Jo Strømgren Kompani (Norway)
"The Society expertly straddles the fragile line between humor and horror . . . comedic touches worthy of Peter Sellers; and a witty stream of nonsensical language."
Gia Kourlas, The New York Times
"Instead of starting with politics itself, I start with a teabag."
Jo Strømgren, director of The Society
Painted Bride Art Center
230 Vine Street
Wheelchair accessible (map)
$37 / Members save 30%
Student + 25-and-under tickets $20
Direction, Script, Choreography, Set Jo Strømgren
Sound Lars Årdal
Lighting Stephen Rolfe
Performers John Fjelnseth Brungot, Trond Fausa Aurvåg, Bartek Kaminski
Past Festival shows
The European Lesson (2008), The Convent (2006)
In a European society dedicated to coffee, the shocking discovery of a used teabag threatens to tear the coffee drinkers’ world apart. An investigation into a possible Asian infiltration begins and spirals out of control. Civility turns to conspiracy and fear: just how far will they go in order to track the unpatriotic traitor down and bring this evil act to justice?
The Society takes an absurd, yet all too relatable, look at our turbulent times, when the average citizen is ever more tempted to accept torture, the suppression of minorities, and other violent means to restore order. Performed in a nonsensical language and with brilliant physicality, Jo Strømgren Kompani, Norway’s pre-eminent maker of contemporary physical theater and dance, has connected its darkly humorous and universal tale to audiences throughout the world.
Photo: Knut Bry
Interview with director Jo Strømgren
FringeArts: Why the title?
Jo Strømgren: The Society is a dry title, and as a title it refers to nothing else than a closed group of people, which later in the show will be emphasized by the difference between us and them when the members of the society are forced to relate themselves to the world outside. I like dry concrete titles in general, since they are sometimes so naíve that they almost become abstract.
Photo courtesy of Jo Strømgren Kompani
FringeArts: What inspired this show?
Jo Strømgren: The incident which inspired me was the image I got one day, when trying to find the least common denominator for describing the East and the West-and started thinking about tea and coffee-the U.K. is an exception. They could possibly become symbols of something larger. And then I imagined this hopelessly conservative French society of coffee drinkers suddenly finding a used teabag . . . with subsequent shock. From there the snowball started rolling. I like these naíve, almost stupid images to start with, as in being a potential for saying something understandable about the complex world. Instead of starting with politics itself, I start with a teabag. The main symbol in the show, a used teabag, becomes something extremely important when the room is just one big manifestation of COFFEE.
FringeArts: What drew you to using nonsensical language and how do you create it?
Jo Strømgren: The question of nonsensical language would take hours to answer. It may seem simple as we perform it, but after having used and researched it during, I don't know, perhaps fifteen productions so far, each time with a different approach to broaden a "method," and also having exposed the results in a myriad of countries, regions, and cultures, the whole subject of how nonsensical language communicates is quite overwhelming. It can of course be used everywhere as a technique, but getting the point across and avoiding confusion is how I measure my competence in the field. Used the right way, it can be more efficient than understandable words. But building a dialogue in gibberish requires new rules. It has taken time to understand these.
About director Jo Strømgren
Jo Strømgren is the artistic director of the Jo Strømgren Kompani, founded in 1998. He has developed a significant personal style with a mix of theater, dance, puppets, film, and live music - wrapped in a nonsensical language frame. As a choreographer he has been commissioned by a range of companies, from classical to contemporary. As a theater director he has mostly been working with national and municipal theaters in Scandinavia, predominantly with plays by Henrik Ibsen. As a playwright he has written a long list of plays for theater and scripts for film.