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Something Good comes back to Stockholm

Someone's got into a bad habitBad habits revealed in the costume competition

Sometimes a concept for a show is perfect: all the right ingredients in the right proportions, released at the right time in the right city to the right audience. It cannot fail. And yet the showbiz graveyard is filled with catastrophes which prove that when it comes to a formula for entertainment nobody knows anything.

On the other hand, a show can have so many factors working against it that it cannot possibly succeed. And yet succeed it does.

Which brings us to Singalong Sound of Music. A kitsch, outdated film, packed with dire acting and syrupy songs. An oh-so-British pantomime warm up. A demand to join in, stand up, shout out, sing. In Stockholm. To an audience of Swedes.

Whatever David Lones, the producer of the Swedish version of what has become a worldwide phenomenon, saw in the idea in London, he must have had confidence in confidence alone to bring it to Stockholm.

The show’s first run in the city was in 2002 and now, as the fourth year begins, the Swedish version is the second most popular in the world. Nobody knows anything, but Lones must have known something.

For as the famous opening sequence – and the reason why the Austrians never had to make another ad for their mountains – begins, something changes. An auditorium’s worth of Swedes begin stamping their feet and counting down from ten to herald what Lones calls the “the most magical moment of all”: the moment when Julie Andrews, as the nun Maria, appears for the first time.

And then it’s group participation all the way, booing the Nazis, cheering Maria, yelling “behind you” at key moments which everyone except this reviewer seemed to grasp, and making various other utterances which defy spelling.

Who wouldn’t climb every mountain for a slice of this action? Possibly the two thirteen year old boys yawning grumpily at the end of row 12, but then maybe they were expecting a different kind of interactive entertainment. Playstation this ain’t.

Perhaps it’s best not to try to analyse why Singalong Sound of Music works so well. During the interval a Swede dressed as a nun simply pointed out that “it’s easy to be uninhibited in a dark room”, before dashing off to grab another bottle of Blue Nun.

As the show proceeds, the level of individual banter increases. The von Trapp family hide from the Nazis in the tensest moment of the film. “Oh my God, will they make it?” cries one woman and the crowd guffaws.

Marketing this show to Swedes, who love to categorise, must be a nightmare. So what the hell is Singalong Sound of Music? A kitsch tribute gig? Group karaoke? Self-generating comedy?

Who cares? It’s certainly something good.

The show is playing every Wednesday at the Skandia cinema in Stockholm: more information


How a Swedish film festival is offering a nurse downtime during pandemic

A front-line Swedish nurse is getting some Covid downtime with a week of private screenings of the Gothenburg film festival, in a former lighthouse off the country's west coast.

How a Swedish film festival is offering a nurse downtime during pandemic
Competition winner Lisa Enroth.

More than 12,000 candidates from 45 countries applied to watch the festival's films in almost near isolation on an island 400 kilometres (250 miles) from Stockholm.

The prize is a week viewing as many of the festival's 70 premieres as they like in a hotel in the former Pater Noster Lighthouse. But they will be in isolation and will have no access to their own computer or laptop.

READ ALSO: Decision on stricter restrictions for foreign travellers to be made quickly

The bright-red lighthouse, built on a tiny island off Sweden's west coast in 1868, is surrounded by a scattering of squat, red buildings originally built to house the lighthouse keeper's family. It can only be reached by boat or helicopter, depending on the weather.

After a series of interviews and tests, festival organisers chose emergency nurse and film buff Lisa Enroth for the prize, in keeping with the 2021 festival's theme, Social Distances.

Before boarding a small speedboat out to the island on the clear, chill winter's morning, Enroth said she had applied not only out of her love for the cinema, but also to seek respite from her hectic work as an emergency nurse during the pandemic.

“It has been hectic, so it's a nice opportunity just to be able to land and to reflect over the year,” she said.

Months working amid Covid crisis

Sweden, which has taken a light-touch approach to the pandemic compared to its neighbours, has been facing a stronger than expected second wave of the virus. So far, more than 11,500 people have died from Covid-19 across the country.

Enroth works in the emergency ward of a hospital in Skovde in central Sweden. Since the start of the pandemic, her hospital's work caring for virus patients on top of their regular workload has been intense.

Lisa Enroth on her way to the remote festival location. Photo: AFP

“We had a lot of Covid cases during this year and every patient that has been admitted to the hospital has been passing through the emergency ward,” she told journalists.

The organisers said they were surprised by the numbers of applicants for the prize but were confident they had chosen the right candidate — not only for her love of cinema.

“She has also dedicated this past year in the frontline against the Covid-19 pandemic,” the festival's creative director Jonas Holmberg said to AFP.

“That's also one of the reasons we chose her”. 

Isolated screenings

Boarding the boat dressed in a thick survival suit, Enroth sped over the calm, icy waters, jumping off in the island's tiny harbour and disappearing into her lodgings.

A screen has been set up in the lantern room at the top of the windswept island's lighthouse, offering a 360-degree view of the sea and coastline around.

Another wide screen has been set up in one of the island's buildings.

Enroth will also have a tablet and headphones if she wants to watch films elsewhere on the island, which measures just 250 metres by 150 metres.

With only one other person staying permanently on the island — a safety precaution — Enroth's only contact with the outside world will be through her video diary about the films she has viewed.

The festival's films will be shown online and two venues in Gothenburg itself will allow screenings for just one person at a time.

Holmberg, the festival's creative director, said he hoped events like these would maintain interest in the industry at a time when many screens are closed because of pandemic restrictions.

“We are longing so much to come back to the cinemas and in the meantime we have to be creative and do the things that we can to create discussion,” he told journalists.