Det eviga leendet/The Eternal Smile

Det eviga leendet/The eternal smile (2010) is a theatre production by Verk Produksjoner AKA Verk Productions.

The Eternal Smile (originally, in Swedish: Det eviga leendet) is the name of a novel by Pär Lagerkvist, written in 1920.

Verk Produksjoner AKA Verk Productions is known for its epic and vaudeville-like acting style with satiric and political undertones.

Information

(Objekt ID 6974)
Object type Production
Premiere Navember 17, 2010
Produced by Verk Produksjoner
Coproducers Black Box Teater
Based on The Eternal Smile by Pär Lagerkvist
Audience Adults
Language Norwegian and Swedish
Subtitles German
Expressions Theatre, Post-dramatic theatre
Running period Navember 17, 2010  
Duration 1 hour 25 minutes
Website VERK Produksjoner

Requirements to venue

Blackout Yes
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Det eviga leendet by Verk Produksjoner AKA Verk Productions uses the Lagerkvist novel's Swedish title, as the book is not yet translated into Norwegian.

Pär Lagerkvist was awarded The Nobel Prize in Literature in 1951. His writing mostly revolves around the human relationship to God. In 1920 he wrote the cult classic The Eternal Smile, about a large group of dead people.

They sit someplace in the dark. They don't know where, perhaps nowhere, and they talk to pass the eternal time. Eventually, as thousands of years have passed, they become restless and wonder what is the meaning of it all. Unease spreads throughout the enormous gathering of dead people. Eventually they rise, determined to find God and get the answers.

"Perhaps there is something other than us, perhaps there is something other than living. But of that I know nothing. It is not me", he writes in the book.

Verk Produksjoner AKA Verk Productions is adapting the text for the theatre for the first time. Springing out from a national theatre in miniature onstage, the artists strive after the writer's own preferences for theatre:

"The new time demands a new form (...) To create an illusion of reality and speak only to the intellect cannot be the mission of theatre. The word should no longer be the sole ruler as a scenic means of expression, only theatre involving all our senses can master to convey the diversity of impressions, the state of feverishness and madness constituting the modern", as it written in Pär Lagerkvist’s essay on modern theatre (written in 1918).

Verk Produksjoner AKA Verk Productions got The Hedda Award 2011 in the category of best production for Det eviga leendet/The eternal smile. The jury reasoned as follows:

"Based on an at home relatively unknown, but diverse story about the Human Being's relationship to the Great Questions of Life, the artists behind the production of the year have created a thought-provoking, mythical production about an original topic.

This is an adaptation in which a witty text void of illusions is performed with intense involvement and sober distance, while unexpected theatrical effects continuously expand the metaphysical perspective. The result is a meaningful and witty philosophical fable, in which the artists continuously go in new directions, and have stage design, lighting and sound melting together in a challenging and exciting expression."

Det eviga leendet by Verk Produksjoner AKA Verk Productions was supported by the Norwegian Ministry for Foreign Affairs/MFA (travel grant/performing arts).

Sources:

Black Box Teater Oslo, http://www.blackbox.no/, 06.10.2010, http://www.blackbox.no/content/titlePresentation.php?tid=2063

BIT Teatergarasjen høstprogram 2011. 31.08.2011: http://www.bit-teatergarasjen.no/article/407

The Hedda Award, heddaprisen.no, 07.06.2012

Contributors
Name Role
Max Frisch – Text
Pär Lagerkvist – Text
Fredrik Hannestad – Concept/Idea
Saila Hyttinen – Concept/Idea
Anders Mossling – Concept/Idea
Fredrik Hannestad – Direction
Anders Paulin – Dramaturge
Signe Becker – Stage design
Per Platou – Sound design
Per Platou – Sound
Tilo Hahn – Lighting design
Saila Hyttinen – Actor
Solveig Laland Mohn – Actor
Anders Mossling – Actor
Håkon Mathias Vassvik – Actor
Signe Becker – Performer
Press coverage

Larsen, IdaLou (22.11.2010). Review titled En metafysisk komedie (literally: A metaphysical comedy). IdaLou Larsen, idalou.no, 08.12.2010, http://www.idalou.no/pub/idalou/kritikker/?aid=1452#idalou:
"The two levels of acting provide the performance with a fascinating duplicity, culminating in a fantastic visualisation of the unexpectedly metaphysical end of Lagerkvist’s story, in which the dead who paradoxically are relatively happy with existence prior to and after death, rebel against the meaninglessness of life. (...) A thorough production in which the company uses different well-known theatrical expressions in going new routes to create a meaningful, metaphysical fable with wit."

Valberg, Anna Helene (19.11.2010). Review titled Her finnes ingen, og minst av alt Gud (literally: Here is nobody, and least of all God). Scenekunst, scenekunst.no, 08.12.2010, http://www2.scenekunst.no/egenkritikk_7749.nml:
"Verk keeps the underlying unease in the text by Lagerkvist, but also promotes its humour. The artists break up the massive on our behalf and feed us with small bits of odd stories. With intense narrative voices and lifted eyebrows they show us how impossible the question posed by Lagerkvist is. The simple form suits the text and hopefully opens some new eyes to this recognised, but only to a little degree read, Nobel Literature Prize winner."

Bjørneboe, Therese (19.10.2010). Review titled Døde sjeler i titteskapet (literally: Dead souls in the rarity cabinet). Aftenposten [Oslo].
"For the first time The Eternal Smile is adapted for theatre. And that may have been the biggest surprise of the evening. During the performance associations lead to Strindberg, Dylan Thomas, Beckett and Fosse. In the staging by Verk it still is most natural to think about the most theatrical, high temperature side of Pirandello’s theatre. Which, of course, is due to the striking parallel between the dead souls of Lagerkvist and the six characters of Pirandello’s who are searching for a writer. Verk Produksjoner AKA Verk Productions has perfected its own style, but all the theatre references give a sense of repetition. In particular because it culminates in a Vegard Vinge-like case of running berserk. Yet the same it is an extraordinary charming performance."