Common to virtually all Kjeld Abell’s plays are the qualities of innovation, fantasy, and delight in the possibilities of the theater. Because of his background as a stage and graphic artist, his was a visually oriented drama, drawing on clever sets, stage tricks, and symbols to create the atmosphere he believed necessary to activate the audience. From sight gags in his early works through flashbacks, dream sequences, and the blending of past, present, and future time in his later ones, Abell consistently explored the rich possibilities of the stage. All too frequently, however, the formal structure of the play was subordinated to the author’s pleasure in creating a theater experience. Throughout his career, Abell was praised for his devotion to the magic of theater while being faulted for unclear or unresolved plots.
Also common to most of his plays is the theme of rebellion against the prevailing social structure and the praise of human freedom and fellowship. Abell’s variations on this theme roughly correspond to the concerns of Danish and European society in the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s, and for each decade there is a single drama that best represents Abell’s work of that era. The Melody That Got Lost reflects the concern of the 1930’s with the tyranny of bourgeois life and the appeal of leftist politics as a possible alternative. Anna Sophie Hedvig, written only months before the outbreak of World War II,...
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