Norway’s internationally acclaimed actress and director Liv Ullmann hadn’t appeared on a Norwegian stage for more than 20 years until this autumn, but she’s clearly making up for lost time. Ullmann is getting rave reviews as she tours the country in a highly successful version of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night.
The show is so successful that theaters and local cultural halls are packed everywhere the ensemble for the state theater company Riksteatret travels, and all performances were sold out as of last week except for one, in the northern Norwegian town of Harstad.
Newspaper Aftenposten reports that the demand for tickets has resulted in the addition of two extra performances in Oslo and one in Stockholm, where O’Neill’s classic actually had its debut in 1956.
Riksteatret’s production of the play already was scheduled for two performances at Stockholm’s famed Dramaten theater downtown. Now there will one more, on December 7, after tickets for the first two sold out in 30 minutes.
“Liv Ullmann is a very respected and loved actress and director in Sweden, not least for her roles in Ingmar Bergman’s films,” Ulrika Nilsdotter, spokeswoman for Dramaten, told news bureau NTB.
At home in Norway, Ullmann has never quite felt such adulation. Blame it on Norway’s infamous janteloven, that no one should ever think very much of themselves, or on sheer envy, but Ullmann simply hadn’t been asked to appear in much of anything in Norway until Riksteatret’s boss Ellen Horn called and proposed the O’Neill tour.
Asked whether she’s been puzzled by the few offers, Ullmann responded: “Did you say ‘few?’ There haven’t been any,” apart from a small role in a film a few years ago. “No, my last big role was as An-Margritt in 1969. I don’t know why.” She admitted to being rather irritated by the apparent lack of interest.
No longer, as the critics applaud and the production makes a triumphant tour all over the country until December. Ullmann and the other actors in the troupe are traveling from south to north in a bus, something Ullmann says her Australian colleague Cate Blanchett found hard to believe. “You’re kidding, Liv Ullmann in a bus?” Ullman quoted Blanchett as saying, in a recent article on the tour in Aftenposten. But Ullmann claims she loves it.
“You don’t find anything better or more meaningful in this work than to perform on 50 different small stages in Norway,” she said, adding that “Lyngdal can be better than Hollywood.”
Ullmann lives mostly in the US but says that when she’s in her flat in Oslo, she’s “home,” and otherwise lives “partly in Florida, a bit in Boston, a bit in New York.” She’s thoroughly enjoying the limelight “at home” in Norway but attributes much of it to her age.
“I’m being honored here and there, you know, and I like it!” says the 71-year-old Ullmann. And she chooses to believe that the audiences want to see Bjørn (Sundquist, her co-star in the play) and the others in the cast including the two young actors playing their sons, Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen and Anders Baasmo Christiansen. They all hail her lack of conceit, and describe her as professional, unaffected and generous.