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Toralv Maurstad

Toralv Maurstad (born November 24 1926, Bærum) is a Norwegian actor, director and former artistic director, son of the actors Tordis (1901-97, née Witzøe) and Alfred Maurstad (1896-1967). He was educated at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London (1947-49).

He was an employee of Det Nye Teater (literally: The New Theatre) in 1951–54, and of The National Theatre 1954–67. Maurstad was artistic director of Oslo Nye Teater (Oslo New Theatre) 1967–78 and for The National Theatre 1978–86.


(Objekt ID 11349)
Object type Person
Born Navember 24, 1926 (dead Navember 4, 2022)
Functions Actor, Theatre director
Nationality Norwegian
Gender Male

As the son of two actors Toralv Maurstad grew up with theatre and movies, and he had smaller parts already as a child. After studying at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London 1947–49 he made his official debut the autumn of 1949 in Nils Kjær's The Happy Choice at Trøndelag Theatre, and his breakthrough came with the next role, in Young Woodley by John van Druten.

In 1951 he came to Det Nye Teater (The New Theatre) in Oslo, where he in particular triumphed as cynical antihero in the musical Pal Joey by Rodgers & Hart. He played rebellious youths in Jacques Deval's Etienne, John Osborne's Look Back in Anger and Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel. He played a suppressed gay man in Tea and Sympathy by Robert Anderson and totally dominated as Gabriel in Stig Dagerman's The Shadow of Mart.

In 1961 he visited The Norwegian Theatre where he played against his parents in O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night. Other O'Neill roles were the stepson in Desire under the Elms and the young poet in Ah, Wilderness, for which he got The Norwegian Critics' Award in 1963. He also made his mark in classical roles, including Holberg's Henrik in The Waverer, the title role of Erasmus Montanus and Arv in Jean de France, Shakespeare's Sebastian in Twelfth Night and Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. His Ibsen roles include Peer Gynt and Brand. He also guest-starred in venues in Bremen and New York.

The role as the host in Cabaret (Oslo Nye Teater (Oslo New Theatre), 1968, one year into his term as artistic director of the theatre) gave him a great audience success.

As a freelancer from 1986 Maurstad has solved large dramatic assignments, including the father in Lars Norén's Night is Mother to the Day, Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and the bishop Nikolas in Ibsen's The Pretenders, as well as character comedy against Wenche Foss in Jerome Kilty's Dear Liar, against Liv Ullmann in Noel Coward's Private Lives and against Geir Kvarme in Kjetil Bang-Hansen's The Enigma Variations.

He also has made several popular solo shows, including the Ibsen monologue Nei, jeg gjør ei* (No, I do not), the autobiographical En lek med livet på scenen* (A game with life onstage), and Apology of Socrates (2012).

Toralv Maurstad directed the farces Noises Off (Oslo Nye Teater (Oslo New Theatre)) and Arsenic and Old Lace (The Norwegian Theatre), and has toured with The Norwegian Touring Theatre with his own Ibsen programme.

In 1967 Maurstad became artistic director of Oslo Nye Teater (Oslo New Theatre), at the time transforming into a pure comedy theatre. With all the former actors' contracts ended he could hire his dream ensemble, and chose Wenche Foss surrounded by the cream of Norwegian comedy, names such as Aud Schønemann, Elsa Lystad, Leif Juster, Arve Opsahl, Harald Heide-Steen jr., Rolf Just Nilsen and Willie Hoel. The time at Oslo Nye Teater (Oslo New Theatre), until 1978, was a commercial and artistic triumph.

On the other hand, his time managing The National Theatre, 1978-1986, became very turbulent. His firing of eight actors in 1979 led to an actor strike and enormous, at times very negative, media coverage of Maurstad as a person. Large renovation work, in particular after the fire on the main stage in October 1980, meant that he primarily had to use The Torshov Theatre and The Amphi Stage (Amfiscenen), with certain detours via Chat Noir and other temporary stages. In 1985 the main stage reopened with a gala version of Peer Gynt, with Maurstad as one of three actors playing the title role. His time heading the theatre was so controversial it is often forgotten that it also contained the Norwegian breakthrough of playwright Tom Stoppard and several legendary Shakespeare and Dario Fo Productions at The Torshov Theatre.

