Gildet på Solhaug

<< 2006-04-02 21:10 >>

A week ago or so I received an email from my girlfriend about a play she wanted to see at the National Theatre: Gildet på Solhaug, or The Feast at Solhaug, by Ibsen. The play was to be performed in the restaurant at the theatre, accompanied by medieval food (the play takes place in, well, it's not entirely clear when, but it sounds as though it might be around 1300), and three kinds of beer from Nøgne Ø. I of course said yes at once, and so we went tonight.

Drinking beer

The first act was performed in the foyer on the first floor to the accompaniment of pickled herring in lefse and Nøgne Ø Saison (and of course flutes). The Saison was definitely done according to the Belgian style, and quite nice, with a soft, metallic taste in the proper style. What was not in proper style was that we were given only bottles, and no glasses. The result was that we were treated to the rather odd sight of lots of people drinking beer from the bottle as though this were a party for high school kids, except the bottles were all Nøgne Ø bottles, and most of the people in their 60-80. Very odd, and not the best way to enjoy the Saison, so I didn't even attempt a review of it.

The performance turned out to be rather a slapstick affair, with the actors all carrying leaflets with the text in it, plus flutes around their necks. The effect was to give the impression of being one of the guests at the feast at which the action in the play takes place. This wasn't so bad, as the play is one of Ibsen's least known, and least successful. It was the second play he ever wrote (after Catilina), and it was done rather quickly for a performance in Bergen. Ibsen himself in later life described it as a "merely a sketch".

Gudmund about to be interrupted

The actors added lots of humour to the play, primarily by exaggerating their roles, and by pretending not to remember the text of the play (and on a couple of occasions they clearly did not remember). In the middle of the first act one of the actors is relating a long story about how he came to be pronounced an outlaw, only to be interrupted by another actor, asking what on earth he's talking about, much to the amusement of the audience. And so on.

The second act

Anyway, the second act takes place at the feast itself, and was played in the restaurant after the main course. The main course consisted of lamb, baked fennel, and bitter salad, served on a bread plate (yes!), together with Nøgne Ø Porter, which went very nicely with the slightly burnt meat. It was somewhat tricky to eat, as according to medieval custom we were given only knife and spoon.

For the third act we were served a sweetish soup made from some kind of flower (sorry, my knowledge of English is insufficient here, the Norwegian name is "Hylleblomst") together with raisins and dried apricot, and a kind of spiced cake. Very nice, and well accompanied by Nøgne Ø Amber Ale.

Overall a very different experience of the theatre, and although the play seemed to me to have some real merits, the slapstick was very enjoyable. The food was an experience in itself, and the beer was of course very good. In short, a success.

Salad served in bread (bread plate on right)

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