In the first of a new series of blog posts introducing the artists behind Projekt Europa, our resident photographer Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz interviews Season Director Maria Aberg on location in the south of Sweden.
Swedish Director Maria Åberg is co-curating Projekt Europa, exploring what 'Europe' means and celebrating the best of European theatre-making.
Maria spent her childhood in a small village in Sweden, before coming to the UK to train as a Director at Mountview. She has directed in Sweden, Germany and the UK, including several productions for the RSC. She now lives in the UK with her family.
What does Europe mean to you?
Hanna: So we’re on the South coast of Sweden, sort of between Malmö and Ystad, in a village called...
H: and I’m walking with Maria Aberg, season director for the Projekt Europa season in Stratford-upon-Avon this summer. Maria, what does Europe mean to you?
M: On a personal level, it just feels like home. And I suppose when you feel home somewhere, you always have that desire to take people by the hand and go: “Look at this thing that’s amazing” and “This is where I grew up” and “I think you’re really going to like this thing”.
H: How did you choose the plays?
M: I chose them together with Judith Gerstenberg (Dramaturg). We chose them parallel with finding the right directors, so it was a process of meeting lots of people and getting a feeling for their engagement with the ideas behind the season, and also hearing their suggestions for projects that felt like they chimed with what we were looking for.
H: Did you always have a strong feeling that you wanted to direct Europeana?
M: No! I was slightly struggling with finding the right kind of material and Judith brought me the novel. As soon as I read the first three pages I was like “I have absolutely no idea how to do this and I definitely want to do it.”
H: So, what’s in your bag of tricks, your toolbox, as a director?
M: For Europeana, I think it’s pretty much everything I’ve ever done and everything I know. That’s what’s so exciting about it. It encompasses every bit of music, every political event, every demonstration, every election, every play, every bit of costume, every battle, everything that ever happened in the 20th century. So, you need all the tools.
Projekt Europa and Shakespeare
H: I’m curious to know – what do you think Shakespeare would make of this season?
M: I sort of feel like every play he ever wrote would be part of Projekt Europa.
H: And why we are here on the South coast of Sweden?
M: Well, this is where I’m from. I was born a 45-minute drive away from here and spent my summers on this coast in various little villages and tiny little towns along the way between here and Malmö.
H: It’s so lovely. The Baltic is on our left, and on our right, sort of dotted along, some really lovely houses. Cross the path and you’re in the sea. And later on we are going to the house where you grew up.
M: Where my sister lives now my parents have moved out.
[later, at Maria’s family home]
H: Could you tell us where we are?
M: We are in the garden of the house I grew up in which is in a tiny little village called Arrie, just a few kilometres off the coast of Sweden. And we’re looking at this big beech tree that was my favourite place to play when I was little. It’s huge and very old and it has kind of little rooms in it at the bottom. So I was thinking that we could climb up it.
H: It’s definitely one of those sort of magic trees that’s just like a whole universe up there.
M: Yeah, I love it. And obviously now, it’s completely bare, but in the summer there’s this massive green canopy.
H: Wonderful. Let’s do it!
Maria is directing Europeana, a breathless race through the chaotic kaleidoscope of 20th century history in Europe, playing in the Swan Theatre from 9 April 2020.