Staging Cultural Identities as Political Performance: Hålogaland Teater, North Norwegian stage language and the emancipation of North Norwegian identities

  • Wenche Torrissen Volda University College
Keywords: Hålogaland Teater, North Norwegian dialect, stage language, identity, emancipation

Abstract

When Hålogaland Teater was established in Tromsø in 1970 as Norway’s first regional theatre, the main goal was to create a professional company that would act as a people’s theatre of North Norway. In order to achieve this, the underlying principle of the theatre was that they should produce plays about the North Norwegian reality using a North Norwegian stage language and that these plays should be devised in close collaboration with the local population. Initially this caused a lot of controversy because the theatre challenged accepted standards of theatre-making both in terms of content and representation. For some it was utterly inconceivable that national and international classics such as Peer Gynt and Hamlet should be performed in a low-status North Norwegian dialect. It was simply perceived to be a sign of the deterioration of the arts! Despite heated debates and major conflicts, the artistic and political principles of Hålogaland Teater remained constant and today, almost fifty years later, both Shakespeare and Ibsen are performed in North Norwegian dialect without any protests and with great success. How was this development possible? And what has it meant for the northern region and its people? These are questions that I am exploring in this article with the aid of Bourdieu's “thinking tools”. The main argument is that Hålogaland Theatre has been central in the revaluation of Northern Norwegian identities and culture by elevating the low-status Northern Norwagian dialect to the status of official stage language.

Author Biography

Wenche Torrissen, Volda University College
Wenche Torrissen is Associate Professor of Drama and Theatre at Volda University College. Torrissen has a Ph.D from Royal Holloway, University of London. Her main research interests are applied theatre and the history of theatre, literature and culture in Britain and Scandinavia during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She is particularly interested in the ways in which the arts can support (and has supported) social change both historically and in contemporary contexts. She has published on women’s (feminist) theatre history, Knut Hamsun, Hulda Garborg and Henrik Ibsen. She has also facilitated a number of theatre in health projects in South Africa and Norway. Currently she is working on a research project that documents and investigates theatre in health practices in Scandinavia.

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Published
2017-12-29
How to Cite
Torrissen, W. (2017). Staging Cultural Identities as Political Performance: Hålogaland Teater, North Norwegian stage language and the emancipation of North Norwegian identities. Nordic Theatre Studies, 28(2), 6-35. https://doi.org/10.7146/nts.v28i2.25600
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