“We have Le Monde coming in, AFP was here this morning, TV2 is about to start, La Liberation …” The list seems endless as the theatre’s press agent runs through the interview schedule for the day, counting them with her fingers. And it’s no surprise. It’s only been little over a year since the Utøya massacre and Oslo bombing that claimed 77 lives, but the memory is still fresh on many people’s minds.
However there has recently been a sense of relief. With convicted mass murder Anders Behring Breivik having been declared sane and sentenced to indefinite detention, wounds have slowly started to heal. That’s what makes tonight's opening of the play 'Manifesto 2083', which is based on Breivik's 1,518-page 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, all the more controversial. Just as the world tries to move on from this tragedy, Café Teatret director Christian Lollike wants to bring the whole thing back into focus.
Shining a light on the subject
“It’s important we don’t just leave this subject in the dark,” Lollike told The Copenhagen Post. “We need to dig it up, shine a light on it, and understand who this man is.”
Indeed, history is there so that the future can learn from its mistakes, but how can a monologue do justice to a subject which is in many ways still an open wound – particularly in Scandinavia?
“What we’ve done is taken specific parts of Breivik’s manifesto and his trial, to piece together … almost an analysis of how this man is viewed by society, and how he in fact views himself,” Lollike said. “This is a unique chance to get a better understanding of the right-wing movement as well, especially within a country which has particularly strong views on foreigners and immigration.”
This is an opinion shared by none other than Breivik himself, who in his manifesto referred to Denmark as "the only Scandinavian country with some spine left" when it comes to an "ideological war" against Islam. At his trial, he contended that had Norway adopted Danish-style immigration policies, he would not have carried out his attacks. That in some ways surely makes this play all the more controversial, seeing as it’s being performed in a country praised by Breivik.
“We’re not supporting him,” Lollike said. “We’re analysing him. And in some ways, it’s all the more that important we investigate his manifesto here. What is it about our culture that creates hate against Islam and religious people?”
“But doesn’t that mean that mean you’re effectively giving him a platform?,” The Copenhagen Post asked the director. “Hitler’s book ‘Mein Kampf’ would never have been read if he hadn’t done the things he did. Aren’t you just bringing unnecessary attention to something best lost and forgotten?”
“No,” Lollike answered immediately. “The worst thing we could possibly do is to hide the manifesto. This shouldn’t become a mysterious book that sparks curiosity and intrigue. We need to familiarise ourselves with his work, and the stage is a great place to bring this subject into public debate.”
But, why focus on Breivik? Surely, one could contend, if the director wanted to tackle social issues there are less controversial ways of doing it. We had to ask: was Breivik chosen just for the controversy and publicity it was guaranteed to generate?
“We chose this topic because it’s topical and contemporary,” Lollike countered calmly. “Breivik is the modern day representation of the world’s fear against foreigners. This is one of the most scary issues we have in the modern age, and it needs to be addressed.”
A sore spot when the play was first announced was that, in addition to a public platform for his views, Breivik could potentially profit from the performance.
"No chance at all," Lollike said. "We’ve had legal advice on the matter to make sure. But either way, he relinquished all of his copyright in the manifesto itself. So there’s no issue there.”
Perhaps not, but many would argue that by basing a play off of his manifesto, Breivik is getting exactly what he wants. By having no copyright to his work, his manifesto is free for anyone who wants it. And with ‘Manifest 2083’ opening at Café Teatret this evening at 21:00, Breivik has in effect not only been given a platform to work from, but a stage to perform on as well.