Northern Exposure

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With Roseacre, a new play inspired by Scandinavian crime thrillers coming to The Marlowe Studio in July, we take a look at how the UK became addicted to Nordic noir.

A few years if you’d asked the average British person to name a famous Scandinavian export, they’d probably have said ABBA, or A-ha if they grew up in the eighties. Now, they’d probably give you the name of a crime series.

Our obsession with Scandi-noir began in Janaury 2011, when BBC Four began showing a four year-old Danish detective story called The Killing. Although it started with very little fanfare, word of mouth – and a collective fixation with the lead character’s jumper – made the show a hit. BBC Four realised they’d found a gold mine, and other Nordic dramas like Borgen and The Bridge followed (along with an American re-make of The Killing, but let’s not talk about that). The phenomenon wasn’t confined to television, but also embraced literature, with novels like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and its sequels regularly featuring on best seller lists.

But what is it about Nordic noir which appeals to us so much? Well, whole books have been written on this subject (yes, really) but actor Søren Malling, who starred in both The Killing and Borgen has a theory: “We’re not afraid of showing the dark side of the moon,” he says. “We paint portraits of characters who are both good and bad. It’s more polite and polished in the US and UK. You don’t want to go into the fact that people can choose career over family. We’re honest and people identify with it. That’s part of our secret.”

For Sophie Gråbøl, the star of The Killing (and wearer of that jumper), it’s the strength of the characterisations which mark Nordic drama out: “It is about avoiding speaking down to the audience by feeding them a cliché, which goes for male and female characters.”

This character driven approach is something that Square Peg, the company behind Roseacre, aim to replicate. Using the company’s distinctive style of cinematic-like physical theatre it tells the story of an undercover police officer, who becomes tangled in a web of lies and betrayal, following a murder at an environmental protest. Is anyone who they say they are? And how far will they go to keep their secrets?

Very Nordic noir…

Roseacre: The Marlowe Studio, Saturday 23 July. Book here.


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