Ever since I first came over his story around 1990 I have been gripped by the events in the life of painter Bendik Riis. The last half of his 70-odd years was a struggle against mental illness. The long process involved in making a theatre work of this fascinating material came to a climax in the autumn of 2010 with the production by Østfold Theatre of Castracsjon, which went on tour around the county's theatres. A large plus for the work was the involvement of famous jazz composer Bugge Wesseltoft. The actors were Bjørn Ole Ødegård, Lars Sørbø and Hedda Sandvig. But the enduring learning process this material has committed me to, never stops. Since the Østfold premiere I have continued to develop the script and now, with the new title BENDIK AND ÅROLILJA, I am sending the work out to scout for new friends in the theatre world. These are gripping themes - primarily about how we hold our identity together when everything around us is intent on fragmenting it. 

If you would be interested in knowing more about 
BENDIK AND ÅROLILJA (perhaps a scene or two in English?), please get in touch. 

Here are my words about the piece that were included in the programme for Østfold Theatre's production: 

"I moved to Fredrikstad in 1989, one year after Bendik Riis was buried in the town's western cemetery. Although I never met him I would frequently be told anecdotes about this eccentric local celebrity. Some related tales of his later years when he had permission once a week to leave the institution in Halden where he was confined, and travel on nostalgic trips to Fredrikstad to revisit the cafés and parks he loved; more of the anecdotes were of his time as a young man before the war when the budding artist gained for himself a reputation in the local community for being an eccentric and wayward figure.

I noticed a peculiarity in the way these stories were retold. The owner of a well-worked Riis anecdote would always light up with the glow of a good storyteller, as if the story encompassed a greater value than the mere entertainment it offered - as if it was associated with some pleasure or innocence one would gladly have again. 

I eventually began to be familiar with the Myth of Bendik. It became obvious that around the story of the eccentric misfit who became an artist an amount of mythical weight had accumulated; as a metaphor the story of his life had built up significances that few, if any, of Bendik's contemporaries would have understood anything of.

A modern myth - about what? Several things, in my opinion. About guilt and innocence, no doubt. About the fragmented, modern lives we are compelled to try and make sense of. But also about separation and longing, yes about the conditions under which love thrives. And finally, of course, about the compulsion of the victim to resist injustice, to rescue himself - in Bendik Riis' instance through art.  

Fascinated by everything the Bendik Riis myth entails I wrote this evening's piece. As you will have gathered, it is not intended to give documentary account of the artist or man, but rather to make theatrically visible a power in this story which many people have felt relevant to their lives when they have fumbled in the dark."