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Spex is a kind of amateur comedy theatre act performed by university students in Sweden and parts of Finland. University cities, such as Gothenburg, Lund, Uppsala, and Linköping have long-running traditions of spex.
The word is likely derived from abbreviated student slang for spektakel (spectacle; scene; show).
Prominent features of spexes are the musical-like mix of spoken text and songs, the often rhymed dialogue, a good amount of satire and parody and the tradition of having the audience shout "Restart!" (Swedish: Omstart!/Omtag!) or "One more time!" (Swedish: En gång till!) if they consider the current scene especially hilarious. Ideally, the actor should then improvise the scene or punchline in a new way. The fact that the audience plays an active part in the performance is what distinguishes spex from other forms of theatre. There are also several other commands that the audience can give, for instance demanding that the actors should perform the scene in question backwards, in slow-motion, in another language, until the actors know their lines, or perhaps in a more violent fashion.
While spexes are typically in Swedish or Finnish, at least all Physicist Spex (Fyysikkospeksi, Aalto University, Finland) productions to date have been translated into English for a visiting performance in Stockholm, Sweden. The English translation is now also performed in Finland to provide the rare event of a spex aimed specifically for an audience of international students.
The first spexes were made as early as in the 16th century in Uppsala, Sweden. Local students were practising Latin by making Latin plays which were called spexes. Since all the students at that time were men, all the actors were men as well. During the next 300 years the spexes developed into their modern form.
The first spexes in Finland were produced in Helsinki University of Technology in the beginning of the 20th Century.
- Svenska Akademins Ordbok entry: Spex Archived May 25, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- "The History page of Teekkarispeksi" entry: Spex
- Lundaspexarna (in Swedish)
- Ett teknat spex på Uppsala Universitet (mostly in Swedish)
- Linköpings studentspex (mostly in Swedish)
- Holgerspexet in Linköping (mostly in Swedish)
- Dalaspexet (contains section in English)[dead link]
- iSpexet på KTH (mostly in Swedish)
- Teekkarispeksi (Aalto University) (mostly in Finnish)
- NääsPeksi (Tampere University of Technology) (in Finnish)
- Umeå Medicinarspex (in Swedish)
- Medicinarspexet i Helsingfors (Thorax)
- Fysikalen (in Swedish)
- Filosofspexet, Göteborg (in Swedish)[dead link]
- Helsingkronaspexet, Lund (in English)[dead link]
- Fyysikkospeksi, Fyysikkokilta at Aalto University (in English)[dead link]
- F-Spexet at Chalmers, Gothenburg (in Swedish)
- Wermlandsspexet, Lund (contains section in English)
- PahkiSpeksi in University of Oulu (in Finnish)