Of nineteenth century Swedish writers, August Strindberg was almost alone in displaying any interest in the predecessors to the moving film. On one occasion, during the conception of ‘Tschandala’, his interest in moving, projected pictures led him to a literary fantasy of a greatly suggestive power.
The houses Strindberg describes in his stage directions for the chamber plays demand a great deal of sheer physical space. A part of a practical, dramaturgical reality that calls for visualization, they constitue an integral part of the setting. It has in fact been said that in Strindberg's chamber plays ‘houses are the main characters’.
If by a classic one means a work of art which has the ability to remain alive through various epochs and continue to engage people's attention, then the word is suitable to describe Birgit Cullberg's ballet Miss Julie. Perhaps one ought to adjust the notion slightly and describe the ballet as a ‘modern classic’, because we do not know how it will have endured in, let us say, fifty or a hundred years.
The theme of Strindberg's Miss Julie (Fröken Julie, 1888), the struggle for sexual ascendancy between a liberated young woman and an ambitious young man who is her social inferior, continues to hold fascination even in times such as our own, which purport to be sexually liberated, socially egalitarian, and feminist. Perhaps, one might speculate, fascination with the play, its characters, and its situation is especially intense in such times. Certainly awareness of an interest in sexual politics have not lessened in the century since the play appeared. Since it has been a century dominated to a large extent by the theories of Dr Sigmund Freud, this is hardly surprising.
August Strindberg was employed at the Royal Library from the end of 1874 to August 1882 – ‘rising from the proletariat class and carrying the legal title of royal secretary and temporary assistant librarian’, as it is said of Johan in Tjänstekvinnans son (The Son of a Servant). Strindberg himself carried this title with pride and had it printed on his visiting card. This was his only more permanent position in the public service and was a qualification which he would refer to many times later in his life. Presumably it would have gladdened him to know that his former place of employment would come to house the largest collection of his manuscripts and letters.
A Danish theatre group with a Swedish director, calling themselves the New Scandinavian Experimental Theatre, presented a provocative staging of Strindberg's Miss Julie in Copenhagen in April 1992. It was received with enthusiasm by the group of Strindberg scholars at the International Strindberg Conference being held in Copenhagen at that time. What was it about this production which was so appealing? The following three articles attempt to demonstrate different ways of approaching this production in retrospect — that is to say almost one year later. The first is mainly concerned with the actress playing Julie, the second is concerned with the director's concept and how this was realized on stage, whilst the third is interested in placing this production in the context of the Scandinavian Strindberg tradition.