With “Tröstrapporter” the theater has let personal profile come before artistic quality
This is a cultural article which is part of Then24’s opinion journalism.
What is it that happens? Have we been to the same show? When I see the first reviews of Alex Schulman Comfort reports I don’t understand anything. Since then I have read a few eloquent lines of Lars Ring in DN and Oscar Anesten comes with relevant criticism in Kulturnyheterna, but there is more to talk about.
I want to start by saying that this is not a text about Alex Schulman. It is a text that wonders what The drama doing. Why is someone who is neither a playwright, director or set designer given work as a playwright, director and set designer? At the same time, on the big stage.
A couple of years ago, an employee at Dramaten scolded me when I highlighted how female directors have a harder time establishing themselves on the big stages. She said that it has nothing to do with gender but with knowledge of the theater’s machinery – you can’t give the big stage to the inexperienced! But yes, apparently.
Schulman has both wrote and directed the monologue performed by Gustaf Skarsgård. Since the repertoire decision became known, I have wondered what is behind it. Should you attract a new audience through dissemination on celebrities’ channels? The premiere is not sold out, but media people and celebrities are certainly crowded with some fans. I am one of them. Listens to the podcast slavishly, has read at least some of the novels. It means that I get to hear some anecdotes for others, even for the third time.
I wonder if a single choice has been made with the art form in mind
Gustaf Skarsgård is a great actor, but he cannot alone create dramatic life in a literary work. The director had to break the text and Schulman is not capable of that. He can write really good literature, absolutely. But while really good literature is dense, performing arts are dependent on space. Of openings, cracks, room for action.
A fifteen year old said in the evaluation of a project we worked on together that she previously perceived her own presence as meaningless for the art, which would continue in exactly the same way regardless of whether she was in the room or not. That’s exactly how I feel when I watch Comfort reports. We experience an audiobook live and our presence is meaningless. Our bodies, our attention, our time – unnecessary. A racist joke will certainly make the person next to me laugh for, I’m not exaggerating, over a minute. But right after that, the phone goes up, time to scroll. It doesn’t bother me, I still look up at the ceiling.
The decision to play a set on Dramaten’s big stage should be about the necessity of being right there. Unfortunately, not only the stage but the theater as such appears completely unimportant in this production. I wonder if a single choice was made with the art form in mind or if we should just say it like it is: The story of “Consolation Reports by Alex Schulman on Drama’s Big Stage” is more important to the Alex Schulman brand than the show itself. The drama has let personal profile come before artistic quality.
A friend asks me if it’s not very much the emperor’s new clothes over this? Yes. But it is not Alex Schulman who is the emperor, it is the Drama.
Alexandra Loonin is a playwright and dramaturg.