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The childish Unga Klara : contemporary Swedish children's theatre and its experimental aesthetics

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Brünner Beiträge zur Germanistik und Nordistik 30 / 2016 / 1
Brünner Beiträge zur Germanistik und Nordistik 30 / 2016 / 1
DOI: 10.5817/BBGN201615
The Childish Unga Klara:
Contemporary Swedish Childrens Theatre and Its
Experimental Aesthetics
Romana Švachová
Abstract
The purpose of this article is to briefly describe the artistic development and aesthetic roots of
contemporary Swedish professional theatre for children and youth since the 1970s, as present-
ed by the activities and productions of Unga Klara, the experimental theatre stage for children
and youth, founded in 1975 in Stockholm. The article is mainly focused on the written work and
theatre activities of Suzanne Osten, the founder and long-standing artistic director of Unga
Klara. It presents abrief outlook of the cultural context and conditions of the stage’s formation
and summarizes its development since, especially in regard to its specific creative practices
and approach to purposes and the function of children culture, as well to its significance for
later development of Swedish professional experimental theatre institutions for children and
youth.
Keywords
theatre for children and youth, childrens theatre, children’s aesthetics, childrens perspective,
the aesthetics of play, Unga Klara, Suzanne Osten
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In Tvořivá dramatika 2/2011, the Czech magazine covering topics on children’s literature,
children’s theatre, and dramatic education, the Slovak theatre theorist Eva Kyselová
discusses in the article “Vlna. A po nej čo?” the right attributes the professional theatre
intended for children and youth should have. As Kyselová points out, especially in the
context of contemporary Czech and Slovak theatre conditions, this seems to be an unsolved
issue. (KYSELOVÁ 2011: 52) Therefore, the aim of this article is to offer a brief outlook
of the development and aesthetic form of contemporary Swedish professional theatre
intended for the age groups in focus, as presented by the activities and productions of
Unga Klara, the experimental stage exclusively for children and youth, founded in 1975
in Stockholm. The reason why I will focus on the stage particularly is its significance
for further development of Swedish professional experimental theatre for children and
youth – as Malin Axelsson describes it, the foundation and activities of Unga Klara have
become a ground-breaking point in the theatrical landscape’s development (AXELSSON
2013: 21), leading to the field’s artistic rise and eventual foundation of other similar ex-
perimental stages across the country, e.g. Backa Teater and Folkteatern in Gothenburg,
Unga Dramaten or Stockholms stadstater Skärholmen in Stockholm, Ung scen/öst in
Norrköping and Linköping, etc. The extent of this article is, however, limited, therefore
I will focus on the most crucial points in regard to the fact that Unga Klara was founded
as the first of such stages in Sweden. I will summarise the contextual background of Unga
Klara’s development, as well as the artistic approach to children’s theatre of its founder
and long-standing artistic director, Suzanne Osten. Though not entirely correctly, I will
use the terms “theatre for children and youth” and “children’s theatre” interchangeably
in this article.
The 50s and 60s before Unga Klara
A radical re-thinking and evolution of Swedish theatre for children and youth up to its current
form began in relation to the era of the independent theatre groups acting in the 1960s and
at the beginning of the 1970s. (ENGEL 2013: 3; HELANDER 2000: 23–32) A change of
the social attitude toward children culture, its purposes and desired form or content, was
partially conditioned on Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, which burst also onto the
stage only a year after its book publication, thus in 1946. Until then, the repertoire of
various professional theatre companies or institutions providing productions for schools
had consisted, for instance in the case of the age group from 11 up to 14 years, primarily
of popular adventure classics for boys, such as stage adaptations of Robin Hood, David
Copperfield, Tom Sawyer etc., or various pirate adventures, Native American struggles, child
detectives etc. (HELANDER 2000: 16–22) In the 50s, however, according to the Swedish
theatre scholar Karin Helander, a few attempts to bring on the children’s stage newly
written plays emerged. Helander mentions especially the work of Else Fischer, who wrote
i.a. the play Clownen Beppo (Beppo the Clown), which was mainly based on movement and
circus features instead of orations. The play was stage-managed in Stockholm as well as
in other bigger Swedish cities, i.a. Gothenburg, Malmö, Uppsala, Helsingborg, and Borås.
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Helander also points out that during the 40s and 50s the general interest in children’s
own creativity distinctively grew among pedagogues, which led i.a. to increased involve-
ment of improvisation plays and drama in school education. (HELANDER 1998: 77–80;
HELANDER 2000: 22–23) Later then, at the end of the 60s, when left-wing oriented public
discussions started to turn over a lot of cultural and social aspects of Swedish society, the
previous mentioned eventually began to serve as a part of the foundation of the forth-
coming artistic transformation of Swedish professional theatre for children and youth.
