What I Saw.After our hideous night at the Opera a few weeks ago, I was reluctant to ask Mr. Blue if he wanted to come with me to another slightly odd play I had bought tickets for.
The play had been touring around Sweden, Denmark and Norway to sold out audiences and had been brought to London for a short 3-week run. It was called Doktor Glas and had my favourite Swedish actor (and possibly the only Swedish actor I know the name of) Krister Henriksson, in the lead. Well, not just the lead, he was the only actor in it. Some may have seen him as the dark, brooding detective Wallander, (not to be confused with the English adaption with Kenneth Brannagh, also brilliant). It's a beautifully shot drama, showing the incredible landscape of Sweden at its very best and I highly recommend it. So, I was very very excited to see this amazing actor perform on stage and bought tickets immediately... without really checking all the details.
My tickets arrived a few days later and I noticed some small print at the bottom saying:
"Doktor Glas will be 90 minutes in duration with no interval. It will be performed in Swedish with English subtitles."
What the...? Ok, so I'm getting used to the 'no interval' thing. Sitting with a full bladder has become fairly commonplace with the variety of films, plays and opera's I have seen recently so a mere hour and half was nothing. "Pah" to your 'no interval'! What was more odd was the whole swedish play with subtitles thing. How do you show subtitles during a play for goodness sake? Was a strange man dressed in black going to come and squat at the front of the stage holding up a big placard? Were they going to be on a TV screen at the side of the stage? I was quite baffled. I also had the added problem of actually finding someone to go with me. My usual group of theatre luvvies had fallen silent when I described the performance, and when I asked Mr. Blue if he was interested, he said very forlornly and with a big sigh, "I'll go if you really can't find ANYONE else, but please please try to find someone". Then hurrah, the next day my Godmother replied to my email and I had my theatre buddy.
We weren't sure what to expect at all, especially my Godmother, who hadn't even seen Swedish Wallander, so she was going in cold. Brave. We soon realised we were in the minority as we estimated about 80% of the audience were Swedes, possibly feeling terribly smug that they wouldn't have to read subtitles and could laugh, gasp or cry at the exact moment in the play, rather than a delayed reaction as the rest of us read what was happening. That must be strange for the actor too... having most of the audience laugh at something you've said and then several seconds later, the rest of us guffawing like crazy people. As the lights dimmed, Krister began and the subtitles suddenly appeared, projected onto the back wall of the set, very artistically and very beautifully as if they were their own light installation. We were mesmerised. It was a masterclass in acting and we agreed afterwards that there weren't many people who could hush an audience and hold their attention for 90 minutes.
Of course, by the end, I had tears of pride in my eyes and as he came back on stage to take his second bow, I erupted out of my seat with rapturous applause. But it seemed I was the only one standing. I looked around fleetingly and saw no one else on their feet and felt a flush rise on my cheeks. Krister saw me immediately and walked to the front of the stage, grinned at me, then shook his head in mock reprimand and waggled his finger at me, indicating I should sit down. Maybe a standing ovation is not proper etiquette in Sweden, who knows. Of course, I never do what I'm told and remained standing, clapping like an excited seal. He then threw some roses into the audience, one of which I was sure was for me, until the woman in front of me rose out of her seat to grab one coming in my direction. I can't say in English what I thought about that, but it sounds better in Swedish anyway...
"Vad en ko!"