Theatre, 1946

Caligula

Bergman's debut at Gothenburg City Theatre was the world premiere of a play by existentialist playwright Albert Camus.

'Ingmar Bergman's directing was nothing less than a renaissance within the dramatic arts in these northern climes.'
David Hallén, Aftonbladet

About the production

Albert Camus was a well-known name in Sweden at the time and would receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.

The Gothenburg City Theatre established a reputation during World War II as a contemporary stage, producing plays of political and social currency. With Hitler's disastrous destiny in fresh memory, many associated Caligula's name with similar tyranny. Bergman himself had used Caligula as a nickname for his portrait of the sadistic Latin teacher in Torment.

Caligula, Bergman's first production at Gothenburg City Theatre premiered on 29 November 1946. The production was a resounding success, not least thanks to its star Anders Ek, who established himself beyond doubt as one of Sweden's most important actors.

In Ek's performance, Caligula was a clown and an acrobat whose hysterical, hiccupping laugh completely dominated the stage.

The production aroused considerable attention in theatre circles, and there were soon proposals for guest performances at the Royal Dramatic Theatre. Discussions took place between the two theatres, yet the proposition proved impossible for various practical and planning-related reasons.

For the occasion French composer Roman Maciejewski created special music using only instruments found in ancient Egypt and justified his choice by the fact that Caligula is said to have harboured a special passion for the Egyptian goodness Isis. But reviews found Maciejewski's music to be closer to French Impressionism, especially Ravel's compositions.

Sources

  • The Ingmar Bergman Archives.
  • Bernt Olsson and Ingemar Algulin, Litteraturens historia i Sverige, (Stockholm: Norstedts Förlag, 1987).
  • Henrik Sjögren, Lek och raseri: Ingmar Bergmans teater 1938-2002, (Stockholm: Carlssons Bokförlag, 2002).
  • Birgitta Steene, Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide, (Amsterdam University press, 2005).

  • Birgitta Steene, Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide, (Amstedam University Press, 2005).

Collaborators