The 70s and Unga Klara’s beginnings
Suzanne Osten, born 1944 in Stockholm, turned after studies in art, literature and his-
tory at Lund University back to life in the capital and quickly build up her reputation as
an active feminist and one of the leaders of in those days very fluid Stockholm’s theatri-
cal landscape. (ROSENBERG 2004; SPARBY 1986: 180) The 60s and 70s, in Sweden on-
going similarly as in the rest of Western countries, were periods of student and feminist
movements, public discussions, new programs, and inner transformation of the cultural
climate. On the stage, those decades were represented mainly by a boom and sudden
development of free theatre groups, independent of large institutions and seeking for
new topics and forms. (ÖSTBERG 2013: 190–192) Niklas Brunius partially describes the
atmosphere of the period in his article in the book Swedish Theatre:
“The Swedish theatre in the 1960s is in a period of transformation: it has tired of the grand,
realistic tradition that prevailed unchallenged for several decades. […] To give full reign to
playfulness, to avoid fixing the moves too early, to improvise on the given text – these ideas
have proved highly successful not only in Gothenburg […]. Group theatre activities have been
even livelier in 1966-67. The National Touring Theatre took over Bertil Lundén’s “Free Thea-
tre”, a semi-professional group that had previously been working without financial support. In
Gothenburg, a team under Kent Andersson and Lennart Hjulström created its own play, and
its own picture of Sweden, The Raft, a production reflecting a new and interesting line of de-
velopment at the Gothenburg City Theatre. […] But the Royal Dramatic Theatre too has been
deeply engaged in group work. The “Young Dramatic Theatre”, originally a summer group
[…], has developed into a number of experimental groups that in their free afternoons devote
themselves to new forms of theatre. […]” (BRUNIUS, 1967: 42–43)
These experimental theatre groups were longing and searching for new audience in
such places as factories or department stores – and they headed also for schools, deliver-
ing a social realistic, radical form of theatre with educational purposes, where contact
between audience and actors became a more important principle than ever. (LINDVÅG
1995: 21–26) One of such groups was Fickteatern (The Pocket Theatre), founded in 1967
by Suzanne Osten, Leif Sundberg, Lottie Ejebrant and Gunnar Edander. It represented
a left-wing theatre based on Dario Fo’s aesthetics and thoughts. In Osten’s anthology of
essays and articles Mina meningar, the director admits that cooperation with Leif Sundberg
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in Fickteatern and Fo’s concept of political theatre had been one of the most important
influences, which could be, too, easily observed in her later projects. (OSTEN 2002: 17–21)
Osten emphasizes especially Fo’s practice to proceed from the improvisational tradition
of comedia dell’arte, his stress on the need of exploration of audience and his tendencies
to later bring up controversial and often deeply painful personal subjects:
“Fo wants to ‘trigger a rage.’ He works with subject and form so that they arouse anger and
an action. The performances often directly proceed into political meetings. There are always
discussions after the performances.”1 (OSTEN 2002: 19)
Fickteatern’s history was nevertheless closed in 1971 when the theatre group broke up.
Three years later, however, Osten’s key breakthrough came with the play Jösses flickor -
Befrielsen är nära! (Jaysus Girls, Liberation’s Coming Soon) about the feminist movement,
written together with Margareta Garpe and finally presenting Osten both as a playwright
and director on the Stockholm City Theatre (Stockholms stadsteater). Only a year after,
in 1975, Osten was appointed artistic director of the newly established Unga Klara, Stock-
holm City Theatre’s new division for children’s theatre. (ROSENBERG 2004: 29, 105–114)
The concept of Unga Klara was economically self-evident: an independent small thea-
tre, financially supported by the state in the first place, intended for close audience, with
the aim to bring up socially burning or problematic topics. The target audience was all
children without exceptions, of all social classes and all ethnic groups. The key idea was
“child’s perspective”, a child seen mainly as a powerless individual living in adult’s soci-
ety. (OSTEN 2002: 22–48) In Mina meningar, Osten answers her question “What kind of
theatre does a child want to have?” in this way:
“While we are playing, unflagging examination gives us some definite answers. If we draw
a critical informative theatre wanting to break down certain patterns and authoritarian mod-
els, (child) audience does like it, but also requires both fullness of imagination and an under-
standable language together with images corresponding with its frames of reference. […] It
may seem strange to return in 1975 to Aristotle’s concept of catharsis and do a survey of trag-
edies for children. But the basis here is that our own understanding of the childhood’s concept
has changed. We believe that childhood should be seen as a historical and socially determined
category, not only as a biological one.
“Children, trapped in a modern childhood world, separated from the adult’s society, […]
have become [simply] children and gained no productive role in a modern society like ours.
Telling children about children’s destiny is to a certain degree like to describe a man versus
the capricious gods of the Greek tragedy. Taking children’s experience seriously means to
give them a ‘destiny drama’ about their own limited possibilities of action in the adult’s world:
a children’s tragedy!”2 (OSTEN 2002: 29–30)
1 ”Fo vill ’utlösa en vrede’. Han arbetar därför med ämnen och form så att de i stället för att söva, väcker
ilska och handling. Föreställningarna övergår ofta i direkt politiska möten. Man diskuterar alltid efter föreställ-
ningarna.” (OSTEN 2002: 19)
2 ”En trägen undersökning medan man spelar ger bestämda svar. Om vi skisserar en kritisk informerande
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Unga Klara’s artistic approach and development
Together with the dramatist Per Lysander, Osten wrote Medeas barn (Medea’s Children, as
translated into English by Christer Dahl), a version of Medea from a child’s point of view
about an unknown, unfamiliar topic called “divorce”, which is obviously about to happen
between the parents in the play. The play became a turning point in Swedish children’s
theatre, starting a debate about what could be – and what should be – presented for
a child on the stage. (HELANDER 2000: 33–36) Interestingly, despite the fact that the
play has been over the years stage-managed by numerous theatres in Sweden, after its
presentation in Edinburgh within the theatre festival Fringe 2011, it was commented by
Suzanne Black on the website The List that “the play is about children but not really for
them”. (BLACK 2011) Nevertheless, Black points out a characteristic feature of Osten’s
life-long work. Although Osten herself proclaims her theatre activities as creating thea-
tre for children and youth, the performances are, as Gunilla Lindqvist claims, similar to
such ambivalent literary pieces as Alice in Wonderland or Tove Jansson’s Moomin books
(LINDQVIST 1995: 204) – they are usually rather multi-layered, with a form deriving
from children’s own aesthetics.
