Last Saturday, March 24, The Reykjavík City Theatre premiered a new Icelandic play written by the mayor of Reykjavík city, Jón Gnarr. Morgunblaðið interviewed the director, Benedikt Erlingsson.
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Mayor Jón Gnarr in a Catwalk-Show in Downtown Reykjavík.
Photo by SP.
“I find it difficult to define or put a label on this piece of work. In actuality it calls for a new form of theatre. There is something about the tone of the work and the way the characters speak to each other that I have never seen in Icelandic theatre before and actually never at all in any theatre. And that is very exciting. At the same time, I find myself at the borderline since I have never done a show like this before. This type of theatre wants to mess with the audience’s head and yank the feet from under us,” says Benedikt.
The play depicts guests at Hotel Volkswagen. The hotel hosts father and son Pálmi and Siggi. They are waiting for Svenni, hotel receptionist and mechanic, to fix their car which broke down close to the hotel. Also staying at the hotel are married couple Paul Jenkins and Adrian Higgins who are unable to have children but they keep trying. Ludwig Rosenkranz is also a guest at the hotel. He is a chummy and nostalgic Nazi, but he, as well as most of the hotel’s guests, discovers that it is easier said than done to leave Hótel Volkswagen.
The playwright is known for his black humour and the director was therefore asked whether that kind of humour is prominent in the show. “I think the show is borderline offensive. However, I believe that the Icelandic audience will understand the humour that is portrayed in the show,” says Benedikt.
Asked if he is up for predicting how the play will be received, Benedikt says that he is convinced that the audience will file into two separated groups. “I firmly expect us to be eaten alive by some wolves but other will howl praises and glory at us. I do however hope that people will be able to accept the play on their own terms and view the work without having the author and his character get in the way. This is of course the optimal time for the mayor’s political opposition to attack him, now that he is premiering such a dangerous play,” says Benedikt, adding that “It would actually be the best result if the riot police would have to protect us here in the theatre. The purpose of the play would be met if we had a riot on our hands and the audience would need police protection in order to enter the theatre. Then I would feel like we had become real theatre people in the big context.”