The story of A Nice Evening with the Family is based on several Nordic plays that all focus on the concept of family. We want to explore our social roles in the family, how it shapes us and gives us purpose. But also how it binds us together and how the past returns to limit our freedom. By using plays written in different times we can explore what in the perception of family has changed and what has not. How can we, like the characters in the plays, still hurt the ones we love – and still love those who hurt us?
To help us explore this we use plays about families written by some of our greatest Nordic writers during the last 150 years. We ask ourselves, what is still relevant, what is still problematic? Have we changed at all, or is it just a facade?
We deal with topics like patriarchy, power, the female role in the family, gambling addiction, sex, infidelity and pedophilia. Above all, it’s about keeping all of this hidden, to only display the surface and not letting anyone see anything but success and happiness.
For this reason we have chosen the following plays.
A Doll’s House (Et Dukkehjem)
By Henrik Ibsen (no)
Nora is Helmer’s perfect doll’s house wife who always keeps him happy. But she has a secret, she has a loan and has forged a signature out of love for him. As the past catches up with her in the form of old friends, she gets more and more desperate to solve the situation, without Helmer knowing. When he does find out she expects him to stand up for her, but instead he blames her. She realises she cannot be with him anymore, and leaves.
A Doll’s House is a classic play that premiered in Copenhagen in 1879. It created a lot of controversy for questioning gender roles and marriage, and has since been a classic. In 2006, the centennial of Ibsen’s death, A Doll’s House held the distinction of being the world’s most performed play for that year.
Playing in A Doll’s House at A Nice Evening gave me a whole new perspective on the play and on Ibsen as a writer. I had seen A Doll’s House performed maybe three times before, but only when being “inside” the play did I really feel like I got it: who these people were, why they were worth caring about, how Nora was like the hero of a Greek tragedy, doing the Right Thing expected of a bourgeois housewife at every turn, a path leading to ruin. Though unlike the tragic Greeks she eventually discovered the inherent contradictions of those “Right Things”.
— Eirik Fatland
Playing Nora was a magical experience. Her journey from living to please her husband to living for herself is an inspiring storyline, and it was both surprising and challenging to play in the best of ways. I found that even if A Doll’s House has been told a million times, the format of A Nice Evening with the Family made it possible for me to make my own version of Nora’s story unfold.
— Ida Nilsson
By Tracy Lett (us)
Three grown up daughters returns home to their mother after their father has disappeared. They bring their men, one rebellious teenage daughter and all their own personal problems, such as a hidden separation, a groping fiancé and a sexual love relationship with what turns out to be a brother. They soon find out that their father killed himself and their mother, who always tells the evil truth to their faces, is addicted to painkillers. A family is supposed to stay together, but as more and more secrets breaks the surface it becomes increasingly hard, and finally impossible.
The play premiered at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago on June 28, 2007. Tracy S. Letts is an American playwright, screenwriter, and actor. He received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play August: Osage County.
By Alfhild Agrell (se)
When the parents demands on their children to find a suitable station in life collides with lovers promises to each other we have a starting point for heartbreak and drama. Into this mix comes the fate of children from previous relationships and a society that shames the naive woman and forgives the selfish male. It is an old story that keeps on repeating itself to this day.
Condemned premiered in 1884 at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. During the 1880ies Agrell was the big star of the Royal Dramatic Theatre. She had had six plays premier at the theatre which is more than playwrights such as Leffler and Strindberg.
By Henrik Ibsen (no)
It’s the perfect marriage, she is beautiful and he is soon to be promoted, but boredom, frustration and envy sneaks in. When her ex, and his profesional rival, shows up and isn’t the failed alcoholic they thought he was, but instead successful thanks to another womans care, things take a dark turn. With a manipulate judge, a script forever lost and two loaded guns the pieces are set for an epic tragedy.
Henrik Ibsen was a major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theatre director, and poet. He is often referred to as “the father of realism” and is one of the founders of Modernism in theatre. Hedda Gabler preminered in 1891 and is probably Ibsen’s most performed play, next to A Doll’s house.