Unga Klara has been continuously rushing over the following years towards the
chief aim to batter down, or at least shift the ingrained taboos of communication with
a child, its determined position within the society, or our picture of a child’s perspective.
(OSTEN 2002: 195–218) Although the stage turned the main polarisation of topics
promptly after its beginning towards children’s psychological perspective, the inherit-
ance of the 60s and 70s, namely the need of children culture also presenting questions
and social issues – even to child audience – has become a required matter of fact. (HE-
LANDER 2000: 33–42) To present at this point, however, more than four decades of
dramaturgical plans of the institution is not possible here; let me therefore illustrate the
variety of topics with a quick glance throughout the repertoire.
During the 1970s, plays as Barnkammaré (A Nursery) by Gunnar Harding, Börje Lind-
ström and Niklas Rådström, or the symbolist Snarkjakten (Hounting the Snark) by Per
Lysander and Suzanne Osten, setting out five children for boat trip on Thames with
Lewis Caroll as captain to hunt down the Snark, were inspired by children’s imagination
in the first place. After Medeas barn, other historic plays with children in the centre of the
action arose, for example Häxorna – bränn dem! (The Witches – Burn Them!) by Marga-
reta Garpe, or Lazarillo by Melchior Schedler. Unga Klara’s variations on social drama
teater som vill bryta ner bestämda mönster och auktoritära modeller kommer (barn)publiken vilja ha detta,
men också ställa krav på fantasifylldhet, på ett språk som förstås och bilder som svarar mot deras referensra-
mar. [...] Att i 1975 återvända till Aristoteles’ poetik med katarsisbegrepp och göra en undersökning av trage-
dier för barn kan tyckas besynnerligt. Men det har sin grund i att vår analys av själva barndomsbegreppet har
genomgått en förändring. Vi menar att barndomen bör ses som en historisk och socialt bestämd kategori, inte
endast som en biologisk. Barnen, instängda i en modern barndomsvärld, avskilda från de vuxnas samhälle,
har fått sin historiska roll helt förändrad. Det har blivit barn och har ingen produktiv uppgift i ett modernt
samhälle som vårt. Att berätta för barn om barns öde är att i viss mån beskriva människan och de nyckfulla
gudarna i den grekiska tragedin. Att ta barnens upplevelser på allvar är att ge dem ”ödesdramer” om deras
begränsade handlingsmöjligheter i vuxenvärlden: barntragedin!” (OSTEN 2002: 29–30)
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were presented e.g. with Petra von Kants bittra tårar (The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant)
by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, En man gjuten i ett stycke (A Man Casted in One Piece)
by Anders Ahlbom Rosendahl, Tomas Forser and Staffan Seeberg, or Emilia, Emilia by
Reidar Jönsson and Ove Wall. In 1978, the play Sprit (Booze) by Börje Lindström opened
another Unga Klara’s topic, alcoholism, followed in 1981 by Shelagh Delaney’s play En
doft av honung (A Taste of Honey), which portrayed a teenage girl living with a mother de-
pendent on alcohol. Further during the 1980s, besides Lars Norén’s Underjordens leende
(The Underground’s Smile), such plays as Hitlers barndom (Hitler’s childhood) by Niklas
Rådström or En ren flicka (A Pure Girl) by Lottie Möller, discussing anorexia, also at-
tracted attention. Gender stereotypes were dealt with in a play with the title I Lusthuset
(In the Summerhouse) by Jane Bowles. In 1994, Osten rocked the boat again with a play
called Förberedelse till självmord (Suicide Preparation) by Etienne Glaser based on parts
of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, or later with her own, partly biographical, play
Flickan, mamman och soporna (The Girl, the Mother and the Trash) about growing up with
a psychotic parent. (SPARBY 1986; UNGA KLARA 2016)
One of the Osten’s last directorial projects in Unga Klara was Babydrama, written by
Ann-Sofie Bárány and premiered in 2006. The performance, proclaimed as the world’s
first theatre performance intended for 6- to 12-month old children, led to a book publica-
tion of a survey behind the whole performance. (BÁRÁNY 2008; UNGA KLARA 2016)
The radical aesthetics of children
When Osten started as the artistic director of Unga Klara, she was well aware of the fact
that together with new plays an experimental approach to creating a performance was
needed. As a result of her previous artistic experiences, together with her colleagues,
she chose to go through a dramatic survey and series of improvisations with children to
attest stage methods suitable for children’s theatre. In a conference contribution from
2014, Karin Helander describes e.g. the creative process behind the aforementioned
play Snarkjakten – she mentions that the ensemble would visit nurseries and narrate the
play, both in prose and verse to children, or play selected parts in English to reinforce
the body language (due to the language barrier) and later discuss the play and their
understanding of it with the children. On other visits, they would perform the play and
allow the children to improvise and re-play the performance by themselves, or as well to
perform with the actors. (HELANDER 2014: 7) Though group improvisations had been
a part of Osten’s experimental approach, about the group work together with a child col-
lective, she stated that they learned [themselves] that “the radical aesthetics of children
[was] the fastest way to illustrate something“.3 (OSTEN 2002: 44)
The most important part of this statement seems to be “to illustrate something”. For
children’s theatre, with the aim to explain and elucidate, the key to success is to know
how to hold children’s attention and, at the same time, be quickly and effectively enlight-
3 ”Vi lärde oss radikal estetik av barnen: Snabbaste sättet att illustrera något.” (OSTEN 2002: 44)
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ening in a way that is apprehensible for children in the first place. These requirements
became a natural pedestal of Unga Klara’s performances, radically shaping their form
right from the beginnings.
