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Axel Otto Normann

Axel Otto Normann and the invasion

In 1935 Axel Otto Normann became the new Artistic Director. He was originally a journalist and theatre critic.

When Norway was occupied by Germany on the 9th of April 1940, the theatre kept showing plays until April 1941.

He had a nose for good theatre, and the theatre staged many great productions in his time. He is said to have been an agreeable colleague of all the separate theatre departments. He was the first boss at the National Theatre to turn a deficit into a large profit in his final season. When Norway was occupied by Germany on the 9th of April 1940, the theatre stayed open until April 1941. Three Pairs (Tre par, opening night 10.04.1941), was the final production before the Nazis took control of the theatre. This led to a strike at the theatre, the first clear sign of a resistance movement.

The theatre strike spread to Bergen and Trondheim. The strike was a slap in the face to the Germans as well as to the Norwegian Nazis, and they retaliated by arresting 15 actors. The Germans threatened those who had not been arrested with the death penalty, and after five weeks, the actors capitulated.

The Department of Culture, which was also under German control, wanted to strip the National Theatre of its authority. The theatre refused to apply for a licence to run from the Department of Culture, leading to a dramatic showdown where the Nazis marched into the theatre, arresting the shareholder-appointed board members. The National Theatre refused to give up its position as a free cultural institution.

Francis Bull remained imprisoned at Grini until the war was over.

The Artistic Director resigned and left his position on the 1st of September 1941. He resumed his position when the war ended, and remained in place as Artistic Director throughout 1946.