Miss Julie (Fröken Julie)
By August Strindberg (se)
For the long night of midsummer’s eve, a drama between three people rages back and forth between infatuation, passion, anger and despair. The aristocrat Miss Julie falls passionately for the engaged working class servant whose fiance tries to make him keep his promises to her. With themes as emotional heritage, shaming of women, inter-class relationships, heartbreak and many other, Miss Julie is a classic that remains important and interesting to this day.
Miss Julie premiered in Copenhagen 1888 and are the most played play of August Strindberg. He is considered one of Sweden’s most important writers.
I really enjoyed playing miss Julie. The intensity and the drama, even the tragic ending was a pleasure to be a part of.
— Maria Ljung
I loved that it felt like My character Kristine was the one everything was about. How much feelings she had and how important to the play she is.
— Caroline Sjövall
Playing with Fire (Leka med elden)
By August Strindberg (se)
Knut and Kerstin are married, but being bored in a lonely summer house in the archipelago, makes you want to explore new options. Their common friend Axel has a thing for Kerstin, and she for him. Knut has a thing with his cousin Adelé who has things for many people. As the days gets warmer the question is if the fire will rip the family apart or if they will all go to dinner as usual?
Playing with Fire premiered in Berlin 1893 and was at the time considered too outspoken about intimate relationships. It is believed to be based on Strindberg’s stay with his then married friends Carl Gustaf Wrangel and Siri von Essen (who later married Strindberg).
By Minna Canth (fi)
Young and innocent Sylvi is happily married to the much older Axel who controls her every action. She, however believes he will do anything for her. After falling in love with her old friend Victor she discovers that anything doesn’t include giving her the freedom to divorce him. Her only solution is to kill her husband. Victor, however doesn’t want to be with a murderess and abandons her for her friend Karin while Sylvi goes insane. A play about power, passion and poison.
Minna Canth is often called the mother of Finish feminism and her birthday March 19th is official flag day in Finland. Sylvi premiered in Helsingfors in 1893 and was a success, but was also seen as very controversial.
The Celebration (Festen)
By Thomas Vinterberg (dk)
The frame of our story. During Helge’s 60th birthday party his oldest son, Christian, accuses him of rape, incest and the death of his sister. To keep the facade up, all the guests act like nothing and Christian is silenced.
The evening goes on, more and more facts surface that point to the horrible things being true. In the end they can’t keep it down anymore and all the family demons are let out.
The Celebration is originally a Danish movie by Thomas Vinterberg from 1998, that won the price of the jury of the Cannes film festival that year. It has later been rewritten as a theatre script.
Watch the trailer.
The Celebration is one of my favourite movies. Playing a character in the Celebration at A Nice Evening with the Family is the closest I have felt to being in a movie at a larp. It was a great combination of many of the scenes played out almost exactly like scenes from the movie while at other times there were unexpected scenes with characters that expanded on and enriched the story.
— Tor Kjetil Edland
It was tumultuous, an emotional roller coaster and a larp that affected me for a long time.
— Johan Röklander
True Women (Sanna kvinnor)
By Ann Charlotte Leffler (se)
An intense family drama where the men keep being irresponsible and unable to deal with the temptations of life. The father of the family is heavily in debt from gambling, the son-in-law is having an affair and the suitor sides with the would be father-in-law instead of the woman he is courting. The women of the family are by their social roles and the need of the family forced to endure their charming but immature men and their actions.
It is a story that to this day keeps repeating itself over and over and not much has changed since it premiered at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm in 1883. It was inspired by a Swedish law from 1874, that allowed married women to control their own fortune and income, and the problems that occurred when their husbands still felt entitled to it.
Spiralling downward with my character and savoring every happy moment, brought on an avalanche of emotions and weeks of after-learning. An experience I would not want to miss.
— Margrete Raaum
A Nice Evening with the Family gave me a vibrant experience of the suffocating family dynamics of True Women. With the help of the on site directors and dramatic techniques, not only did we make the script our own, we made it come alive.
— Gustav Nilsson