Stockholm-based performance company KEL are embodying 1950s housewives and 1930s gymnasts in their genre-blending, thoughtful and introspective piece Pleased to Please. We wanted to get behind the scenes of one of Prague Fringe 2023’s most curious and intriguing show listings to understand what brought the trio to the topic of the domestic and the body, and to understand a little more about what we can expect from their unique new show. Join us for a pixelated pilsner!
You can catch Pleased to Please between the 23rd and 26th of May at Divadlo Inspirace as part of Prague Fringe (times vary by day). The show features Anna Littorin, Jonna Sandell and Lisa Hansson, is directed by Olle Sarri with support from the Swedish Arts Grants Committee. Tickets are available through the Prague Fringe Box Office.
Jake: Hi guys! Now, your show ‘Pleased to please’, features some of the original influencers, three 50s housewives here to teach housekeeping skills, and gymnasts from the 30s with certain ideas about the female body. Tell us what inspired the piece.
KEL: When we started out as a group we soon found out that all three of us had a crush on old women’s magazines, old books about house-holding, gymnastics etc. Looking through the perspective of being a woman living in 21st century it seemed quite humouristic, but it also made us feel humble – it’s their struggle that got us where we are today. But during the 30s – 60s, at least in Sweden, a lot of “propaganda” was put out in books, tv and papers about how to be a good housewife. You can read endless rules about how to do your dishes perfectly, vacuum your floor in the right way, how to entertain your kids, maybe build them a puppet theatre and then write a play that you perform for them… And most important of all, how to handle your husband when comes home after work. It’s exhausting, who takes care of the women? We wanted to give this woman’s rectification – but with a bit of humour and from our point of view.
Jake: How has it been embodying these influencers and the ideas they hold? Tell us a little about the process of creating the characters and the show.
KEL: It’s kind of a double feeling. We really love the characters and try to embody the women from both the 30s gymnastics era and the 50s housewife. We don’t want to make fun of the characters and we hope we can show a depth with both criticizing them and the era they originate from, at the same time to lift and love them. The process of creating the characters comes from a deep curiosity and researching, but also through going through subtle expressions, the way of talking from this time. As well as interviewing elderly women, relatives and also interviewing and borrowing time specific clothes that we use as costumes, from our mothers and from Lisa´s 92 year old neighbour Svea.
It’s important for us to respect the characters, to lift them and let them speak, even if we at the same time criticize the somewhat twisted ideas of what it is and has been to be a woman, about female sexuality, a lot of pressure from society, suppression and also dark politics with nationalism. It has struck us, while working with the show, how similar the influencers from the past are to the influencers of today. A lot of pressure within these influencers. They are hard on themselves and also hard on their audience on their platforms. They are very eager and pleased to please!
Jake: The piece seems to be somewhat genreless and a little off-the-wall! Tell us what you’re hoping the audience will take away from it all.
KEL: Yes for sure it is! Well, we want the audience to leave the Theatre feeling uplifted but also a bit thoughtful. Our name KEL means cuddle in Swedish, and we use to say that KEL is like wool, soft but also itchy, just like our performances. The past is our mirror for today’s society, and we hope that the audience will consider all the wisdom and knowledge that have been lost but also values and idioms that would have been better not to have survived, like for example some old fashioned female ideals. But it’s not only about the female role. It’s so much going backwards regarding values now in the world. And to give the world and yourself a good laugh is a good way to find the strength to move on.
Jake: Now that we’re gearing up for Prague Fringe, what are you most excited for?
KEL: We are really so excited to meet the Prague audience! It’s the first performance ever in the Czech Republic for all of us. But also we are so curious to see as many other acts as possible, it’s really a nice pick in the programme!
Jake: Given the themes of Binge Fringe, if your show was a beverage of any kind (alcoholic, non-alcoholic – be as creative as you like!), what would it be and why?
KEL: Pleased to Please is a Gin fizz. Served in an old champagne glass, with a dust of cayenne sprinkled on the top.
Photo Credit: Kalle Christiansson, 2023