Bergen, Norway, 2017.6.4 – 2017.6.8

don’t be late

I didn’t realise Gatwick Airport from Kings Cross takes over one hour. The stress and dread as I missed the check in, became a mental cooling process. This catastrophe today felt creative, seeing the world through eyes of failure. I spent the day with Spew, and had a chance to look at Vinyl Bar in St. Paul’s as they were opening the doors, a detached 2-level circular new venue on the tourist circuit with two performance rooms that have bars, full backline including a whole drum kit with snare, pedal and cymbals (the iconic band logos garishly painted on the stage backdrop is not ideal). Contact Vis the Spoon for bookings.

Experiencing modern depseration to make every journey as short as possible, but I have no choice but to enjoy the ride. And time is not really money. Drinking beer with Spew at Wetherspoons at Victoria station, we watch the notifications; trains to Gatwick Airport for my next flight are delayed. Bye bye, standing in the train, when will it leave? No one knows when the red light will change, and I could miss the flight again, it’s a bit less scary after doing that once today.


Teatre National Scene, Bergen

Sondre picked me up from Bergen airport in the Tesla 100% electric car owned by the Bergen festival. The windscreen is so long – from the front seat you can look straight up at the calm night sky. As he navigates on his A4 touch screen he tells me of the basic policies of life in Norway, the free university education, low crime, low population, and the shock of visiting Americans who observe the Norwegian prisoners doing jobs and studying, with Playstations in their cells. The visitors from the ‘free world’ can’t understand why prisoners are to have a good experience and rehabilitate. I think I’m looking at an example of future. Norway has the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund (on June 2 2017 at 960 billion USD, larger than their entire national capital). It will be a very rainy day, but we can be sure it’s coming. They don’t invest in nuclear weapons (what about energy?), tobacco or anti-personnel mines “among other criteria”.
So I’m happy to pay 89 kroner for a small beer, because I’m naive.


the show

Tiger Lillies had one of those little rehearsals, which always sound better than shows, in a small reverberant room with a grand piano. Every sweep and stroke of the drum creates a real atmosphere. And with only a snare and cymbal, tapping my foot on the case, each song is contained in a wonderful limitation, which creates freedom. The 14×6 inch Ludwig 3419757 is beautiful and rich, ringy and deep, a bit like a Slingerland. I love it.

We see a standing ovation on both nights, the sheen of success reflects on a positive and negative charge, waiting for the catch: is it too good to be true (again)? Director Paul Goleb is chuffed to bits and keeps his cool, writer Peder Bjurman and Mark Holthusen grin in merriment. Norwegian team of festival director, officials and backers, the songwriter/keyboard player of Ah-Ha (an underwriter of the festival), and a lot of well dressed locals, receive us with a drinks ceremony in a circle on the stage, being filmed. As a group of 30-40 people talk through all the points of business, I love the way the whole group keeps in one conversation for a good 20 minutes. Martyn did try to cause trouble, citing apparent Norwegian dislike of Swedes.

One of his representatives tried to hush him, but these Nords are game, and played along with the humour.
The actors ‘broke a leg’ – Peter did not accidentally swallow lots of ink from the bottle this time. Also he didn’t rip my buttons off either as he has done before. You see, I play the pawn broker who he tries to sell his poems to. But I reject him and throw him on the floor. There are lots of new songs and a lot of Poe text but a lot added as well, with constant video of Mark Holthusen, so I should spoil it.



another Bergen Festival show – While They Are Floating dance performance

I got a taste of Carte Blanche, the big Norwegian dance company, and premier of the show about refugee experience at Studio Bergen nearby. As we enter, dancers are telling first-person stories to the audience about refugee experiences in detail. When we are sitting still, they line up and tell more. Soon I realise they are all just pretending, acting, they are not really refugees but the stories are true. In this huge black studio room which is tall, wide and long, suddenly there is the quickest blackout I have ever seen. This created tension, I expected loud noises. They continued talking about disasters and migration… and gradually began the movement. Accompanied by half-harmonious drone and minimalist noise music, the choreography showed a lot of characters in their own worlds, independent of each other, on the move, unable to stop, cutting places as they leave them, humping the air, a combination of improvisation and written structure. Waves of energy flow through them, some flogging themselves and the place, some memorable and clear motions of fitting into small spaces and struggling to fit in. A whole stream of wonderful ideas, but I can’t make concrete sense of them.
At the end there is a discussion, and they seem very concerned with whether the movement tells concrete stories, but how can it? Their piece was so effective it made people cry and made me feel the problems. The ending was especially good, with the fastest running movements for a long time, with booms music, like bombs hitting.
After this world premier, the choreographer, who is a refugee himself, started a public discussion with two of the dancers and the audience. They talked about how hard it was to do the acting as refugees and then get into dancing. They analysed how well the stories were being translated into concrete dance (?). I thought it went so well, and why are thy thinking about it so much? It kills the inspiration and magic. They are second-guessing a thing that already works.

that serious man on the floor is a proper dancer you know

haunted cutlery hotel

Haneatiske Hotel is from the 1500s and the wood aroma is reminiscent of Finnish kesämökki. A lovely lady sits at a desk at one side of a small lobby, drawing something she throws away when we enter. After all the business is done we chat. She reports that an unknown hand moves cutlery around in the restaurant at night. The ‘Spirits of the Dead’ must have some lasting effect on the place (that’s a new song by Martyn in the new show). Or maybe the concierge lady who told us is a complete lunatic because she said ‘I think they are keeping things in order but i don’t go in there at night.’ Actually I think it’s very possible. People have reported ghosts since ancient Greek times. Being a lunatic doesn’t mean you are dysfunctional, just means you have some luna qualities. Actually I don’t know what it means, but someone is always watching the show.

out my hotel window is another roof connecting two ancient Hanseatiske buildings

Walking up Floyen mountain is a good hour of uphill exercise, not too steep, but the high tech funicular track can take one up and down. One train car, in a stepped shape liked raked audience seating, seems to be pulling the other which is on the opposite end, with its weight on a thick cable. Then they pass one another int eh middle.

patchy general and tourist information

Bergen is standing on strong feet, and has only about 250,000 inhabitants, many of them Spanish. This was the trading capital of Scandinavia in the the 1200s and the port and centre between the fjords and the rest of the world. Now it has a pleasant distance from hustle and bustle while offering lots of culture, theatre, bands, 7-Elevens, Starbucks (but a lot more local businesses for drinking and eating) craft beer bars, mountain funicular with plenty to eat and buy on the top of the hill. It roughly shares a longitude with Helsinki, and rains about 200 days a year. Norway has 30% electronic cars and aims to reach 100% by 2020. Homeless people from Norway are given a place to live, but foreign homeless are around here somewhere.

As I left the strand with acoustic guitar singer doing James Taylor ‘Something in the way she moves’ and seeing Bergen Havn and the waterside market on my left, a Romanian woman begging receives my fruit. To have a choice of where to be homeless, if I was starting it all again, this would be high on my list for the stable social policies and atmosphere, but not the weather. On the same side of the street is an empathetic metal sculpture of a barefooted man sitting outside the DnB Bank, and permanent plaque at his feet proclaiming “Ingen er bare det du ser”, translated as “Nobody is just what you see”.


That’s quite safely true, unless of course, that person is a sculpture… I’m wrong again. A sculpture has endless unseen aspects, from the sculptor to the materials, from where they came, the story of the idea, the commission that paid for it. I suppose there are so few homeless people on the streets of Bergen, they need statues to keep up the numbers.

In airports, pianos keep you sane…or insane