Tonight, in Stockholm, at Orionteatern, the latest stage collaboration of Benny and Björn, the musical theatre piece that no-one involved seems to be able to quite categorise, Hjälp sökes, has its world première.
The show is directed by Lars Rudolfsson, has a script by Kristina Lugn, music by Benny Andersson and lyrics by Björn Ulvaeus and is the show that heralds Orionteatern’s 30th anniversary.
Hjälp sökes (in English, “Help Wanted”) tells the story of two brothers, Axel and Engelbrekt, who have inherited their parents’ farm.
They are struggling in desolation with existential questions as well as with the household duties. They constantly live in the shadow of their parents’ legacy and behave as two orphaned sons. They need help and therefore put an advert in the local newspaper. The ad begins with: “Help wanted for small farm…”
In response to the advert, a mother, her daughter Hillevi and the goat Kalleman appear at the farm. The daughter works as an interpreter for her mother. She explains: “My mother is not deaf. But she has decided not to listen. My mother is not dumb. But has made her life a silent one. And the goat?! Well, Kalleman is the boss, you could say.”
The mother is an expert in communicating with animals. One day after the arrival of the mother and daughter, the brothers see their old horse performing the finest circus acts. The animals are dancing, not working, which frightens the brothers. What is happening to their family farm? Why did they write that ad? Will nothing be the same again?
Engelbrekt and Hillevi start a midnight conversation and connect to each other in a way that makes Axel jealous. He acts against the mother and her strange goat and wallows in his misery. But the presence of Hillevi, her mother and Kalleman changes the way the brothers see life. Suddenly they can hear the nightingale sing. They start to enjoy having their new friends at the farm and stage a cabaret with the animals to keep the odd trio from leaving.
Having accomplished their goal of giving hope and spirit to the brother, Hillevi, the mother and the goat leave the farm. What remains are two brothers who have witnessed incredible things and had amazing life experiences and now see the farm in a new light, glowing in the morning sun.
Unlike CHESS and Kristina från Duvemåla, Hjälp sökes is not mostly sung through but features a lot of spoken dialogue. Benny’s incidental music and the eight songs that make up the score run to a total of 45-50 minutes of music. The score is performed admirably by a band of five musicians and runs the gamut of ballads, Russian type marching music, pop and circus-style pieces. It’s delectable – with some of the best Benny music of recent years. Benny hopes the album that accompanies the show will be available sometime in May.
Next week, Benny and the musicians will start recording the soundtrack, which so far has only been previewed via the download from Mono Music’s website of the song Borton sol och måne performed by Sofia Pekkari, who has a slight Josefin Nilsson-like delivery, albeit less husky.
Below is a gallery of images from the press preview and, later the première. More images will be added over the coming days.