Harry Martinson´s great poem Aniara from 1956, at Stockholm Stadsteater (City Theatre).
I knew the poem from when I was a kid, I was into science fiction and came to it from that end. But parts of it we had to read in school, so anyone my age should have at least heard of it. I think it´s the most resilient of all Martinson´s work, the one that will really make him immortal. It´s been translated to English, not once but twice. I know, I always say I don´t understand poetry. But this is so very accessible. A real story. The language is also very creatively Martinson´s own, he was not tempted to use the vocabulary of the cold war, and therefore it´s easy to translate the threats to the ones we feel now, with the environment falling apart rather than the Bomb. My original copy was lost many years back, but I got a new one of very good quality at the local antiquarian and read most of it before December 17.
The performance was fantastic. Absolutely wonderful. We were lead to our seats through the stage itself, designed as a departure hall at an airport. When the show was about to begin, the stage turned and became a smaller version of the gallery. In this way, the entire theatre was transformed into the spaceship Aniara, we were all ill-fated passengers on our way to Mars. Incredibly effective.
I suppose it was a kind of musical theatre, some verses were sung, some recited, there were a lot of dancing and choreography. The cast was a mix of actors, singers and dancers. Quite a few Swedish high profile actors, like Sven Wollter, Helge Skoog, Ingvar Hirdwall, Dan Ekborg and the wonderful singer Helen Sjöholm, of course. The stage design also played a big part in the storytelling, and towards the end, the tragedy was so well performed that I had to cry.
After the show we went straight to the hotel (we both had a bit of a cough), ordered a late supper from room service and then we passed the book between each other, looking for our favourite parts. Even the next day, parts of the verse kept surfacing, even as we were doing other interesting things, like visiting the East Asia Museum and the Terracotta Army from China. Hm. On reflection, I suppost Emperor Chin´s army feels a bit lost in space and time, just like Aniara.
To return to the book by Martinson: a great, great read. And much enhanced by seeing this excellent performance. According to the theatre´s website, it will return in 2012. If you can go, do so!