Neil McGregor’s excellent As Others See Us radio series includes many examples of how fiction, from Harry Potter to Downton Abbey, influences how people in other nations understand contemporary Britain. Flying into Volda on a 40 seater, twin-propellor plane over glaciers, mountains and the majestic beauty of fjords, Douglas Adam’s legendary, award winning planetary designer Slartibartfast was brought to mind – he certainly knew his craft!
We were in Norway to work on Vår: the story of Hervor through a five day residency at Seanse, a cultural centre based in the absolutely stunning scenery surrounding the 11 mile long Voldsfjorden. There, we learned more about much older influences – Urd, Verande and Skuld, the three women who sit at the foot of Yggdrasil, the tree of life, Odin, of course, and his two ravens Hugin and Munin, and Hervor herself, a woman who lived around 500 AD and whose life is partly recorded in one of the Fornaldersaga, semi-legendary, magical realism sagas which date from the time before Iceland was populated.
Vår is a word with multiple meanings – as explained in the early moments of this new performance by storyteller Mimesis Heidi Dahlsveen and musician Gyrid Nordal Kaldestad. The performance incorporates characters from the present, recent past and even alternative realities, weaving between memory and story, surrounded by evocative music and sound-recordings, such as lapping water and flapping raven wings.
At Seanse, Heidi and Gyrid worked closely with Director and Adverse Camber’s Artistic Advisor Paula Crutchlow, layering the various elements of the performance together, alternately in Norwegian and English versions. Seanse mentors, Marit Ulvand and Anne-Mali Sæter, gave valuable feedback on work in progress, ahead of an ‘Open Stage’ evening, featuring extracts from all of the projects being developed at the centre over the week. Then in Oslo at the Litteraturhuset on Sunday and in Stockholm with Fabula Storytelling Festival, premiere performances took place in Norwegian – exciting times!
Stories, whether recent or longer standing creations, powerfully influence how we see ourselves and others. Vår offers new perspectives, and is destined for Norway’s inspiring Cultural Rucksack programme, taking cultural offers into schools across the country, as well as hopefully future UK touring. Understanding how stories influence young people’s sense of self is an intriguing question this performance may help us uncover. Thanks to everyone we met at Seanse and to all those involved in Vår’s journey so far. We’ll keep you posted as the future of this story develops.
Vår is supported in development by FEST (Federation of European Storytelling) and Seanse and funded by Arts Council Norway.