19 JUNE 1953, Page 14

The Stockholm Festival

EARLY in June, while celebrating its seventh centenary, Stockholm inaugurated an annual festival of the arts. In the theatre, usually closed for the short summer, the outstanding event was Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Dramatic Theatre. 4t raised a controversy, as well it might. The direction was by Alf Sjoberg, internationally known for his films Frenzy and Miss Julie and famous here for his original productions of modern foreign plays and of Shakespeare, and for bringing leading painters into the theatre as ddsigners. It was one of these, Sven Erixson, who created the decor : one structure,

transformed from scene to scene by lighting, a few props and, above all, by the movement and grouping of the exuberantly costumed players. Sjoberg, reacting against mechanisation in the modern arts, aimed to animate his stage by means as simple as those of Elizabethan days and, remembering Marlowe, to suggest infinity in a small space. He wanted toishow a primitive Verona—the roughness, blood and danger—at a time when only the youngest could have been touched by the Renaissance. In the main he succeeded. For if the abstract form of the basic set was more modernistic than timeless, as had been intended, its cunningly sloped highways and byways gave wonderful scope for movement. The public place of the first scene, teeming with boisterous southerners, needed but a few lanterns and flowers to become a hall in Capulet's house, for it was the clan and movement-patterns that made the fateful masquerade. And a lone line of washing aptly suggested the morning after in the street where the gleefully coarse Nurse found Romeo. Transitions were indeed " shorter than a fade-out," as Sjoberg had wished. The contrast between the harsh surroundings and the tender enchantment of the lovers, most delicately played by Anita Bjork (Miss Julie of the film) and the talented Jarl Kulle, were forcefully drawn, with brilliant pictorial effects. But what was gained in vigour was partly lost in intimacy. Without quite achieving unity of style, this production was memorable chiefly for the boldness of its conception.

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At the Drottningholm Palace Theatre, where the original eight- eenth century stage machinery and sets are still in use, Pastoral, by Olof von Dalin, was performed as nearly as possible as it had been by ladies and gentlemen of the court in 1752. A 'comedy of manners in verse, it shows the vain attempts of some shepherds and shepherdesses to devise a fitting celebration for the return from abroad of the king, who arrives before they are ready. The production of this baroque trifle was a witty study, in style, the players assuming the mincing gait and extravagant gestures which must have been natural to