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Playwrights Corner


Authors' Notes

Erik Huddenberg
© Molly Uddenberg
A glimpse of contemporary theatre in France – a rich and courageous tradition with a lot of interesting challenges. | Erik Uddenberg

« As part of a collaboration between France and Sweden, I have begun to explore a new world, and that has been really stimulating. Knowing nothing about French theatre beforehand, other than Molière and Koltès, I have discovered a society of theatre professionals who are really curious and open-minded, searching in all directions, and a theatre tradition where the text is the central focus. As a playwright, this naturally gives you a burst of energy.

I have been to France twice now, and met a couple of French people in Sweden. First I went to Orléans, and I also attended a reading festival at the Théâtre de la Tête Noire in Saran. I met a lot of friendly and interesting people and listened to several readings of new French texts. As I listened, I found that Swedish and French theatre have a lot in common, and that in many ways we are discussing the same issues and endeavours. But our theatre production structure is very different. The concept of collaboration between writer and director, and writing on commission, which is the normal situation in Sweden, is very odd to the French. In France people are very strict about text, and I find the French have a belief in the magic moment of creation, especially in the creation of a text, which is thought-provoking and stimulating in many ways. Some French authors asked me if I found the French drama overly intellectual. I do not at all. There is a great element of intellectual discussion in French cultural life. But the discussion is, as far as I have seen, always rooted in experience and feeling. That is: in the body of the author.

The kind of translating that Karin Serres and Marianne Segol introduced to me during my visit to Paris was the most wonderful experience. After their very sensitive initial work, we all sat together. I read a scene in Swedish, Karin read it to me in French, and Marianne, who knows both languages very well, listened. Hearing every line, every sentence, every word of a text in both French and Swedish made it possible for us to ensure that even the subtext of my play
La Lettre de N.N. was transformed from one language to another. This has to be the ultimate way of doing a translation.

Also the reading of my play, which took place at Théâtre de l’Est Parisien some days later, was a great pleasure to me.

And so, at the end of May, we met again, in Sweden. We held a seminar to introduce French theatre to our Swedish colleagues at the Theatre Biennal, the largest meeting of theatre professionals in Sweden. This was a very promising beginning. Swedish theatre has for years been very oriented towards British, and occasionally German, theatre. Roughly, we take the plays from Britain and the theatrical style from Germany. Adding some bittersweet sentiment from the north, you land on the Swedish stage. Now, I have found that lots of Swedish theatre people are curious about what France has to offer. There is a growing awareness that there is more to discover if we look in new directions. I hope and believe that reading some extracts from French drama, and the whole play Crocus et Fracas by Catherine Anne, has given me a glimpse of contemporary theatre in France – a rich and courageous tradition with a lot of interesting challenges. The seminar was well received and attended by many people. Quite a few came to me afterwards to ask more about French drama. There seems to be a great deal of interest in developing more interaction between Sweden and France. I hope this is only the beginning.

  Erik Uddenberg  
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