Travel back to Tøyen and Grønland in the 1870s, and experience a cross-disciplinary theatre production that draws on the history of two buildings, which today house the art gallery 1857 and Whitelight Theater F.
The interdisciplinary theatre production Fra smør til margarin (From Butter to Margarine) is part of the contemporary art programme Munchmuseet on the Move. The two-act play takes place at 1857 and Whitelight Theater F, located at Grønland and Tøyen on the east side of Oslo. The production is site-specific and investigates the historical context of the buildings housing 1857 and Whitelight Theater F, respectively, with focus on the late 19th century, when poverty and prostitution were rife in the rapidly growing city of Kristiania.
Act 1, unfolding at 1857, tells the story of one woman, Miss Mathea, who ran a milk shop from the wooden house at Grønland in the 1870s and 1880s. Changes in the law in Norway at the time opened up the possibility for unmarried women to enter into business. Interspersing different temporal perspectives, Act 1 presents a vision of this businesswoman’s life in relation to the nearby cattle market, drawing on the Norwegian women’s movement and the cultural symbolism of milk.
A few blocks from Miss Mathea’s milk shop, the natural dairy product of butter got a competitor in the form of its chemical surrogate: margarine. Act 2 centres on the margarine factory originally located in the building that today houses Whitelight Theater F, and its owner Auguste Pellerin, a French entrepreneur and art collector. Besides being portrayed by Matisse and Cézanne, Auguste Pellerin, the “margarine king”, explicitly incorporated fine art into his marketing strategies for the artificial product his industry was built upon. In Act 2, the history of the margarine factory and its leader haunt the theatre with parallels to contemporary developments in food processing.