A plot worthy of Ibsen

I had to close this production blog by sharing a story that I found in The Guardian during the winter break. It seems these events have been burbling in the Norwegian press for a while and were picked up by the British papers as part of a robust UK interest in Ibsen after recent successful productions of his plays in 2011 such as National Theater’s premiere of Emperor and Galilean, Arcola Theatre’s revival of A Doll’s House, and the Jermyn Street Theatre revival of Little Eyolf, starring none other than our recent visiting guest artist, Jonathan Cullen!

The scandal bears all the hallmarks of Ibsen’s dramaturgy if not his actual hand: forged documents including fragments of a “lost” Ibsen play, supposedly titled The Sun God, were bought by collectors and national archives in Norway throughout the 2000s. After much conflict and suspicion over their authenticity within circles of scholars and collectors, police now seem satisfied that all the pieces were the fabrications of a Norwegian scriptwriter and actor named Geir Ove Kvalheim.

In addition to a “signed” first edition of the Ibsen play John Gabriel Borkman, which had a dedication from Ibsen to Edvard Munch, Kvalheim also sold multiple WWII era “artifacts” from Nobel-prize winning author Knut Hamsun (a Nazi sympathizer) to Norway’s national library. His friendships with various Norwegians who worked with the Nazis during the second world war, seemed to have protected him from charges until, according to The Guardian, in a plot twist worthy of Ibsen:

[His] relationship with [Fredrik] Jensen [a former member of the Waffen-SS] broke down after Kvalheim passed the police footage of interviews he had carried out for a documentary, which he claimed proved that Jensen had helped shelter Nazi war criminals. In 2007, Norwegian courts ordered Kvalheim to pay Jensen £40,000 in damages for this claim, which resulted in Jensen being accused in newspapers of sheltering Aribert Heim – the Austrian nicknamed “Dr Death” for his gruesome medical experiments on inmates at the Mauthausen concentration camp – at his home in Málaga, Spain. But by the time Jensen died, aged 90, in July last year, it was believed that Heim had in fact died in Cairo in 1992.

Kvalheim is due to stand trial in April 2012.

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