Holgerspexet is a student theater association at Linköping University which has staged public spex performances every fall since 1998. Between 60 and 80 students from all faculties at Linköping University are engaged in the preparations for the set of shows each year.
What Is Spex?
Spex (pronounced exactly like "specks") is a special genre of comedic musical theater performed by university students in Sweden and parts of Finland.
Spex in its modern form first appeared at Swedish universities around 1850. Although local variations make it difficult to characterize the genre of spex in detail, the following characteristics are common to most spexes:
A spex is a pure amateur production written, staged and performed primarily by students and young academics.
The storyline is generally taken from history. This history is then reinterpreted in order to provide an alternative explanation of a historical event, often with an unexpected plot twist at the end.
The dialogue is often rhymed. Puns and jokes are ubiquitous, and anachronisms and satirical references to current events are common.
Music is a core component of every spex. With few exceptions, the actors perform existing songs with new lyrics. Musical genres range from classical music to modern pop and rock.
Audience interaction is allowed and even encouraged. For instance, the audience may request brief replays of jokes, puns or even entire songs.
Female characters are often played by male actors and vice versa. This tradition is a remnant from the genre's mid-1800s origins, when female students were not allowed at universities and female roles simply had to be played by men. Due to the comedic impact of cross-dressing, the tradition remained even as women started studying at Swedish universities during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Today, both male and female characters are often cross-dressed, though non-cross-dressing characters are also common.