Few are allowed the experience of having a monument erected in their honour while still alive, but such was the public standing and the popularity of the great actress and humanitarian Wenche Foss that it was only natural that a statue of her was erected outside the National Theatre on the occasion of her ninetieth birthday in 2007.
The statue is done by the sculptor Per Ung and stands in Johanne Dybwad Square behind the National Theatre, where Wenche Foss was the first lady of Norwegian theatre for decades. It forms part of a set of monuments surrounding the National Theatre honouring some of the great names in Norwegian theatre history.
Outside the main entrance are imposing statues of Henrik Ibsen and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, the leading playwrights of the age when the theatre building was inaugurated (1899). The third playwright to have his name carved into the theatre’s façade, Ludvig Holberg, faces the University, while the composer Johan Halvorsen has found his place in front of the Music Pavilion.
The square behind the theatre is named for the actress Johanne Dybwad, who statue there is also by Per Ung but precedes the one of Wenche Foss by five decades. The third statue in that square is of the actor Per Aabel.
The statue of Wenche Foss was unveiled in the presence of the Queen and the actress herself in September 2007, shortly before the actress turned ninety. Per Ung has portrayed her standing on the lowest possible plinth (Wenche Foss herself wanted no plinth at all), beaming and with her arms raised in a gesture like she is acknowledging the ovations of her audience.
Wenche Foss used to say that she wanted to die on stage, but only after the applause as she did not want to cause the audience to miss out on something. She was not granted her wish, but now that the curtain has fallen for the great performance that was her life, her statue has been showered by flowers from her many admirers.
Hardly had her death been announced on Monday this week before the first flowers were placed by the foot of the statue (as the third photo shows) and in the following days the pile of floral tributes has only kept growing and will surely continue to do so at least until the state funeral on the coming Monday.