Language
In Mina meningar, Osten points out a few children’s reactions to listening to Euripides’
verses it was “like a catalogue”, “like at home when they quarrel over bills”.4 (OSTEN
2002: 39) Osten realized that there was a large need for dealing with incomprehensibil-
ity; that child’s understanding of the world was not primarily based on language. Linn
Köpsel comments further on the subject in her master thesis Magiska rum, devoted to
the performance Den magiska cirkeln by Ung scen/öst:
“Within the field of performing arts for children, there are common objections that the chil-
dren do not understand, for the language or the narrative is too advanced. Suzanne Osten
suggests that there is however a kind of ‘child-racism’ in the society and connects language in
particular with this attitude. We can surely give the truth to adult critics that children do not
understand, if the definition of ‘understanding’ lies in measuring of children’s ability to retell
the plot. Instead of that, Osten wants to have a broader definition of what it means ‘to under-
stand’ and adds that the sensual experience of words together with gestures and feelings form
an entirety, which may be the same as understanding (Bárány 2008, p. 12). ‘To understand’
does not need to mean to able to retell the plot with words, or even explain the experience. It
might as well lie in the sensual and bodily experience.”5 (KÖPSEL 2014: 34)
This perspective seems to be partially confirmed also by Gunnila Lindqvist in her dis-
sertation The Aesthetics of Play: A Didactic Study of Play and Culture in Preschools from
1995. After having done a research on children’s perception of a presented drama piece
in a day-care centre in Karlstad, she adds that “even the youngest children [...] had the
ability to interpret the context on the basis of the general atmosphere” and that “their
interpretations did not depend so much on individual objects as on the situation as
a whole”. (LINDQVIST 1995: 210)
This realization became one of the main means of fast proceeding liberalization of
Swedish children’s theatre. The used language, suddenly not playing the chief role, has
4 ”Barnen förstår knappast ett ord av översättning av Euripides text: ’Som telefonkatalogen’, ’Som när dom
hemma grälar om räkningar’, var liknelser vi fick på versen.” (OSTEN 2002: 39)
5 ”Inom den konstnärliga scenkonsten för barn är det vanligt med invändningar om att barn inte förstår för
att språket eller det berättade är för avancerat. Suzanne Osten menar att det i samhället råder en ”barnrasism”
och att inställningen ofta har med just språket att göra. De vuxna kritikerna kan få rätt i att barnen inte förstår
om definitionen av ’förståelse’ vilar i att mäta barnens förmåga att återberätta handlingen. Osten vill istället ha
ett vidgat begrepp av ordet förståelse och tillägger att den sinnliga erfarenheten av orden, gesten och känslan
bildar en helhet, vilket kan vara detsamma som förståelse (Bárány 2008, s. 12). Att förstå behöver således inte
vara samma sak som att med ord kunna återberätta eller ens förklara upplevelsen. Det kan lika gärna ligga
i sinnliga och kroppsliga erfarenheter.” (KÖPSEL 2014: 34)
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often been reduced to an overuse of word parasites, frequently in form of rhythmical
word plays with nonsense, or confused babble. Word repetitions quickly started to play
an important role of the used language. See two illustrative examples below, an extract
from the play Prins Sorgfri by Suzanne Osten and Per Lysader, premiered in 1977 and
translated into English as Prince Free of Sorrows by Anne-Charlotte Hanes-Harvey, and an-
other extract from the play K+M+R+L by Mattias Anderson, published in 2000 as a part
of the anthology Fem pjäser (both extracts below are presented in their original versions
and in my own translation into English made only for the purposes of this article).
Extract n.1. (OSTEN & LYSANDER, 2009: 24–25):
/Natt. Sorfri sover. Vakterna står på sina vakt-
plattor – gungar fram och tillbaka och spanar
ut över natten. Plötsligt hörs en stilla snyftning.
Nattmusiken slut./
KUNGEN /uppifrån sitt torn/ Ta fast sorgen!
VAKT 3 Ta fast den! Var är den?
VAKT 5 Jag hörde den här borta.
VAKT 4 Sorgen är lös! Mitt ibland
oss!
KUNGEN Ta fast sorgen!
VAKT 3 Ta fast den! Var är den?
VAKT 5 Jag hörde den här borta.
KUNGEN Ta fast sorgen!
VAKT 3 Ta fast den! Var är den?
VAKT 5 Jag hörde den här borta.
VAKT 4 Sorgen är lös! Mitt ibland
oss!”
/At night. The prince sleeps. The guards at their
places, rocking back and forth, on the look-out. Sud-
denly, we hear a gentle sob. The night theme ends./
THE KING /from the top of his tower/ Catch the
sorrow!
GUARD 3 Catch it! Where is it?
GUARD 5 I heard it over there.
GUARD 4 The sorrow is on the loose! In our
midst!
THE KING Catch the sorrow!
GUARD 3 Catch it! Where is it?
GUARD 5 I heard it over there.
