Maria Johansdotter – Magnus Johansson
Last Wednesday I ventured out of Rönnen and cycled down to a shabby, quaint and cute little park known as Folkets Park. It’s quite a weird and queer place, so I think it’s super fitting that RFSL’s pride events were mainly hosted there.
Wednesday was their opening pride day, and a musical was being hosted at Barnens Scen (Children’s stage). Of course it was in Swedish, and only an hour long, so I decided to dive right into the experience of a Swedish musical and see how much I could understand. Of course, music, lighting and body language all helped me understand more than just the Swedish script.
Before watching the show all I knew was that it was the story of a 18th Century cross dresser in Stockholm. I was also aware that it was a true story. That is about it.
I was so disappointed that there were only 11 people watching the show, but I guess these things (low turnout for cool lgbt events) happen everywhere.
During the show I actually understood and picked out words, which is great because it was a two-man, super modern set show. One man, the narrator, also played different parts; the lover, the priest, the lover’s mum. The other guy was not just Maria/Magnus but also the musician, playing live music on his nyckelharpspelaren, a swedish violin which Maria Johansdotter also played back in the 1700s!
The story unfolds and we learn about Maria-Magnus, at first things are going fine, or so the music and lights told me, he is happy and finds a job. People appreciate his music and all is well. Suddenly things start turning gloomier, the scene is set for what is a harrowing experience for the viewer, even with little understanding of Swedish. I could feel the tension rise as the narrator’s characters swapped suddenly from an angry priest to Magnus’ lover Anna to Anna’s mother. From anger the feelings turn to sadness and I realise that Magnus is now trapped in a cell, he is imprisoned, probably I assume for impersonating a man, and wanting to marry a woman. I pick out what for me were the most powerful phrases in the whole show. Anna’s outburst as she declares her love for Magnus; “Jag älskar Magnus Johansson” and the final lines of the show which left me with goosebumps as the main character speaks one last time to say “Jag heter inte Maria Johansdotter, jag heter Magnus Johansson”. (My name is not Maria Johansdotter, but I am Magnus Johansson)
To make sure I understood the gist of the story I facebook-messaged the narrator, Johan Theodorsson, who sent me this brief summary of the show;
Its a true story about Maria/ Magnus. The story is about a 19 year old girl who play key fiddler dressed as a man in the beginning of the 18th century. She decides to live as a man, as Magnus, and live in about half a year as a man. He is playing at fiestas and get a job as a musician in the church, the first biological women to get this job in Sweden. Magnus has three love affairs with women. Two of them leave her when they find out that Magnus is a woman but the third, Anna, loves Magnus. But the society starts to wonder if Magnus is a man…or a woman. Finally there are so much evidence that the priest in the village know that Magnus is a woman. The priest says it to Annas mother who beat up Anna really hard because she wants her to leave Magnus. Anna runs to Magnus who denies her and Anna try to commit suicide. The day after there is a meeting at the priest. He wants in a diabolic way Magnus to ask Anna to marry him. Thats a crime, they are two women. Magnus refuses and is beaten up buy the guys in the village. After the trial and the punishment Magnus is about to confess in the church when Anna shows up with the key fiddler. The priest press Magnus/ Maria to stay as a women. He answers: My name is not Maria, it is Magnus.
You can also check out their mini-film on it if you’re interested!