2015 – Svejk i Andra Världskriget (Schweik in the Second World War)

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This was the fall  production from Kulturama’s second year students in Physical Theatre 2015. The performance played only three shows at Kulturama in Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm.

Click here to read more about Svejk i Andra Världskriget (Schweik in the Second World War).

 

 

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Svejk i Andra Världskriget (Schweik in the Second World War)

by  Berthold Brecht

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Svejk – Johanna Nyberg-Rydström
Baloun – Agnes Dahlén
Kopecka, Kati – Vivi Laakko
Prochazka, Anna – Stina Rundberg
Brettschnieder, The Individual – Anton Cöster
SS-man, Bullinger – Daniel Taylor

Music and music study – Affie Andersson

Directions and education – Micke Klingvall

Click here to see a VIDEOTRAILER of the show

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We opened the play in 4 december 2014, as the fall production for Kulturama’s second year students in Physical Theatre that year. The performance played only three shows at Kulturama in Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm, but with much success.
Bethold Brecht never finished ” Schweik in the Second World War” and it was first played after his death.

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In our adaptation we have only used the first part of the play that mostly takes place in a tavern , where the dogcatcher Schweik first gets arrested but gets freed to steal a dog from the local Quisling and give to the SS-officer. He steals the dog, but – after getting caught as waif and sent forcibly to a volunteer railroad work – takes the dog to serve it to his friend Baloun. Just then SS and Gestapo comes in to the tavern, sees the meat and arrest Schweik.
Living in Sweden 2015, with growing a Nazi movement, a racist party in parliament and lynch mobs  out on the streets, we also felt that we had to bring in some of our own time. We did so by adding some meta theatre sections, taking in Jimmie Åkesson (the racist party leader), exemplify refugee structures and more.Svejk-62

The play is funny, thrilling and violet all at the same time. It is played in an expressive acing style. The staging is as in the tavern, where the audience is sitting at tables and with a cabaret stage where some scenes take place.

See a few other of Micke’s shows:
Gudomliga Ord (Divine words)
Gamla Testamentet The Old Testament)
Kattorna (The Cats)

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Hierarchies and status play in Commedia dell’Arte

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Commedia dell’Arte also built on the play with status. It is the old master/servant relation, where Pantalone and Dottore are the highest ranked and the zanni the lowest. In between them is Capitano who represents the military power, is an outsider and is not part of the community. Signora can certainly be married to Pantalone but is still relatively free. The Innamorati may be the purest and the noblest among the masks but they have to obey their fathers. Even the zanni have internal hierarchies, as first and second zanni.

These status relations are fixed and steadfast. A zanni can only win against his master by cheating, deceiving or going behind his back (literary), while the master may use corporal punishment to his servants or force his son or daughter to marry with the one he has chosen.

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2014 – Var är Boken (Where’s the Book)

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This is the final production from the second year students at Kulturama’s physical theatre program in the spring of 2014. The show played in Stockholm and the toured Åland and the south of Sweden.

 

Click here to read more about Var är Boken (Where’s the book)
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Frenzy in Commedia dell’Arte

When we talk about frenzy it has much to do with the organization of a canovaccio. We can build a canovaccio where the energy itself plays the main part. Surprise after surprise until the frenzy reaches its peak. This is the anarchistic turmoil we can see in The Marx Brother or Fawlty Towers, where the organized conformity of the world is turned up-side-down. Usual themes are imposition or catastrophes that only get worse and worse.

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In the first example, imposition, we have, for example, the classical food-stealing-scene. A zanni steals food from a mask with higher status and usually gets away with it. But it doesn’t stay there he keeps stealing in more refined and unexpected way, while the other mask – who might be deeply involved in something else – get more and more frustrated.
In the other example there is a chain of catastrophes happening as in a crescendo, in the middle of this there is a mask trying desperately to put everything back in order. This is much about the energy and desire of the mask and the actor. It does not demand a complicated or refined plot. It is enough with a zanni working hard to clean the floors while the other masks come in with dirty shoes, or the classic dinner-serving-lazzo in “Arlecchino – Servitore di due Padroni”.
Here a too complicated plot could mess up and take away the focus from the fun in the scene. The scene or lazzo is totally depending on the energy of the mask. The more desperate the mask are trying to solve his problem the more fun it is for the spectator, since comedy is I based on unbalance (in direct or in a figurative sense) and we laugh at his struggle to retain balance.

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Transformations in Commedia dell’Arte

The usual use of this element in Commedia dell’Arte is either magic or disguises. We can find its origins in the Carnival’s and the May feast’s death and resurrection or in the Feast of Fools with its mutability and chaos, where mask and disguises always played a great part. The transitions can also get the character of the performance be more in an erratic chameleon world.

One of the most usual transformations is disguises. Innamorati disguises themselves to come close to each other, zanni disguise to flee their masters or to steal something, vecchi disguises to pretend to be younger and so on there are even submasks for the original masks to disguise in.
It is usually enough to dress up in a new gown or a coat and hat. The convention says that it is enough to make the masks unidentifiable. Some mask can still recognize them, depending on the needs for the plot.
On the other hand does the original masks never, change masks or reveal themselves as actors when in disguise, so that the original masks never gets lost for the audience. If, for example, Arlecchino and Pantalone changes roles in a scene it is important that is Arlecchino and Pantalone that are the ones that are changing roles, not the actors. It is something else when an actor takes of his mask to comment on something happening on stage as an actor.

