I. From Discourse to Narrative

The Storyteller: Once upon a time there was a small farm right on the edge of one of the large villages in the landscape. On one side of the farm, fertile fields stretched out and there the animals could grow enough food for everyone. On the other side were rich natural resources that were protected by large forests and mountains that the animals could extract and thus build wealth. The animals on the farm were hardworking and resourceful. The horses built their own wagons which became the safest and most innovative of all wagons and the birds started a company with small flying machines so that all the animals could see the farm and the landscape from the air and go to warmer latitudes when the cold hit. But even if the winters were terrible, the animals probably liked their farm anyway. (Dahlqvist 2018, our translation)

With the staging of Död åt välfärdsstaten we wanted to expand our process and artistic expressions to create performances that would challenge and expand the artistic methods we were using. Having worked for many years integrating mainly theatre and music, we were particularly curious about how choreography could be integrated in our way of working. Even if the performance initially used similar methods as our earlier performances, the creative process changed. Previously, we had always involved artists after we had done the initial conceptualisation, planning, and dramatic and musical structure. With Död åt välfärdsstaten the production process had to become more open due to time constraints and other jobs. This meant that the different elements were created independently, but also separately, which gave more space for creative input from the artists, which in turn made it possible to integrate different art forms even more than we had done before. However, as the process took place over a longer time period and different artists and performative elements were added throughout, this didn't allow for the same kind of shared understanding of the dramaturgical and communicative structure between the artists that we were used to providing. This meant that we needed to develop our tools further.

One way to achieve what we were after was to steer away from a theatre governed by dramatic conflict (ex. part 1-1). To do so, we based the performance on well known Swedish political speeches (ex. parts 1-3) from a period of almost ninety years (ex. parts 1-2), which were used to present the development and change in Swedish political discourse. In Lines of Narrative (2000), Shelley Day Sclater describes the concept of discourse as a framework that helps describe, organise and change the social world. Through this framework, humans interpret and understand events, actions and relationships. The structure enables certain types of interpretations of society and thus creates meaning by transforming the ideological discourses around social change into a narrative of change. Discourse thus structures how narratives are told and interpreted, and at the same time the narrative provides further interpretations and negotiates how the discourse should be understood.  

In addition, George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm was used as the organising narrative to the performance. In the book Narrative Across Media (2004) the narratologist Marie-Laure Ryan quotes Claude Bremont, who claimed that a story: 


is independent of the techniques that carry it along. It may be transposed from one to another medium without losing its essential properties: the subject of a story may serve as argument for a ballet, that of a novel can be transposed to stage or screen, one can recount in words a film to someone who hasn't seen it. These are words we read, images we see, gestures we decipher, but through them, it is a story that we follow; and it can be the same story. (Ryan 2004, p. 1)


This belief that a story can move across media guided the dramaturgical and compositional structures and allowed us to integrate the different performative elements. The novel contributed ideas for the staging as well as metaphorical layers. Although Orwell's book was originally an allegory of Stalinism, it could readily be adapted to interpret the societal development in Sweden during the latter half of the 20th century until the present, from a social democratic influence towards a more neoliberal agenda. 

Creating a dramaturgical and compositional structure based on these two sources helped us shape a narrative framework portraying a change of political ideology but didn't lock the representation in predetermined formats and templates. The structure was open to whims and experiments, but at the same time clear enough to make it rather easier to understand where in the dramaturgy different artistic ideas of representation would fit in.


The Story about the Little Farm (in Swedish)

Stories across Media

PART 1-1

To introduce the different art forms, they are already blended from the start of the performance. The dancers start to move, and they are soon being filmed. The actor, masked as a dog, begins to elaborate on the meaning of the welfare state. These elements, supported by a slow and extended musical build-up, end in a crescendo.

PART 1-2
The narrative moves between different media to portray the development of Swedish The music and light from the opening section is cut, and instead a documentary film is presented showing the development of Swedish society in the 1930s. When the documentary ends, the musical material from earlier comes back and is used as the material for the song Twenty Words.

PART 1-3

A staged re-reading of a political speech. The speech is ‘filtered’ through the story of the animal farm. One of the musicians reads the speech, while an actor portrays the dog on camera, wearing a dog mask. The filmed sequence is live-mixed with clips from a televised debate, where the heads of politicians are changed into animals. This section is followed by an artistic response where a song is performed, while at the same accompanying a solo dance bit.