Photographer: NT

About The Ibsen Festival

Through exciting performances, discussions, artist encounters, children’s events, and much more, The Ibsen Festival lets us look at Ibsen, humanity, and society in new and different ways.

Never before has Henrik Ibsen been performed so often in so many different places around the world. Just as Norway’s great playwright broke new ground for what a play could be, his work and ideas break through the barriers between countries and languages.

During The Ibsen Festival, Ibsen is coming home again – to the National Theatre and Oslo, where his plays are being staged by leading international theatre companies. The program consists of new productions of high artistic quality, performed in a variety of languages. And the world’s most prestigious theatre award, The International Ibsen Award, will be handed out. 

An international celebration

The Ibsen Festival is not least the venue where our own artists show the world what the Norwegian theatre community has to offer. In that way The Ibsen Festival is an international celebration of Norway’s greatest playwright and his trailblazing work for the theatre and society.

Throughout twenty-eight years, fifteen festivals, and about 300 events and productions by companies from Norway and abroad, The Ibsen Festival has shown us how eternally relevant Ibsen remains. Moreover, the festival has revolutionized the way Ibsen’s plays are staged in his homeland.

“The Ibsen Festival led to the world becoming part of the Norwegian theatre in a new and far stronger way,” noted the Ibsen scholars Frode Helland and Julie Holledge during the 2014 festival. “After the festival’s founding, Ibsen could no longer be performed in the same way anymore.”

Keld Hyldig, an associate professor in theatre studies, made a similar observation during the festival’s twentieth anniversary in 2010. “The Ibsen Festival sparked off a wave of renewal in how to perform Ibsen. The festival has brought to light Ibsen’s international standing. … At the same time, The National Theatre and other institutional Norwegian theatres have become more internationally oriented because of the festival.”

Paving the way

Hyldig also demonstrated how the festival more or less introduced a new type of theatre – the postmodern director’s theatre – to Norway, whereas Ibsen performances in Norway had previously been more actor-oriented. According to Hyldig, the new director-oriented theatre “achieved something of a breakthrough” during the festival in 2004, a trend that was confirmed during the 2006 edition.

And the public is up for it. The festival in 2018 set a new attendance record and confirmed The Ibsen Festival as Norway’s largest and most important theatre festival.

The Ibsen Festival brought the world back into Norwegian theatre in a new and powerful way.

Frode Helland and Julie Holledge, researchers at The Center for Ibsen Studies.