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To change gender is also very common in Commedia dell’Arte. I is a heritage from the Carnival where they turned everything up-side-down, like conventions, hierarchies and gender was definitely turned around.  Theatrical gender changes are as old as theatre itself, or at least as old as when we started to differ out men’s and women’s clothing.
Another common transformation is magic. It can be by magic rituals or formula, magic persons or places and off course magic drinks, love portions and such.
Madness played or real, also transforms the masks. It can in a way also work as a disguise when the “mad” mask only acts mad and are able to go back to normal at any given moment.

There are lots of other way to work with transformations as elements in the performance structure as well, both simple ones and more advanced. It can be anything from a mask that pretends to be a statue to avoid being discovered or an Innamorato who run around with a parrot cage on his head speaking in a female parrot voice in order to learn another language. And off course the classical end where a mask turns out to be the long lost father of one of the Innamorati.

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Stupidity, animal behavior or/and amorality in Commedia dell’Arte

The masks neither can nor want to limit themselves by law, morals or common sense.  The masks are here mirroring themselves mainly in actions of unmatched stupidity, or driven by monumental lust or hunger, or blissfully unknowing about rules and ideas of moral.

Even if morose delectation or disability humor not is anything strange or inappropriate in Commedia dell’Arte it would be too easy to say that we only enjoy laughing at blockheads just to feel superior to them. This is instead a continuing from the entourage of the King of Carnival and the devils from the diavolas of the medieval miracle plays. Those masks have their origins in devils, spirits and creatures from the underworld, coming back up to, in their stubbornness, help the world to give birth to another year. It is the pigheaded stupidity that is the stubbornness that upholds life against all including death himself.

Stupidity in all its lewdness often transcend to pure animal behavior, which in in itself is totally immoral. This is an immorality that doesn’t come from malice or greediness, but the inability to follow moral rules and patterns. Or to quote Pompey Bum:
It is not more evil than a dog that overturns a garbage can is evil; they are not self-                     conscious in their embodiment of nature, which refuses to become castrated and                           flattened.”

It is common that the more stupid the masks are, such as Pulcinella, Tartaglia or Coviello, the more physically deformed they are. It is like their deformed train of thought takes physical form. It seems that that is more right for the masks that have their origin in southern Italy. The physical deformities are a great part of how the mask is played, but they don’t do very much to the plots more than in one or two scenes.

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The wooing and sexual union between youth in Commedia dell’Arte

This may be the most important element for building scenarios, at least later scenarios. We are talking about the plays that basically deal with one or more pairs of Innamorati that, after going through obstacles, win each other and marry. When the wooing is part of the scenario it is almost always central, together with the jealousy and misunderstandings that comes with it.

Here it is equally easy to find the way back to Vulgar Comedy and popular rituals and above all the Mayfeast. They were originally feasts meant for the youngsters in the different villages to meet, revel and hopefully get married, to avoid inbreeding.
The ritual usually is about how fathers are fooled not to watch over their daughters, helping the young lovers to meet. Also here we can see how the old man gets dethroned in a way, but here this is not central.

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The destruction or dethronement of the old man in Commedia dell’Arte

It is about annihilation of authorities. It is easy to find its way back to the King of Carnival and the sacrificing of him, the struggle between Lent and the King of Carnival, even the Feast of Fools with its scorning of the power.

The old man is representing the authorities in society, and by that he becomes the enemy. He is representing the part of humanity that is in the way for merriment, celebration, spring, for life itself. In that way he is the fall, the overripe, death. He must be destroyed for the joy and festivities to be resurrected.
When the dethronement happens, the distance, the old man and the authority he represents collapses. It is an amusing experience when he becomes naked. It is not just the, before so perfect sovereignty, but also the empty symbols of power that is destroyed and ridiculed, that we find amusing.

It is not always easy to see the difference between this element and the combat in Commedia dell’Arte (as if it would be interesting at all to see). The combat is about the battle itself, where the young sometimes wins and sometimes not, while this is about the actual winning or the old man losing. We focus on and want to see the old man dragged in the mud. That is one reason why he never really dies (even though he does symbolically), because then we would miss the actual defeat, the dethronement, which is the primary.

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The name – Commedia dell’Arte

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When we say that the Italian word Commedia dell’Arte means “comedian as profession” we must also think of “art” as in “artisan”. Remember also that art was not anything elevated or divine until the romantic era in the late eighteen century. Art did not strive for originality. Often was – especially in Commedia dell’Arte – other works used or rewritten in order to fit the needs of the moment.

As a matter of fact the term Commedia dell’Arte was not used until the eighteen century by Luigi Riccoboni in his book Histoire du Théâtre. Before that it was called things like: Commedia Improviso – improvised comedy; Commedia alla Maschera comedy in mask; Commedia a Soggetto – comedy on a given subject; Commedia Mercenaria – market comedy; Commedia a Braccia – comedy “straight off; Commedia degli Zanni comedy with Zanni or simply Commedia all´Italiana.

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According to Dario Fo and Benedetto Crose the name Commedia dell’Arte was the name given to the troupes that were accredited to play in a town by the authorities. The contracts were was stamped “dell’Arte”.
Dario Fo also states that the word ”arte” was another word for guild or trade union already in the middle ages rather that an artistic matter, and that Luigi Riccboni later used it in figurative sense when he named the genre. In that way we may think of Commedia dell’Arte troupes as the first fringe theatre groups in the western world.

Other related posts about Commedia dell’Arte is:
Commedia dell’Arte
The roots of Commedia dell’Arte
Psychology in Commedia dell’Arte

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