THE KING Catch the sorrow!
GUARD 3 Catch it! Where is it?
GUARD 5 I heard it over there.
GUARD 4 The sorrow is on the loose! In our
midst!
Extract n.2. (ANDERSSON, 2009: 191):
“KAJ Skulle vi ta en sväng in till stan, eller?
ROGER Nej, fan. Du vet, liksom. Nej.
KAJ Kom igen nu!
ROGER Nej, fan. Du vet, liksom. Nej.
KAJ Du lovade ju!
ROGER Nej, fan. Du vet, liksom. Nej.
KAJ Ring och säg till då!
ROGER Nej, fan. Lite jobbigt så. Hon liksom.
Nej, du vet. Liksom.
KAJ Okej då.”
“KAJ What about a trip into the town?
ROGER No, shit. You know, I mean. No.
KAJ Come on now!
ROGER No, shit. You know, I mean. No.
KAJ You’ve promised!
ROGER No, shit. You know, I mean. No.
KAJ Call her and tell her then!
ROGER No, shit. This’ exhausting. She, I mean.
No, I mean. You know.
KAJ Okay, then.”
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Motion, expression of emotions and borders between actors and
audience
As in clown shows, an action, a movement, a facial expression or the tone of voice are
often the real conveyers of meaning in contemporary Swedish productions for children
or youth. The importance of movement in general in the performances is illustrated e.g.
by Ellinor Lidén in her study Rörlighet och rörelser i en barnteater, focused entirely on the
vast role of movement in selected performances of Stockholm stadsteater Skärholmen,
the Stockholm’s City Theatre’s division in Skärholmen. (LIDÉN 2013) Interpretation of
spoken word through movement as well as expressive portrayals of emotions have been
the ground and pillar of the field’s aesthetics, often herding the productions into expres-
sionism. For example, to avoid children’s total identification Osten suggests that:
“[w]e got some key lessons: ‘weak’ emotions (crying) must be performed theatrical on stage.
The kids laugh at adult’s crying. [Otherwise t]hey always sink into identification.”6 (OSTEN
2002: 39)
As another auxiliary element to repel children’s identification, actors often cross
and mingle the border between audience and the stage. (AXELSSON 2013: 21–23) The
gender scientist Anna Lundberg states that “theatre performances built on interaction
between actors and audience have become a growing trend in the Swedish theatre for
children and youth”7 (LUNDBERG 2013: 82), whilst the director and playwright Malin
Axelsson referring to the field as “the childish theatre”, comments especially on the
extent of communication with the audience in the News from Swedish Theatre: Young Audi-
ence 2013:
“The ‘childish theatre’ addresses its audience and engages each member, moving among them
like the players in a carnival. In Unga Klara’s performances, actors often greet the audience
already as the audience enter the theatre. The actors and the narrative press in, they ask ques-
tions, they come close. […] Everyone entering the performance space is part of the game. There
is no protective fourth wall, and those who dare to enter must also dare to play the game. This
doesn’t necessarily mean the audience will be actually pulled up on stage, but it does happen.
Play is a reciprocal activity and demands response and exchange.” (AXELSSON 2013: 23)
As the German drama teacher Christel Hoffmann (MECOVÁ 2011: 17), Swedish play-
wrights and directors of children’s theatre proceed from elemental principles of Brecht’s
6 ”Vi gjorde några viktiga erfarenheter: Svaga känslor (gråt) måste göras teatralt på scenen. Barnen skrattar
åt vuxnas gråt. Identifikation ligger alltid på barnen när de är med.” (OSTEN 2002: 39)
7 ”Teaterföreställningar byggda på interaktivitet mellan skådespelare och publik har under de senaste åren
blivit något av en växande trend inom svensk scenkonst för. Det gäller inte minst scenkonst riktad till barn och
ungdomar i Sverige. [...] I det scenkonstnärliga sammanhanget innebär det konstnärliga greppet interaktivitet
att traditionell uppdelning mellan scen och salong sätts i rörelse, så även den skapande processen och ensem-
blens förhållningssätt till såväl grupp som enskilda teaterbesökare.” (LUNDBERG 2013: 82)
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epic theatre, too. Various estrangement effects, a narrator accompanying audience
throughout a chaotic, non-linear plot, cross-gender acting or a large number of char-
acters and associated frequent and fast changing of roles, are distinctively popular ele-
ments. (AXELSSON 2016)
The world upside-down
When referring to the artistic roots of contemporary Swedish children’s theatre, Ka-
rin Helander and Margareta Sörenson tend to use the overarching term “modernism”,
rather than to offer a more specified concept. (HELANDER 2014: 7; SÖRENSON 2000:
115–121) Malin Axelsson, the artistic director of the theatre Ung scen/öst, elucidates the
artistic roots more closely in her article “The Childish Avant-garde: The Aesthetics of
Play and Contempt for the Infantile”, where she mentions the avant-garde currents of
the 1920s in the context of Swedish theatrical development. She points out that unlike in
Berlin, Paris, Zürich or New York, the Swedish theatrical landscape did not become very
influenced by Surrealism and Dadaism – that also derived from children’s imagination
– right in the 20s, but rather during a Swedish period of Neo-Dada in the 60s. (AXELS-
SON 2016) Axelsson adds:
“The ‘childish theatre’ is often expressed in its mixing of genres, of being neither comedy
through and through, or tragedy. It can also be defined in the permeability of the border
between audience and actor. It is a theatre that approaches semiotics theoretician Mikhail
Bakhtin’s description of ‘the carnivalesque’.” (AXELSSON 2013: 22)
The essential idea of Bakhtin’s perception of “the carnivalesque” in François Rabelais’
work is “the world upside-down” – mingling of genres and turning of the opposites inside
