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Return of the female playwright 'hated by Strindberg'

Published måndag 3 april kl 09.20
Dramaten director: He was obsessed with her because she was more successful.
(1:53 min)
Whose bust should be outside the Royal Dramatic Theatre: Alfhild Agrelle (left) and August Strindberg (right)? Photo: TT
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Jennie Andreasson (right) explaining the play at Stockholm's Royal Dramatic Theatre on Thursday, along with actress Thérèse Brunnander (left). Credit: Ali Mian
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Jennie Andreasson (right) explaining the play at Stockholm's Royal Dramatic Theatre on Thursday, along with actress Thérèse Brunnander (left). Credit: Ali Mian
Actor Torkel Petersson (not in the play) poses with the bust of August Strindberg that sits outside Stockholm's Royal Dramatic Theatre. Credit: Bertil Ericson / TT
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Actor Torkel Petersson (not in the play) poses with the bust of August Strindberg that sits outside Stockholm's Royal Dramatic Theatre. Credit: Bertil Ericson / TT

Theatre director Jennie Andreasson tells Radio Sweden why she is reviving Ensam, or Alone, the last play of the overlooked Swedish playwright Alfhild Agrelle.

A brass bust of Swedish male playwright and novelist August Strindberg keeps watch permanently outside Stockholm's Royal Dramatic Theatre.

But according to Andreasson, in the 1880s he wasn't even the theatre's most celebrated playwright: Alfhild Agrelle was.  

"She was bigger than Strindberg and he hated her," Andreasson tells Radio Sweden. "He was really obsessed with Alfhild Agrelle because she was more successful than him."

When Agrelle's plays were played in London, she received rave reviews, Andreasson says.  The English theatre critics, perhaps confusing her name with the English male name Alfred, believed she was a man.

"They said Henrik Ibsen and Alfhild Agrelle are the greatest playwrights of he Nordic countries."  

Ensam, or Alone, tells the story of a mother and her illegitimate daughter living on the Stockholm island of Kungsholmen, then called 'Svältholmen', or 'hunger island', because its poverty and overpopulation. 

The play's themes are shame, female sexuality and resilience in the face of social injustice.

"They are totally a social disgrace," Andreasson explains. "But this play is interesting because the woman, the mother, she refuses to be ashamed. You can feel it pounding, this feeling of fighting for your right as a human being."

Andreasson was at Stockholm's Royal Dramatic Theatre on Thursday for the announcement of its autumn programme. 

Ensam has its opening night on September 1.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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