“Perhaps something other than us exists, perhaps there is more than being alive. But of that I know nothing. It is not me.”The Eternal Smile is a performance about the dead and their complex relationship towards the living, based upon the swedish author Pär Lagerkvist novel written in 1920. His authorship revolves largely around the subject of mans relationship to God. The Eternal Smile is a story about a large group of dead people sitting somewhere in the darkness. Their location is unknown to them, perhaps nowhere, they sit and converse to pass the time, or rather, eternity. As thousands of years pass they become restless and start to question the meaning of it all. The enormous congregation of the dead become agitated and finally they rise up, determined to seek out God and get an answer. Pär Lagerkvist (born May 23. 1891, died July 11. 1974) was a Swedish author, poet, member of the Swedish Academy and winner of the 1951 Nobel prize in litterature. His authorship revolves largely around the subject of mans relationship to God. This is particularly evident in the novels Barabbas, Sibyllan and The dwarf. Verk Productions is adapting the text for the theater for the first time. Springing out from a national theater in miniature onstage, the artists strive after the writer’s own preferences for theater:
“The new time demands a new form (…) To create an illusion of reality and speak only to the intellect cannot be the mission of theater. The word should no longer be the sole ruler as a scenic means of expression, only theater involving all our senses can master to convey the diversity of impressions, the state of feverishness and madness constituting the modern.”– As written in Pär Lagerkvist’s essay on modern theater (1918). “If someone moves their hand straight out to the right, then slowly to their chest, where they draw the sign of a cross, then straight up in the air, which means nothing, then places a finger on their lips, like a seal, then draws an invisible circle above their head, and after that raises their finger, pointing at a secret star far off in space, which they cannot see, merely surmise; then still, ten thousand have done the same before them (…) It is gruesome.” – From The Eternal Smile, Pär Lagerkvist.Verk Productions got The Hedda Award 2011 in the category of Best Production for Det eviga leendet/The Eternal Smile. The jury reasoned as follows:
“Based on an at home relatively unknown, but diverse story about the Human Being’s relationship to the Great Questions of Life, the artists behind the production of the year have created a thought-provoking, mythical production about an original topic. This is an adaptation in which a witty text void of illusions is performed with intense involvement and sober distance, while unexpected theatrical effects continuously expand the metaphysical perspective. The result is a meaningful and witty philosophical fable, in which the artists continuously go in new directions, and have stage design, lighting and sound melting together in a challenging and exciting expression.”Reviews:
“The two levels of acting provide the performance with a fascinating duplicity, culminating in a fantas- tic visualisation of the unexpected- ly metaphysical end of Lagerkvist’s story, in which the dead who para- doxically are relatively happy with existence prior to and after death, rebel against the meaninglessness of life. (...) A thorough production in which the company uses different well-known theatrical expressions in going new routes to create a meaningful, metaphysical fable with wit."Larsen, IdaLou (22.11.2010). Review titled En metafysisk komedie (literally: A metaphysical comedy).
“Verk keeps the underlying unease in the text by Lagerkvist, but also promotes its humour. The artists break up the massive on our behalf and feed us with small bits of odd stories. With intense narrative voices and lifted eyebrows they show us how impossible the question posed by Lagerkvist is. The simple form suits the text and hopefully opens some new eyes to this recognised, but only to a little degree read, Nobel Literature Prize winner.”Valberg, Anna Helene (19.11.2010). Review titled Her finnes ingen, og minst av alt Gud (literally: Here is no body, and least of all God). Scenekunst, scenekunst.no, 08.12.2010
“For the first time The Eternal Smile is adapted for theatre. And that may have been the biggest surprise of the evening. During the performance associations lead to Strindberg, Dylan Thomas, Beckett and Fosse. In the staging by Verk it still is most natural to think about the most theatrical, high temperature side of Pirandello’s theatre. Which, of course, is due to the striking parallel between the dead souls of Lagerkvist and the six characters of Pirandello’s who are searching for a writer. Verk Produksjoner AKA Verk Productions has perfected its own style(...) and is an extraordinary charming performance.”
Bjørneboe, Therese (19.10.2010). Review titled Døde sjeler i titteskapet (literally: Dead souls in the rarity cabinet). Aftenposten [Oslo].
“Låt oss akta oss för att säga att döden står i motsättning till livet. Det levande är bara en variant av det döda, och en mycket sällsynt variant” - From Nietzsche, Den Glada Vetenskapen.Read the manuscript here