out. The high culture is playfully lowered; a grotesque image of the world arises from
usage of chaos, travesty, foolishness, and parody, together with humour and eccentric
behaviour. The most fundamental principle here is the grotesque body – representation
of the abstract through various deformation of the body. (BACHTIN 2007: 17, 89, 161)
A notion that there could be a connection between Bakhtin’s concept of the comic in the
medieval carnival and children’s humour in general seems to be supported by Roder-
ick McGillis, who in Cambridge Companion to Children’s Literature discusses a connection
between the body and children’s humour, pinpointing such examples as nonsenses as-
sociated with the body in Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland – “long noses, wild hair, collapsed
bodies and so on” or verbal humour deriving from the body – “sticks and bones will
break my bones, but names [or words] can never hurt me”. (MCGILLIS 2012: 258)
Axelsson demonstrates a few other similarities between Bakhtin’s perception of Rab-
elais’ carnival and Swedish children’s theatre; she particularly stresses usage of “high”
elements, classical terms, extracts and motives of ingrained and acclaimed drama pieces
or the canon, and blending them with “low” genres that were historically connected with
the lower social classes, the comic, and folk culture. As McGillis, who further associates
61
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The Childish Unga Klara: Contemporary Swedish Childrens Theatre and Its Experimental …
Brünner Beiträge zur Germanistik und Nordistik 30 / 2016 / 1
children’s humour with slapstick, caricature, parody, and the overall ridicule, the par-
ticular folk genres that Axelsson brings together with contemporary Swedish children’s
theatre are e.g. commedia dell’arte, freak show, stand-up comedy, musical, melodrama,
cabaret, circus, slapstick or slam poetry; among dance styles she highlights disco-dance.
(AXELSSON 2016)
The aesthetics of play
Axelsson finishes her argumentation with a statement that the fundamental principal
of the specific aesthetics of contemporary Swedish children’s theatre, as a basis for all
above described, is “the aesthetics of [a children’s] play”. She describes it further in these
terms:
“We might describe the young proponents of the ‘childish theatre’ as being part of the ‘play
competent’ generation, a generation that through society’s investment in day care centres
and children’s culture has been encouraged to play. [...] The ‘childish theatre’ plays forbid-
den games. It parodies absurd reality. It goes even further by, through play, questioning what
‘reality’ is by manipulating the border between reality and fiction. One characteristic of play is
that it is non-linear. Play is often chaotic, moving forward in one instant then suddenly veering
off in another direction, getting caught up in a multitude of repetitions and then once again
lurching forward, fastening in a new discovery or exploring new side-tracks. There is no steady
forward progress.” (AXELSSON 2013: 23–24)
Axelsson may have proceeded from the work of aforementioned Gunilla Lindqvist, who
introduced the term “aesthetics of play” in her doctoral thesis in 1995, later described
also in her Swedish article “Drama som lek – lekens estetik”. Lindqvist uses this term
in a drama pedagogical context, attempting to describe specific aesthetical aspects of
improvisational play activities created by a children’s collective. To a certain degree,
Lindqvist’s observations correspond with Axelsson’s picture of contemporary Swedish
children’s theatre as well as with Osten’s insights; after having read the work of Jon Roar
Bjørkvold, Brian Sutton-Smith and Korney Chukovsky as well as finishing her own survey
of children’s collective activities, she summarizes a few aesthetical patterns of children’s
plays. She states that “the aesthetics of play” is characterized by its distinctive dynamics,
where movement, music, rhythm, and language are as performative components put
at the same level, producing a whole. She emphasizes the significance of improvisation
as well as children’s poetic and associative approach to language, understood here as
a symbolist toy. She compares the aesthetics with e.g. jazz improvisations, where all the
instruments can play various tunes or in various rhythms, creating rather a polyphony
than a unified melody. (LINDQVIST 2000: 28–32)
Karin Helander states that “it is obvious that Swedish children’s theatre is very
influenced by aesthetic and ideological changes within the theatre for adult audi-
ence”. (HELANDER 1998: 269) In 2013, Malin Axelsson goes even further and in her
62
Romana Švachová
The Childish Unga Klara: Contemporary Swedish Childrens Theatre and Its Experimental …
Brünner Beiträge zur Germanistik und Nordistik 30 / 2016 / 1
aforementioned article doubts the very need of categorization of contemporary Swed-
ish “children’s” and “adult’s” theatre. (AXELSSON 2013: 21–22) Both Helander and
Axelsson stress the need of treating children’s theatre in the same way as we do with the
adult’s – because as Helander adds, though “it is fairly certain that the child’s reactions
will differ from your own”, this “does not prevent the child and the adult from meeting
in common experiences and feelings”. (HELANDER 1998: 270)
Works cited
AXELSSON, Malin (2013): ‘The Childish Avant-garde. The Aesthetics of Play and Contempt for
the Infantile’. In: News from Swedish Theatre: Young Audience 2013, pp. 21–24.
AXELSSON, Malin (2016): ‘Den barnsliga teatern – om lekens estetik och föraktet för det barns-
liga’. In: Malin Axelsson. http://www.malinaxelsson.se/articles/den-barnsliga-teatern (24. 4.
2016).
