Swedish children’s theater at its best is a delight for both kids and grown-ups. It’s well made and clever, and it teaches us something by pointing out how things are.
When it comes to entertainment, we often overwhelm our children with an excess of lights, action and noise in desperate attempts to appease them, when all it takes is something much simpler. But to make something simple work is a sophisticated craft, one that involves education and experience.
Teater Tr3 from Stockholm managed this very well at a recent show of their production “Kloss” ("Block" in English) at Scandinavia House in New York. Nordstjernan spoke with Sara Myrberg and Marvin Yxner, actor and director of “Kloss.”

You use a lot of blocks in your show, and it looks really intricate. How long did it take to get it all to look the way it now looks, Sara?
“Well, we began rehearsing last fall, and the premiere was in Stockholm in February this year, but we change a lot during the performances, too. It’s continuously evolving.”

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It was you who came up with the idea of blocks?
“Yes, my idea centered on these blocks and the question was: What’s more fun—to build or to tear down? But it’s also a play about dealing with being three, which is always difficult. What does one do with one’s loneliness? And it’s about creativity, you can either stop or add to the flow of building.”

“Kloss” is a very well choreographed play, 30 minutes long, geared toward 3- to 6-year-olds, where mime and movement take precedence over words. Three characters, played by Myrberg, Per Dahlström and Bert Gradin, help each other build and knock down the blocks and in the meantime learn about the give and take of relationships. Children and adults alike recognize themselves and each other as the trio struggles. Director Marvin Yxner explains:
“What does one do when one is left outside? It’s not easy, you know. Once during a performance a little girl said to one of the characters on stage who’d been left out, ‘Sleep, sleep! Just go to sleep!’ It was her best advice, and it came from her heart.”
The production is beautiful with a red background, and the three characters moving around in dark blue overalls, striped shirts and hats, working with the colorful blocks. The dialogue is blissfully sparse—kids get the message, anyway.
“With children’s theater you have to listen more to the audience, because kids aren’t well-behaved,” Yxner continues. “They let you know whether something works or not—right away. I sometimes wish it were the same with regular theater. Theater goers today are much too nice.”
Teater Tr3 was founded in 1979 by some recent graduates from the mime school in Stockholm, and in the last few years it has focused primarily on children and youth theater. Some of the actors are permanently involved, others are hired on a freelance basis, as is Yxner, the director.
“But we all know each other from before,” he says. “They (Myrberg, Dahlström and Gradin) had already come a long way when I came into the picture. I was a third eye, somebody to see the show from outside. They are great actors, and they are very rhythmical, they know how to adjust to an audience.”

Why do you think theater is important?
“I think it’s all about the exciting meeting with an audience. A meeting where something very small can take on enormous proportions. A look, for instance,” says Yxner. “I also think it can help people. It can help society. All you sometimes need is to see a problem visualized on stage, then you understand it. I wonder if Jimmie Åkesson (leader of the controversial Sweden Democrats) ever was taken to see theater when he was a child.”
“I think the meeting between actors and audience is what’s the greatest difference between regular theater and children’s theater,” says Myrberg. “It’s much easier to understand what kids like.”
The reason children’s theater is flourishing in Sweden, they both believe, is that children are taken seriously there.
“We listen to our children, and today more than ever before people take their kids to the theater,” Yxner says. “Moms, dads, grandparents.”
Teater Tr3’s mini tour of the U.S. included performances at Scandinavia House in New York, as well as performances at House of Sweden in Washington, D.C., and at the Kennedy Center, also in Washington.
For more information:
www.teatertre.se
www.scandinaviahouse.org