'The play offers a sampling of various views on death. It is creepy and macabre, while maintaining an element of the comical, a humour built out of sympathy.'Claes Hoogland
About the production
In his presentation of the author, Claes Hoogland described Wood Painting as 'a medieval game in the shadow of the plague'.
- The Ingmar Bergman Archives.
- Per Arne Tjäder, Fruktan, medkänsla och kritisk distans: Den västerländska dramateorins historia, (Studentlitteratur, 2000).
- Margareta Wirmark (red.), Ingmar Bergman: Film och teater i växelverkan, (Stockholm: Carlssons Bokförlag, 1996).
Wood Painting derives from a medieval altar screen depicting various figures: a knight, a squire, a pregnant woman, a witch, a young girl, a jester, a blacksmith and his wife. A youth dressed in black plays the lute and tells the dreadful story of the plague. The altar screen was recreated in the theatre by showing the group to the audience in silhouette before the curtain went up, with the various characters frozen in differing expressive poses. The play is about their attempts to avoid the plague. Finally, they all dance down into hell at the command of a skeleton, a symbol of death.
The theme of the game between the jester and Death, in which the Devil is the director, was to recur in the film The Seventh Seal. The play also contains the dance of death, a powerful image. It is a clear example of Bergman's tableau style, which features both in his films and his stage productions.
In Sweden there have been four official productions of Wood Painting. The first was directed by Bergman for the Radio Theatre. He also directed the second himself, for Malmö City Theatre. Later on, Bengt Ekerot was to stage a production at the Royal Dramatic Theatre, and Lennart Olsson made a television version.