ANDERSSON, Mattias (2000): ‘K+M+R+L.’ In: ANDERSSON, Mattias (et al.). Fem pjäser. Stock-
holm – Manifest, pp. 183–239.
BACHTIN, Michail Michajlovič (2007): François Rabelais a lidová kultura středověku a renesance.
Praha – Argo.
BLACK, Suzanne (2011): ‘Medea’s Children. A cautionary tale for divorcing parents’. In: The List.
http://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/article/36773-medeas-children (4. 1. 2013).
BÁRÁNY, Ann-Sofie (2008): Babydrama. Göteborg – Kakusa böcker.
BRUNIUS, Niklas (1967): ‘Swedish Theatre’. In: BRUNIUS, Niklas (et al.). Swedish Theatre. Stock-
holm – Sveriges institute, pp. 11–56.
ENGEL, Ann Mari (2013): ‘Introduction’. In: News from Swedish Theatre: Young Audience:
Young Audience 2013.
HELANDER, Karin (1998): Från sagospel till barntragedi. Pedagogik, förströelse och konst
i 1900-talets svenska barnteater. Stockholm – Carlsson bokförlag.
HELANDER, Karin (2000): ‘Svensk teater i historiskt perspektiv’. In: BENEDEK, Judit (ed.). Och
nu då? Barnteatern inför 2000-talet. Stockholm – Statens kulturråd, pp. 8–57.
HELANDER, Karin (2014): ‘Konstnärlig barnteater – en dialog om betydelsen av scenkonst för
barn’. In: Barnekulturforskning i Norden – et nordisk tverrfaglig forskningsnettverk. http://
bin-norden.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/3-konf-Helander-Osten.pdf (22. 2. 2014).
KÖPSEL, Linn (2013): ‘Magiska rum. Om scenografins roll iscenkonstverk för barn och unga’.
Digitala Vetenskapliga Arkivet. http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:646132/FULL-
TEXT01.pdf (1. 3 2014).
KYSELOVÁ, Eva (2011): ‘Vlna. A po nej čo?’ In: Tvořivá dramatika 63.2, pp. 52.
LIDÉN, Ellinor (2013): ‘Rörlighet och rörelser i en barnteater’. In: Linköping University. Linköping
University Electronic Press. http://www.ep.liu.se/ecp/095/008/ecp13095008.pdf (20. 5. 2016).
LINDQVIST, Gunilla (1995): ‘The Aesthetics of Play: A Didactic Study of Play and Culture in
Preschools.’ In: ERIC. Institute of Educational Sciences. http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/
ED396824.pdf (27. 3. 2014).
LINDQVIST, Gunilla (2000): ‘Drama som lek – lekens estetik’. In: HELANDER, Karin (ed.). Barn,
teater, drama. Stockholm – Centrum för barnkulturforskning vid Stockholms universitet, pp.
25–38.
LINDVÅG, Anita (1995): Möte med barnteatern. Stockholm : Liber utbildning.
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LUNDBERG, Anna (2013): Äckel, jubel, kaos: Förhandling om betydelse i interaktiv barn- och
ungdomsteater. Digitala Vetenskapliga Arkivet. http://liu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/
diva2:701644/FULLTEXT01.pdf (24. 5. 2014).
MCGILLIS, Roderick (2012): ‘Humour and the body and children’s literature’. In: GRENBY, M.O.
(et al.). The Cambridge Companion to Children’s Literature (5th Ed.). Cambridge – Cam-
bridge University Press, pp. 258–271.
MECOVÁ, Lucie (2011): ‘Setkání s Christel Hoffmannovou aneb Seznámení s principy epického
divadlo jako cesta k divadlu s dětmi.’ In: Tvořivá dramatika 63:2, pp. 17–20.
OSTEN, Suzanne (2002): Mina meningar. Essäer, artiklar, analyser 1969–2002. Södertälje – Gid-
lunds bokförlag.
OSTEN, Suzanne & LYSANDER, Per (2009): ‘Prins Sorgfri’. In: OSTEN, Suzanne (ed.) Nio pjäser
på Unga Klara. Stockholm – Themis förlag.
ROSENBERG, Tina (2004): Besvärliga människor. Kommunikation till varje pris – teatersamtal
med Suzanne Osten. Stockholm – Atlas.
SPARBY, Monica (1986): Unga Klara. Barnteater som konst. Stockholm – Gidlunds bokförlag.
UNGA KLARA (2016). ‘Pjäsarkiv’ In: Unga Klara. http://www.ungaklara.se/forestallningar/
#pjasarkiv (22. 5. 2016).
SÖRENSON, Margareta. ‘Om modernism, bildkonst och dans i barnteatern.’ In: HELANDER, Ka-
rin (ed.). Barn, teater, drama. Stockholm – Centrum för barnkulturforskning vid Stockholms
universitet, pp. 115–128.
ÖSTBERG, Kjell & ANDERSSON, Jenny (2013): Sveriges historia : 1965–2012. Stockholm – Nor-
stedts.
