Chapter 23 of Search For a Dancer, a memoir of a week spent in Iceland in November 2022
One of the goals of my trip was to catch some Icelandic Theatre.
With a thin Airwaves line-up this night, I was glad that there was a stage production that I could attend. I have had numerous transcendent moments attending plays in Reykjavík and tonight’s offering at Þjóðleikhúsið was solidly in the tradition of surreal Icelandic theatre.
Sjö ævintýri um skömm
(Seven Fairy Tales of Shame
) a play by Tyrfing Tyrfingsson had been expanded from an earlier one-act which had been a hit in a festival setting. Several of Iceland’s most celebrated stage and screen actors were in it, including the lead Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir (from the TV series Trapped!
) as Ölga, Ólafía Hrönn Jónsdóttir (White Night Wedding
) as Ölga’s mother Amma, the venerable Kristbjörg Kjeld (who starred in the 1962 film The Girl Gogo)
as her grandmother Fanney, and Hilmir Snær (101 Reykjavík
) playing against his usual leading man type, as an alcoholic psychiatrist who takes on a troubled client: Öğla.
The psychiatrist abhors cognitive behavioral therapy, and believes that the cure for Ögla's distress lies in finding its roots—which is shame
. We follow the two of them throughout the play as she tells the doctor about seven adventures that are crucial to her dilemma, and were caused by the people who were closest to her.
The key dynamic of the work is the uneasy relationships between Ölga and her grandmother and
her mother as it shows us how ‘wounds’ are inherited between generations. Playwright Tyrfing used a lot of his childhood memories for the set pieces with the grandmother.
In Ilmar’s performance as Ögla she draws the audience in, and then she falls apart like an onion as the play progresses. She is not easy to love, she is on edge and confrontational throughout the play. Olga is married to Hanna (Kristín Þora Haroldsdóttir), and the two women have the most outrageous artificial
insemination scene-gone-wrong I had ever seen:
A crucial scene of the play revolves around the relationship between Ögla and Hanna, about the paradox of the fantasy of love with love in everyday life.
Seven Fairy Tales of Shame
celebrates the magic of the theater, queerness and everything that is strange, oblique and excessive in life. This was not
your standard dinner theatre fare, and yes, there were dancers:
Immediately after the play, there was an old-school cabaret in Kjallarinn, the basement stage of the theatre, a room I’ve loved
ever since seeing several good sets there in Airwaves 2006. This night it featured classic burlesque routines, including a raunchy cowboy, an upside-down strip tease by a man balancing on a hoverboard and, of course, counter-whirling tassels. A little bit naughty (although really quite quaint compared to the play I had just seen) and even had a sword-swallowing clown! It was all in Icelandic, the MC said that if you didn’t understand it, just ask your neighbor—who will become your new bestie!
All images taken from Þjóðleikhúsið promotional materials
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