Category Archives: Sweden

Feminists, Strawberries and Swedish Goslings

I know, I know. I’ve been so slack with the blogging recently. The fact of the matter is I’ve been really reluctant to write anything. I’m not sure why. You’d think I’d be overflowing with London things to write about: “Oh, the free galleries I can see!” “Oh, the view of St.Paul’s against the blue horizon!” “Oh, the ads in the tube stations!”
But, no. No, I haven’t wanted to write about anything.
It feels like pulling teeth today, really, it does. It might be the fact that whilst I’m writing this I’m actually trying to watch an episode of ‘Rizzoli and Isles’, a ridiculous American crime show which in all honesty had one of its main characters have a serious crush on that horrible Fox News ‘interviewer’ who just yells at everyone that doesn’t agree with him. It might be because even though I’m in London, I’m not working yet and so I spend most of my days like a dilettante unmarried upper-class woman of the 19th century who has nothing to do with her time except embroider pretty things on to other pretty things whilst sitting on pretty things arranged next to other pretty things. It might be because I changed the blog address and lost all my stats and now I have no motivation to keep writing things and sending them off into the ether to see how popular I am in google searches and with people that don’t even know me. 
Anyway, whatever the reason, I do actually have a lot of things to catch you up on. I have so many things to catch you up on I’m probably going to have to divide it all into a couple of different posts.
So, first of all, Sweden.
Two weeks ago I headed to Stockholm for the 2012 Women Playwright’s International Conference. For a variety of reasons, mostly that I screwed up the submission process, I didn’t have a play being presented. But, a few good friends of mine from Australia did have plays being presented and were coming over for the conference, so I thought it would be worthwhile going along anyway.
Ah and how right I was.
It started well with a bright sunshine-y day in downtown Stockholm. With a bit of time to kill before registration started, I decided to take a walk around the surrounding sweetly cobbled streets. Whilst blissfully taking photos of the gorgeous Katarina Church, I saw some familiar looking figures walking towards me on the other side of the street. I stopped. They stopped. I pulled down my sunglasses. And, then, with squeals that would make the contestants of Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model cringe with shame, we launched ourselves into the street to greet each other. Even though I knew my friends were coming to Stockholm, to the exact same conference that I was going to and we had discussed how and when we would meet up, there was something still so ridiculously exciting and thrilling about accidentally coming across them in the middle of foreign city.
Once we had squealed and giggled and jumped up and down in the street for a sufficient amount of time, we headed up to the theatre, debating whether or not we would forever embarrass ourselves and be painted as irredeemable theatre nerds by turning up to registration 15 minutes too early. So, instead we decided to sit down and catch up on the past 18 months, which unfortunately turned out to be the wrong choice, because, unsurprisingly at a theatre conference, most people are irredeemable theatre nerds and they had ALL decided to turn up 15 minutes early, meaning that by the time we turned up 15 minutes late, we were actually half an hour late and the queue for workshops was miles long. SO, we didn’t end up getting the workshops we wanted, but as one of the other conference participants told me later in the week, its sometimes better to go to the things that you don’t want to go to or have no interest in, because they’re the things that are going to really challenge you. Which, obviously was what I was aiming for. I mean, I was late deliberately. DELIBERATELY.
Anyway, whatever. After avoiding the speed dating and forced interaction activities in a manner reminiscent of teenage girls (we figured we had met enough people in the line for the workshops), we spent an afternoon chatting and gossiping with other Australians at the nicest theatre bar I have ever happened across in my extensive theatre career. See photo:

View from the bar

Pretty spectacular. Plus deliciously warm and bright Swedish sunshine, cider and good conversation, putting me in a pretty darn fabulous mood for the opening night party. Not that I really needed to be put in a better mood for the opening night party, as it was being held in the Stockholm Town Hall. That doesn’t sound so impressive if you’re used to the town halls of city councils in Australia, which are either modestly pretty 19th century piles covered in Grecian columns or horrifically grey 1960s concrete blocks. However, consider that the Stockholm Town Hall is where the Nobel Prize ceremony is held each year and the room in which they have the Nobel ball is covered in 10kg of gold. So, I was in a gold room, with a whole bunch of awesome female playwrights from around the world, as well as old friends and they were giving out FREE WINE. Kind of impossible to be in anything but a good mood with that sort of a set-up.
The next morning, we all trooped back to the main stage of the Sodrateatern for the keynote address on Theatre in the Arab World. We heard from women making theatre in Lebanon, Egypt and other parts of the Middle East. I kept thinking, ‘if I had to come up against all these obstacles to make theatre would I still be doing it?’ One woman, who looked several years younger than me, was involved in the Egyptian uprising last year and is currently creating verbatim theatre projects from other involved in whatever spaces she can find (schools, cafes, libraries). You hear something like that and then think back on your own plays about Jane Austen or girls thinking they’ve grown a fishtail and you think, ‘oh. Perhaps I’m not as serious a playwright as I thought I was.’ Still, it was amazing to be around a lot of women who are so focused on the messages that they are sending out into the world and the things they want to achieve with theatre.
That afternoon, presentations started. Each playwright was given a half hour slot in which the audience got an introduction from the playwright, a short reading from the script and the opportunity to ask further questions. It was surprisingly exhausting considering all I was doing was sitting on a chair and listening to people talk. I came up with some pretty piss-weak questions to begin with (‘Is this the start of the play?’ ‘Yes’ ‘Oh. Ok. Good.’) After dinner, we headed off a panel discussion on ‘Female Representation on Stage’, in which fellow Australians Van Badham and Chris Mead were in conversation with a couple of Swedes and a British woman about the state of women playwrights (and women in general) in the professional theatre. An interesting though slightly depressing conversation.
The next few days pretty much followed the same pattern. Workshops or lecutres in the morning, readings in the afternoon, dinner followed by performances or discussions in the evening. On Friday, an open mic night started and you should be able to guess by now, dear reader, that I took full advantage of the opportunity of a microphone and an empty stage. I read out two monologues, both of which were pretty well received and sang a song. People really need to keep me away from raised platforms and projection devices because… well, because attention-seeking behaviour on my behalf inevitably follows.
Of course, like any of these sorts of conferences, its not so much the scheduled events that make an impact as it is the conversations and interactions you have outside of the schedule that leaves you feeling so giddy with happiness that you’re ready to float off into the Swedish sunshine in a haze of pear cider and blue skies. So, just as important to the week were the endless punnets of strawberries bought by one of my friends, the D and M conversations had in the hostel when everyone else had gone to sleep as well as the impassioned theatre rantings that kept me tossing and turning long after I had tried to go to bed. The free lunches eaten on a high, open patio in between workshops and readings; the slightly ridiculous conversations had in between readings about the Swedish actors, one of whom was an impressive doppleganger of Ryan Gosling; the strangely garish ocean-themed paintings on the wall of the tiny alcove in the Indian restaurant where we had our dinner one night.
Best of all, I met several people who either live in London, will be in London soon or will be passing through.
Unfortunately, I left before the final party, which I hear was fantastic. On the upside, after a week of waiting, I finally got to sit in the brightly coloured plastic thrones to have my final Swedish cider of the week before heading on to Norway:

But that is, as I’ve stated previously, another story for another day.

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Filed under Sweden, Theatre