Jakop Ahlbom
Jakop Ahlbom(Sweden, 1971)
Jakop Ahlbom was born in Sweden in 1971. In the early 1990s he moved to the Netherlands where he studied Mime at the Amsterdam School of the Arts. Upon his graduation in 1998 he was presented with the Top Naeff award for the most promising student. His gift for choreography had been noticed – and so had his poeticism and his ability to get his cast to unleash their energy, bravado and physicality. The award jury described him as an eager, outstanding and exuberant talent. After graduating he worked with a variety of theatre makers as a performer, choreographer and director. In 2000 he started working on his own, idiosyncratic oeuvre, which includes Stella Maris (2000), Nur zur Erinnerung (2002), Lost (2004), Vielfalt (2006), De Architect (2008), Innenschau (2010), Lebensraum (2012), Het Leven een Gebruiksaanwijzing (2013), Bug (2014), Horror (2014) and Swan Lake (2016).
CV Jakop Ahlbom
Essay over Jakop Ahlbom Salzburger Festspiele
Interview met Jakop in Vrij Nederland (okt 2013)

Over Jakop Ahlbom

SUBJECT MATTER

Jakop Ahlbom’s work revolves around people’s often strained relationship with themselves and the world around them. He shows how his characters deal with a world that is not always what it appears to be. Secret desires want space for themselves; where in this sometimes dreamlike reality will they rear their heads? Ahlbom often works from the perspective of one central figure, using this single vantage point to make tangible the sense of dislocation felt by the main characters. They cross the boundaries of the everyday and step, willingly or unconsciously, into a world in a world that eludes all conventions as we know them. The chief protagonist becomes lost in magical worlds that are far more powerful than he and that confront him, harshly, with his own impotence. This is the strategy Ahlbom uses to explore the boundaries of our normal existence. If you look for a boundary and then step across it, what will happen next? In what kind of world of unrestrainable desires will you find yourself; in what kind of surreal reality will you become lost? His characters refuse to settle for what the everyday has to offer. They go in search of the life hidden beyond and beneath it. But they find themselves in an unsettling, terrifying world where they have no grip on the forces they have set in motion. The consequences of their actions are often more than they can handle.

Love is an important subject of Ahlbom’s work. No matter how much trouble his characters may be having in their life, they are always on the lookout for love – their only handhold as they struggle for survival. This sense of yearning imbues Ahlbom’s work with a powerful poeticism and melancholy. It offers solace and hope; despite the often traumatic events his characters must endure, it often has an optimistic tone. His characters do not engage with the confrontation without good reason, because they find a fantastical world that offers room to breathe and an escape from the harsh realities of existence. Ahlbom’s work succeeds because it always combines tragedy with humour, so it’s unsurprising that Buster Keaton is one of his greatest inspirations. The sense of space comes from the poignant naiveté with which people experience wonder, beauty and humour – sometimes against their own better judgement. Ahlbom taps the rich vein of humour he finds in utter impotence, the attempts to get a grip on life and, despite the failures, the refusal to give up. One result is that physical slapstick is a thread running throughout his oeuvre. The human willingness to be pure, in all its beauty and simplicity, moves the audience and makes them smile.

And that is perhaps the reason behind Ahlbom’s plays resonating with such a large audience. His work moves audiences of all kinds, classes and ages, whether they are new or ardent theatregoers, whether they are at a rock festival or a prestigious European theatre festival. He captivates them, makes them laugh and affects them. He brings understanding to sometimes dark subject matter by lifting them into a magical, richly imaginative world. It is precisely by engaging and dealing with this confrontation that he offers his characters perspective. He invites the audience to go along with him, to experience the adventure together – and to come away purged.

FORM

Ahlbom’s work is not defined by a single style. Even though the mime genre encompasses a broad spectrum of forms of expression, particularly in the Netherlands, it still does not do full justice to his work. His highly visual and expressive plays spring originate in the physical body of the individual mime artist, dancer or actor. He takes human psychology and sense of reality as his departure point, and merges it with worlds that spring from the subconscious.

Ahlbom’s plays follow the seemingly illogical logic of dreams in a world at the edge of the subconscious. His stylistic toolkit stylistic is packed with elements from slapstick, illusionism, acrobatics, dance, absurdism, music, visual art, poetry and magic, and he frequently draws on cinematic influences. He is particularly inspired by the film editing techniques that enable him to create magical-realistic universes. He combines all these styles, tools and techniques to build a new theatrical language; a new theatrical reality. Humour plays a crucial role in this reality because it allows Ahlbom to disrupt our expectations, distance us from familiar reality us and create the space to laugh at the human condition.

Visual elements are central to Ahlbom’s work, and he couples them with his often psychological subject matter to forge an unbreakable relationship between them. He disrupts the audience’s perceptions with repetitions, loops and recurring movement phrases that each time shift reality just a little – slowly but surely knocking it out of kilter, distorting it almost imperceptibly until we find ourselves in the parallel dimensions he has devised. The ingenuity of the staging is crucial to the whole because the construction and sequencing defines the subject matter. The dream logic yields an associative world; the balance of logic and the associative state is a defining characteristic of Ahlbom’s work. He creates his own universe, one that is both logical and inimitable. He speaks a language that has no equivalent in Dutch theatre. Ahlbom’s work, in all its manifestations, is unique.

AWARDS

Jakop Ahlbom won the Top Naeff Award for most promising talent for his graduation production. This first honour was to be followed many more. More recently Jakop was selected for the prestigious Amsterdam Award for the Arts. Horror, his latest production, was selected for both the Flemish and the Dutch Theatre Festival in 2015 and nominated for the VSCD Mime Award. In 2012 Lebensraum won the VSCD Mime Award and Silke Hundertmark was nominated for the Colombina Award for best female supporting role for the same play. Vielfalt was selected for the Dutch Theatre Festival in 2007.