Tuesday, 19 November 2013

A Very Swedish Evening with a "Chalmersspex" Show

You know those British traditions, like Pantomime, which is difficult to explain to someone who's never seen one? Well, Chalmersspexet is just like that - you really have to see one to know what it's all about.

Photo: Kristofer Norström — with Oliver Carlsson,Oskar FridellJohan Forsgran and Per Ahlgren.
But I'll try to explain.

In Sweden, Spex is the name given to student comedies, or raucous plays, often performed in silly costumes. Chalmersspex is in fact very similar to a British Panto, because this student tradition which began at Chalmers University in Gothenburg some 65 years ago, also involves men dressing up as women; there's singing and there's general silliness. Unlike in a Panto, however, the only audience participation is clapping - if you show your keen appreciation for an energetic dance number, the cast have to perform the routine again. The aim is to get the poor young students as exhausted as possible - a task which seemed impossible with this lot!

With this Chalmersspex evening, there was also the show after the main show. We were guests at the Swedish Church in London, where after the hugely funny and entertaining performance, the hall was turned into a posh canteen, with long tables laid out with the very important schnapps and beer glasses. While us guests had delicious canapés and drinks at the Pastor's residence next door, the theatre company turned into party organisers and set up the room for us. 

Me (what's happened to my hair???)
with the very tall leading lady, Oskar Fridell
During the meal of Swedish husmanskost (traditional Swedish foods such as herring and pyttipanna), the cast and theatre company lead the singing of schnapps songs. After many drinks, songs and speeches, and dessert and Punsch (Swedish sweet liqueur), the cast began performing again, singing solos and duets.

Apologies for the quality of the photos -
at this point the show had been going on for s few hours already...
The evening, which began at six o'clock, was still going strong when - at one am - we finally made a move to leave. I have to admire the energy of these young  people; apparently as well as doing the show, entertaining the guests all night long, and serving us drinks, plus clearing the detritus of the night before, they were contracted to set up the church hall for the Swedish Christmas Market the following day. And they did it all with massive smiles on their faces.

This was my first Chalmersspex, and the food as well as the general Swedishness of the evening took me back to my teens in Stockholm. But, if I get another invitation, I can guarantee you this won't be my last Chalmersspex! Judging by the few words spoken by the Pastor, next year the Church may have a visit from the all female version, Chalmersspexet Vera.

Now that would be a treat too!
We open the doors at 10.30 am Thursday the 21 November. 
Ambassador Nicola Clase opens the market at 11 am.
Thursday 21 Nov kl 11-20
Friday 22 Nov - closed
Saturday 23 Nov kl 11-18
Sunday 24 Nov kl 12-176 Harcourt Street, London W1H 4AG
Nearest tube station Edgware Road, Marylebone Station and Baker Street.

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