Stockholm theatre scene meets British humour

When Relatively Speaking, a play written by award winning English playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn, opened in Stockholm, The Local was there to talk to the cast about British humour, a script from the sixties, and why Swedes have been loving this play.

Stockholm theatre scene meets British humour

Alan Ayckbourn is an Olivier award winning playwright, who penned Relatively Speaking in the mid 60’s.

Director Maurice Thorogood has remained true to the script, taking Swedish audiences back into a British back garden in the Home Counties, following the twists and turns of four characters and their laugh-out-loud mis-communications.

Without giving too much away, the play is based on two couples and the series of misunderstandings they suffer and where it takes them. The audience is kept on their collective toes, and it’s clear to see why a play written 60 years ago still has strong legs today.

Thorogood bills it as the trip back to the 60’s – for those who remember it – and for those that don’t.

“This is play that takes us back to that time when the middle classes were at their best and perhaps funniest, to the home counties, and what is wonderful is what it seeing these very English people in their very English country garden being totally and utterly confused about what’s going on around them.

“It’s a day of utter confusion, thus laughter,” he told The Local.

The young leads of the play, Jennifer Breen and Ben Benson, were relieved to find the Swedish audiences to be so receptive, and claim that their pre-conceptions of a language barrier were misconceptions.

“Swedes are so excellent when it comes to speaking English. We were warned at first that we may need to speak slowly and clearly, but it wasn’t necessary at all. People have been on the ball from the first minute,” said Benson.

“The audience has been great – they’ve been laughing, they get all the jokes. It feels like Swedish and English humour is quite similar, we find the same things funny,” said Breen.

“And if that’s not enough for you, Jennifer gets her clothes off!” added Benson.

One wonders how much acting was necessary for the smitten leading actors, who became engaged one month into the production, and are looking forward to other West End possibilities when they return to London this month.

Meanwhile, in terms of whether Swedes actually get British humour, veteran actor Richard Kettles is also confident that they do.

“Swedish audiences appreciate this humour because it’s situational. This isn’t like a comedian on stage with nothing but a microphone. This is humour that’s based on what’s happening, and it’s relatable to everyone. We’ve all noticed the similarities between Britain and Sweden just from walking around in Stockholm”.

And according to Thorogood, it’s not hard to get people laughing when you’re working with such a stellar cast (which also includes Elizabeth Williams) and a brilliant script. He is convinced the play has stood the test of time due to the writer’s skill and the timelessness of the sixties.

“Alan Ayckbourn is the most marvelous, marvelous, marvelous observer of life. He’s written a play on mistaken identities which lead the characters down a garden path to nowhere. And when coupled with the soundtrack we’ve added – bands like The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who – it turns out that even young people can relate to the play, and have been enjoying it in a whole different way.

“There’s an energy in it and they love it. The thing is, comedy is comedy no matter what age you are. This is a funny play; you’ll have an enjoyable evening, because you will be laughing.”

Relatively Speaking is being performed at the Maxim Theatre in Stockholm until March 28th.

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

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Stockholm Pride is a little different this year: here’s what you need to know 

This week marks the beginning of Pride festivities in the Swedish capital. The tickets sold out immediately, for the partly in-person, partly digital events. 

Pride parade 2019
There won't be a Pride parade like the one in 2019 on the streets of Stockholm this year. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT

You might have noticed rainbow flags popping up on major buildings in Stockholm, and on buses and trams. Sweden has more Pride festivals per capita than any other country and is the largest Pride celebration in the Nordic region, but the Stockholm event is by far the biggest.  

The Pride Parade, which usually attracts around 50,000 participants in a normal year, will be broadcast digitally from Södra Teatern on August 7th on Stockholm Pride’s website and social media. The two-hour broadcast will be led by tenor and debater Rickard Söderberg.

The two major venues of the festival are Pride House, located this year at the Clarion Hotel Stockholm at Skanstull in Södermalm, and Pride Stage, which is at Södra Teatern near Slussen.

“We are super happy with the layout and think it feels good for us as an organisation to slowly return to normal. There are so many who have longed for it,” chairperson of Stockholm Pride, Vix Herjeryd, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

Tickets are required for all indoor events at Södra Teatern to limit the number of people indoors according to pandemic restrictions. But the entire stage programme will also be streamed on a big screen open air on Mosebacketerassen, which doesn’t require a ticket.  

You can read more about this year’s Pride programme on the Stockholm Pride website (in Swedish).