Mgr.Romana Švacho / svachova@phil.muni.cz
Filozofická fakulta Masarykovy univerzity, Arna Nováka 1, 60200 Brno, Česká republika
Article
Background : The dynamics between conceptualizing art-making and responding to aesthetic phenomena in relation to aesthetic development of children (ADC) are unclear. This study aimed to investigate what facilitates the transition between conceptualizing art-making and responding to aesthetic phenomena in terms of metaphors of life and nature in ADC. Methods: We adopted an ethical methodology prioritizing movement and respecting children’s autonomy toward positive emotions. The participants were eight Japanese children (age range: 7−15 years; 6 girls, 2 boys). They were in the same painting class to ensure nearly identical aesthetic conditions. Results: Four states according to children’s ages were observed in their perceptions of metaphors of life and nature in conscious and unconscious ways in the iterative dynamics between conceptualizing art-making and responding to aesthetic phenomena. Conclusion: Two important findings from systems-oriented perspectives are that emotional communication in art can be theorized, and that the four states of the aesthetic development of children seem to be related to children's age-specific tension-flow rhythms. By making the process of art therapy for ADC, we can expect art therapy and art-based research to be more developmentally appropriate for children.
This study aims to conceptualise a drama-integrated curriculum devised from process drama as an approach to play-based pedagogy and curriculum to realise the policy initiative of learning through play. By investigating teachers’ perspectives and practices in relation to the curriculum of a local kindergarten, examples of effective drama-integration strategies and the associated children's learning are identified and organised into four themes – namely, drama teaching and learning through, before, in and after play. The teachers understood that although their curriculum is not based on free play, its not-so-free features may reconcile the play–learning binarism, daring them to navigate the maze of complex relationships between play, drama, teaching and learning in implementing a playful curriculum.
Article
1. vyd. Jmenný a názvový rejstřík Vysvětl. k obr. příl. Frontispice Il. tit. list a předsádky Obálka a vazba: Libor Fára 2000 výt. Obsahuje také textovou příl.: Římský karneval / J.W. Goethe Pozn. Práce významného sovětského literárního vědce je spíše než monografií o francouzském renesančním spisovateli pojednáním o podstatě, projevech a vývoji lidové smíchové kultury ve středověku a za renesance, přičemž autor zkoumápředevším tři projevy této kultury - karnevalové slavnosti, parodickou slovesnost a femiliární hovorovou řeč. Takto koncipovaný výklad lidové smíchové kultury vytváří přitom základnu pro interpretaci neobyčejného množstvírozmanitých děl a projevů z různých národních kultur, takových, které nebyly dosud uspokojivé pochopeny a vyloženy.
Article
Thesis (doctoral)--Uppsala University, 1995. Includes bibliographical references (p. 221-232).
KAJ What about a trip into the town? ROGER No, shit You know, I mean. No. KAJ Come on now! ROGER No, shit. You know, I mean. No. KAJ You've promised! ROGER No, shit. You know, I mean. No. KAJ Call her and tell her then! ROGER No, shit. This' exhausting. She, I mean. No, I mean
  • Du Nej
  • Liksom
  • Okej Då
Nej, du vet. Liksom. KAJ Okej då." "KAJ What about a trip into the town? ROGER No, shit. You know, I mean. No. KAJ Come on now! ROGER No, shit. You know, I mean. No. KAJ You've promised! ROGER No, shit. You know, I mean. No. KAJ Call her and tell her then! ROGER No, shit. This' exhausting. She, I mean. No, I mean. You know. KAJ Okay, then."
Contemporary Swedish Children's Theatre and Its Experimental … Brünner Beiträge zur Germanistik und Nordistik 30
  • Romana Švachová The Childish Unga
  • Klara
Romana Švachová The Childish Unga Klara: Contemporary Swedish Children's Theatre and Its Experimental … Brünner Beiträge zur Germanistik und Nordistik 30 / 2016 / 1
Den barnsliga teatern-om lekens estetik och föraktet för det barnsliga'. In: Malin Axelsson
  • Malin Axelsson
AXELSSON, Malin (2016): 'Den barnsliga teatern-om lekens estetik och föraktet för det barnsliga'. In: Malin Axelsson. http://www.malinaxelsson.se/articles/den-barnsliga-teatern (24. 4. 2016).
Medea's Children. A cautionary tale for divorcing parents
  • Suzanne Black
BLACK, Suzanne (2011): 'Medea's Children. A cautionary tale for divorcing parents'. In: The List. http://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/article/36773-medeas-children (4. 1. 2013).
Introduction'. In: News from Swedish Theatre: Young Audience: Young Audience
  • Ann Mari
ENGEL, Ann Mari (2013): 'Introduction'. In: News from Swedish Theatre: Young Audience: Young Audience 2013.
Från sagospel till barntragedi. Pedagogik, förströelse och konst i 1900-talets svenska barnteater. Stockholm - Carlsson bokförlag
  • Karin Helander
HELANDER, Karin (1998): Från sagospel till barntragedi. Pedagogik, förströelse och konst i 1900-talets svenska barnteater. Stockholm -Carlsson bokförlag.
Svensk teater i historiskt perspektiv
  • Karin Helander
HELANDER, Karin (2000): 'Svensk teater i historiskt perspektiv'. In: BENEDEK, Judit (ed.). Och nu då? Barnteatern inför 2000-talet. Stockholm -Statens kulturråd, pp. 8-57.
Konstnärlig barnteater-en dialog om betydelsen av scenkonst för barn'. In: Barnekulturforskning i Norden-et nordisk tverrfaglig forskningsnettverk
  • Karin Helander
HELANDER, Karin (2014): 'Konstnärlig barnteater-en dialog om betydelsen av scenkonst för barn'. In: Barnekulturforskning i Norden-et nordisk tverrfaglig forskningsnettverk. http:// bin-norden.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/3-konf-Helander-Osten.pdf (22. 2. 2014).