Despite being written in 1912, the source novel feels remarkably modern and deals with themes that transcends the passage of time - first and foremost, love. Hence it is appropriate to set my story in contemporary Stockholm: the novel depicts the early 1900s Stockholm bourgeoisie in ways that bear striking similarities to the Stockholm of today - Arvid’s life working as a journalist at one of the nation’s major newspapers, socializing with the intellectual elite, can easily be translated into the life of any middle class hipster working with media in the Swedish capital today. Even many of the social and moral restrictions that Arvid, but most apparently Lydia, must submit to, are present in our modern, western society. Although less apparent, women still have to battle against gendered norms that give them less freedom in their married and unmarried lives as many old-fashioned perceptions of gender live on in the back of peoples’ minds. Moreover, in 1973, a paraphrase of The Serious Game was written by acclaimed author Gun-Britt Sundström, in which the same story is told from Lydia’s perspective, but set in the 1960s. Therefor, it feels like a natural continuation to set it in the present in order to highlight the futility of Lydia’s fate as a woman in a society that believes it has moved beyond gender oppression while still relying on patriarchal values and systems of belief.
I’ve chosen to design this project as a theatre piece, because it would give me more freedom than designing for screen would - the story would take place in a more abstract world that don’t make any claims on representing real life as it is, which would make the timelessness of the main themes easier to communicate, without having to stay ”historically correct”.
However, in order to acknowledge the original time period, I have drawn inspiration from the turn of the 19th/20th century in the silhouettes and cuts of the garments, linking what was fashionable a hundred years ago to fashion of today - the athletic ideal, high necks, and billowing sleeves just to mention a few. I have also taken inspiration from other prominent themes in the novel, mainly the notion of the buzzing city – Stockholm -, along the idea of nature and the turning of the seasons as a metaphor of mortality.
- Stockholm. The author of the novel, Hjalmar Söderbeg, is acclaimed for his contemporary and authentic portraits of Stockholm as a city, which besides the love store is at the core of this novel. I wanted to explore the Stockholm of today – what is the essence of the city, what does it symbolize, and how can that be carried through to the costumes?
80-90% of all the households in the area of Södermalm are single households, and
Sweden is often described as one of the most individualistic - and loneliest - countries.
Reflecting the current western/northern ideal of putting yourself in the first room,
managing things on your own and being highly independent, this is also a recurring
theme in the novel. Aloneness and solitude equates freedom, ”I want to go away, oh so
far, far away” - away from the people and obligations associated with city life.
The anonymity of contemporary Stockholm is another striking factor - non-locals are
easily spotted just by looking for anything that stands out from the mass of people clad
in black, avoiding each others’ gazes. Anonymity became an important part of my
research - being non-identifiable, unreachable. Blurry silhouettes and fuzzy outlines, a
grey undefinable mass.
- Nature and the turning of the seasons. The theme of nature is most visibly expressed by how each paragraph begins with a description of the weather or the way the seasons turn, as to set the scene, and almost as a form of foreshadowing - if the rain is pouring down, most certainly the characters’ inner lives will be gloomy and gray as well. Using the turning of the seasons as a metaphor for our own mortality, I’ve assigned the characters a season each depending on where in their life the they are, mentally - as Lydia says to Arvid at one point, ”we reached the autumn of our lives while still so young”. Expressing this through costume I’ve mainly been using the way we dress through different seasons, and how that correlates to the turning seasons as a symbol of mortality - how we tend to cover up as we grow older, and how the youth exposes their fresh skin, flaunting it like summer people.
These two opposing themes – that of the city and that of nature – are carried through to the way love and different kinds of relationships are being described in the book. “True” love is described as natural, whereas “married love” is described as unnatural, as a product of society. This idea of some characters being associated with nature and some with the city has lightly influenced some of my design choices as well.