Having revolutionised the world of Swedish dance, MATS EK is kicking up a storm in the theatre. His DON JUAN has a teenybopping audience squealing in the aisles. The List went to Stockholm to
watch the emotional temperature rise. Wrmla: Anneli Dufva
MATS EK'S FAMILY IS NOT JUST ANY Swedish family. His mother was the choreographer Birgit Cullberg, founder of the Cullberg Ballet (which gave a triumphant performance of Sleeping Beauty last year in Edinburgh) and his father, the actor Anders Bk, worked at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm and appeared in many Swedish films, among them several by Ingmar Bergman.
It doesn’t stop there. His twin-sister Malin Bk is an actress, his brother Niklas Bk a world-renowned dancer who in the last ten years has turned more and more to acting. And Malin as well as Niklas have both appeared in Mats Ek’s own dance-theatre performances.
The story of how all three siblings skipped their dance classes as children to go ice- skating, despite their talent, has been told over and over in interviews. And they’ve all been outspoken about their ambivalence at being born into an environment that all but required them to perform.
Mats Bk himself started out as an assistant director at the Royal Dramatic Theatre and was as old as 27 when he decided to become a dancer. He made the transition successfully and from there moved on to choreography, with the Cullberg Ballet, earning great recognition for his new and challenging interpretations of classical pieces like Giselle, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty.
But it was only when he left the Cullberg Ballet in 1993 that his exploration of dance- theatre began, staging Dans med ndstan at the Unga Klara in Stockholm, a work written, directed and choreographed by himself. Very deliberately, he let the actors dance and the dancers speak. The result: a peculiar and interesting effect in which both movement and text became clearer, emphasised by the obvious obstacle the actor/dancer had to overcome in working with an instrument that was not their ordinary tool. What you saw as a spectator was not the struggle, but the purity of the action, stripped of its routine and habit.
After that, Mats Bk continued with Pd >Malta and Johanna, both of them at the
18 THE LIST FESTIVAL GUIDE ‘:0—‘ 7 Aug 2000
Orionteatem in Stockholm, and both of them written, directed and choreographed by him in the same way.
Don Juan, then, is something new for Mats Bk. First, because of his return to the Royal Dramatic Theatre, which he left 27 years ago, and second, because it is a regular play, a piece by one of the great masters: Moliere. What he has created is a performance that is funny and entertaining, yet dark and serious. It is, of course, ﬁlled with dancing, but it never loses its direction or its words.
The title role is played by Mikael Persbrandt, an actor who privately has had a reputation of being quite a Don Juan himself. He has also attracted a new kind of audience to the Royal Dramatic Theatre: young, female and swooning. They see him enter the stage like a rock star, dressed in black velvet pants with a long black wig, his chest bare. At ﬁrst, you could easily be fooled by his appearance or by the trendy set-design (by Maria Geber) which places modern furniture in front of large moveable set-pieces with romantic landscapes. There is smoking, drinking and Don Juan takes drugs in front of the television.
But that’s only the beginning, merely an up-to-date setting for a drama that conceals - and ultimately reveals - a great deal about human behaviour, and about the mechanisms of seduction, games and desires.
For what is a seduction? What is it really worth? And w a IS 1t wo i to be a man if you can only identify one single emotion: that of desire? Mikael Persbrandt, who has no formal drama training, wouldn’t have come all the way to the National Stage if he wasn’t an actor capable of conveying not just the visible signs of male dominance, but also the underlying sadness and emptiness. There is no sentimentality about it, he merely gives us the pale face, the red grinning mouth and we perceive the clown, the lost and lonely one. w And Mats Bk has chosen a Sganarelle who
There is smoking. drinking and Don
Juan takes drugs in front of the television.
is up to the challenge of this Don other than Niklas Bk. Where Persbrandt,,ad .3 with large gestures, his big body and biggvo r moving ahead of him, hiding the 'IOSLI'SI " 6 his Don Juan, Niklas Bk, isshorétf“ beautifully distinct speech. He uses th gestures, the controlled expression,.theip. movement of his dancer’s body. Togeth are like heaven and earth,rthej ind- ' ' . reflected in the holy, the contrast betweng gill them the very heart of the performances " _, ‘
But the scene I’d single out,.if I ha " the farewell between Nina To’gn‘efr Donna Elvira and Don Juan. Withoat and with total concentration, they actors dancing. They move 'am’jo, furniture, over it, on it. It’s awkwardjyjantlg: left? so sensual, so beautiful, you’ll want to be repeated as soon as it’s ov’er.l,S' 5W wearing a plain black coat and flat-b shoes, her hair in a bun. He, the wigrem‘ momentarily in touch with theemOti . spends his life running away from..,.Sh9; ,: stronger, truly in touch with herself.
And perhaps it’s no coincidence pth scene appears so central. Mats hasd his interest in the meeting b’e‘twe’e people. In an Expressen, earlierithisy I , he said: ‘I get "a lo ,1 inspiration out ofh’;jth,_ meeting, to be absorbedb‘ somebody else andyetg; ' " " an individual. it complex. And it isf'th w e er I IS wo men or two womenijé; wanted to keep that door open as, a more the lie behind classical ballet. Thatfislalgsm. I use the woman as a man; choreography, physically. Sh‘e «sari; remove, dance violently, powerfully. ,' ,‘., weakness also interests me: to excha’ri ‘ ' pattern of the sexes, to let them “mov out of one another.’
Don Juan (Internatlonal) Royal Dramatic " H t; theatre. Stockholm, Royal Lyceum ‘