Toralv Maurstad also has performed in a number of movies. His first major movie role, the spoiled son in Krane's Bakery Shop (1951), was followed by leading parts in Andrine and Kjell (1952), Circus Fandango (1954) and Hjem går vi ikke* (We are not going home) (1955), giving him a name as a youth idol. Among the movies he has later had roles in are Line (1961), Om Tilla* (On Tilla) (1963), Hennes Meget Kongelige Høyhet* (Her Very Royal Highness) (1968). He gave voice to Ludvig in Pinchcliffe Grand Prix (1975), and he visited Sweden in Black Palm Trees (1968) and the TV series Ett köpmanshus i Skärgården* (A Merchant House among Islets) (1972). After the Rubicon (1987) became an audience success.

The very biggest chance could have been the role of Edvard Grieg in the film version of the Broadway musical Song of Norway (1970). In his autobiography Du store min... (literally: Oh, My...) (1971) Maurstad offers a witty description of the filming of the giant musical, anticipated with a lot of Norwegian scepticism and demands to prohibit a Hollywood version of Grieg's life and music. The result was an involuntarily funny turkey. Far more credit Maurstad got for the role of Hjalmar Johansen in the British TV series The Last Place on Earth (1985). He also played Georg Anker-Hansen in the TV series Hotel Cæsar. In 1999 he was given Honorary Amanda.

Toralv Maurstad also has been given Aamotstatuetten (The Aamot Statuette, 1962). He was knighted by The Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav in 1974 and is an honorary member of The Norwegian Actors' Equity Association.

After interpreting the roles of Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot by The National Theatre Toralv Maurstad and Espen Skjønberg received Honorary Hedda together, in 2005.

The Hedda Jury gave the following reason:

"Honorary Hedda is not to be given out annually, but only when the jury is simply not unable not to give it out. This was said by the jury the first time the award was given out - to Wenche Foss in 2002. The next year the jury couldn't abstain, either, and the Honorary Award went to Jon Fosse. Last year the jury stuck to its word: No Honorary Hedda was given out.

We make up for it this year. With not just one award, but two. To two unique personalities, who both have long experience from Norwegian theatre, and who have both become living legends. For more than 50 years they have delighted Norwegians - onstage, naturally, but also on cinema screens and through TV. This year they do it again, and the audience's warmth and love meet them: Ever since the opening there has hardly been an available ticket for their - for now - last achievement.

Honorary Hedda goes to Espen Skjønberg and Toralv Maurstad."

Toralv Maurstad received The Hedda Award 2017 in the best supporting actor category for the role of John in Overføring* (Transference), by Tyra Tønnessen after Marit Råbu. The production was directed by Tyra Tønnessen, and staged by The Norwegian Theatre in collaboration with The National Theatre.

The Hedda Jury gave the following reason:

"When the actor's assignment is interpreting one of several roles on equal footing, particularly strong concentration is demanded those few minutes the character is in the limelight. If used right, experience can be the best platform. Here, the most experienced of them all choses to put many decades of routine aside, to remove all grandiosity, all glamour and honour. Former triumphs in the great roles of world drama make up the fundament for the creation of a new stage character; in one scene, the veteran BECOMES a small, aggressive four-year old in the sandbox. It is great art of acting."

Toralv Maurstad has published two autobiographies: Du store min... (literally: Oh, my...) (1971) and For et liv: historier jeg bare har fortalt mine venner (literally: What a life! Stories I have only told my friends) (2012).


Sceneweb on The Hedda Award 2005, www.sceneweb.no, 17.10.2012, http://www.sceneweb.no/en/awarding/23849/The_Hedda_Award_2005-2005

Store Norske Leksikon, Toralv Maurstad, www.snl.no, 18.10.2012, http://snl.no/Toralv_Maurstad

Norsk Biografisk Leksikon, Toralv Maurstad, www.snl.no/.nbl, 18.10.2012, http://snl.no/.nbl_biografi/Toralv_Maurstad/utdypning

The Hedda Award, heddaprisen.no, 19.06.2017, https://www.heddaprisen.no/vinnere/2017

*Not yet translated into English. The title within parentheses is the Norwegian title's literal meaning.


1947-1949 Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (London)

Affiliations (2)
Artworks (1)
Title Publiseringsdato Role
Wildenveysommer Script, Cabaret – Author