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How Iceland’s artists make drama out of crises

June 10, 2010


Its not only Irish eyes that have been on Iceland during the last two years.  At first, the two nations were singled out as those who had most overextended in the boom years, before it became clear that they were not alone.  When Theatre Forum member Jim Culleton took Fishamble to Reykavik last year, he reported back in the Irish Times on the optimism in the theatre sector quoting playwright Bjarni Jónsson

 The day the Icelandic economy came crashing down, one realised that – apart from the fact that nobody died and we had food and water – we had all this culture left. Yes, suddenly culture didn’t seem a luxurious thing, but rather a base or a firm ground; a kind of a safety net. That, I believe, is a valuable lesson we learned last autumn and the authorities seem positive towards the arts

But that was before the next drama with the volcanic ash from Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption,  before the change of government to the left, and  the publication of the Report of the Special Investigation Commission into the collapse of  the three main banks.

With such natural and man made dramas all around, how has the Icelandic theatre community responded?   Stefán Jónsson, speaking at the conference’s opening session, will share some of the ways in which theatre’s role has shifted in the context of Iceland’s crises.

In April, when the Report of the Special Investigation Commission was published, 45 actors at the Reykjavík City Theatre read the 2000 page report in  a performance which took 5 days

This report from the Iceland Review

The employees of the Reykjavík City Theater have decided to read the report in its entirety—all 2,000 pages of it—on stage. Admission is free.

According to a statement on the theater’s website, actors will not attempt to interpret the content of the report. The reading will begin as soon as the report is made public and will continue, day and night, until the report is finished.

Around 45 actors  will participate in the reading, which is estimated to take three to five days. People are welcome to attend the reading in part or in whole. The theater will be open 24-hours a day and the reading will be broadcast live on the theater’s website.

The theater is hoping to become a sanctuary from the media circus, where the report is likely to be interpreted in a number of different ways, where people can come, listen and contemplate on the report’s content without harassment from the outside world.

The theater is keen on being an active participant in discussions in society and cover topics important to the community. Since the banking collapse the theater has incorporated current affairs into its program in various ways

Has theatre’s political role in Iceland been heightened at these times of crises? And what are the resonances for Ireland?  

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