dislike both terms, but that’s a redundant attitude to maintain, because as said, it’s a fact. We can’t change it. So we think we should probably stop worrying about what we are called, and put more effort into figuring out who we are, because fixating on the idea of being a millennial is damaging. We are as a society becoming more and more obsessed with labels, and yes, it feels so good to fit in, or anarchically reject the names given to us by others, but neither attitude is productive. Hopefully, this show helps cultivate something of an antidote to that mentality, that fixation on ‘what’ instead of ‘who’ we are. It focuses instead on more important things, like the fact we don’t have a precise word for the intimate, dizzying happiness that a person only ever experiences when dancing with their friends. If we find a word for that, we think that would have a bigger, better impact on the view of  ourself, of expressing our feelings, than the term millennial ever could.

Its seems like you work in a quite multidiscipline style. For example The Eternal Kiss is part rave, part installation. Why did you choose such a form? What kind of added value does it give to art from your perspective?

We don’t set out to put anything into a definite form when we make work, it just sort of happens. We have a commitment to mixing all kinds of media in our work, and I think all theatre is inherently intermedial, as theatre always involves collisions of different things like bodies, props, and costumes. Adding in microphones and screens just sees a logical progression. We just start writing sentences down, playing games and listening to a lot of music, and see where it takes us. The Eternal Kiss (2016) started off with Markus and I’s love of a James Murphy remix of David Bowie’s track Love Is Lost, and then looking into oceanic bioluminescence. The part rave aspect just became driven by the words, and the beat and the fact I found cheap neon paint I could put on people and let them prance around.

The Eternal Kiss. Photo: Gísli Árnason

We love the name “Setesdal Collective”! Whats the story behind this name?

We liked the idea of us naming ourselves after the area, as the Setesdal valley goes from flat countryside to wild and beautiful mountains. It serves as a constant reminder not to get stuck in one form and to keep experimenting and look for different things.

Your group lives partly in Norway and party in the UK, how does that work? When do you meet up and rehearse, and where, not to mention?

It requires a lot of planning, and thank God for internet messaging. As opposed to some other companies, we just plan a little further in advance, but there is a lot of communication, and luckily we don’t take long back together to click into place. Two of us live together, so we do a lot of the preparation then the other two can bring their input in. We get together as a foursome a few times a year for a week to rehearse, either in London, Manchester, Oslo or Kristiansand. It keeps a bit variety, and means we see lots of new places.

Could you tell us a bit about the British and the Norwegian theatre tradition? Similarities? Differences?

There are fewer differences than you’d think. We don’t really have a west end the way the UK does, and because of language we have to make a clear choice of whether something is for an international audience or not. So we would say Norwegian theatre is a bit more private. In both countries we feel there is a lot of young companies making a lot of interesting work, but in Oslo (our reference point) these companies often uses non-theatrical venues to be able to show their work, while in London (our other reference point) it’s more about being accepted into a venue or festival. But we think the atmosphere is quite similar in both countries.

Top Photo: We Never Go Places To Dance Anymore. Photo: Amber Mae Photography


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