Erasmus Montanus – 300 years old and still relevant

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By: Ketil Mosnes
March 18, 2021

Under the direction of Danish playwright and director Christian Lollike, Ludvig Holberg’s classic comedy gets a distinct twist.

The farmer boy Rasmus Berg (Berg = hill) has studied in Copenhagen and is returning to his hometown on the hill. Knowledgeable and arrogant, he quickly stirs things up in his domestic community. He changes his name to Erasmus Montanus, and creates controversy by claiming that the earth is round and ‘proving’ that his mother is a rock…This is the plot outline for Ludvig Holberg’s classic play Erasmus Montanus. Holberg, acknowledged as of the Nordic countries’ most ground-breaking writers, wrote his satirical play in 1723, however its debut performance did not take place until 1747. At the Bergen International Festival, one of Denmark’s most significant playwrights, Christian Lollike, will present his version of Erasmus. Joined by a strong team of actors from The National Stage in Bergen, Lollike discusses and challenges the Danish values in a global perspective. How far are we willing to go for our beliefs? What do we stand for, and what holds us together? Christian Lollike's adaptation of Erasmus Montanus saw its debut at Aarhus Theatre in 2017. The play was a great artistic success, and the Danish newspaper Berlingske named it the best theatre performance of the year.

(Pictured: From the 1934 staging of Erasmus Montanus at The National Stage in Bergen. See below for more pictures of old stagings of the play.)The National Stage in Bergen is no stranger to Holberg’s play. When the current theatre building had its grand opening in 1909, Erasmus Montanus was on the bill. The Bergen theatre has staged the play a total of 13 times, in the years 1878, 1886, 1899, 1909, 1917, 1934, 1947, 1950, 1959, 1973, 1984, 1991 and 2000.


In the following interview, Christian Lollike talks about his acclaimed version of Erasmus Montanus:

– Which aspects of the plot in Erasmus Montanus do you think are as relevant today as when the play was written 300 years ago?

– I still believe that city vs. countryside is an issue. In Denmark, we use the term ‘udkantsdanmark’ (a negatively loaded word describing rural Denmark); implying that people living in the city are smarter than those living in the country. At the same time, I think the theme of trying to appear smarter than we really are, is still relevant. We are probably as afraid of making a fool of ourselves and not being smart enough now, as people were during Holberg's time.

– It has been suggested that your version of Erasmus challenges the Danish (and thus to a large extent the Norwegian) values ​​in a global perspective. Can you elaborate a bit more?

– My version is less about whether the earth is flat, and more about whether the Danish society is based on christian values ​​or the ideals of the Enlightenment. That discussion has shaped, and continues to shape, the Danish debate.

– If Erasmus lived today, what kind of person would he be? A YouTube profile? Blogger? Conspiracy theorist? Or something completely different?

– I don’t know. The wonderful thing about Erasmus Montanus is that he’s also right. He's telling the truth, but as the same time he’s rather stupid. The same goes for the villagers.

– What kind of thoughts would you like the audience to be left with after seeing the show?

– I want the audience to be in two minds about who they agree with … about who is right.


Supported by Vestland County Council

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