Iceland’s Most Popular Musical Ends its Run

Musical Níu líf at Borgarleikhúsið

The 250th show of Níu líf, a musical based on the life of singer Bubbi Morthens, will be its last. The musical has been running at Reykjavík City Theatre since early 2020 when its run was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic after only three shows.

The show follows the many public personas of Bubbi during his colourful musical career, hence the title which in English translates to Nine Lives. Director and playwright Ólafur Egill Egilsson and actor Esther Talía Casey, a married couple and collaborators in the show, were interviewed by Vísir on the occasion of the show ending.

Unexpected success

“It will be an emotional moment, that’s for sure,” Esther said. “We’ll likely cry our eyes out and shake. We’re a closely knit theatre family and we’ve faced many challenges during this time, so it will have been a rollercoaster ride.”

They say they never expected the show to be as successful as it’s been and for it to break attendance records and still be running four years after its premiere – albeit with a pandemic delaying part of its run. “We always knew that Bubbi had a special place in the nation’s heart, so we knew that his fans would show up,” Ólafur said. But we couldn’t foresee the show getting such a warm reception.”

Perfect attendance

Esther said that she’s the only cast member, including the live band, who has been at every show. She plays a number of roles, including Bubbi’s mother and Hrafnhildur, his wife. “I was lucky that every time I was sick, it was in between shows,” she said. “This show will alway have a special place in my heart.”

“It’s a story of time periods and social upheaval, of a person’s freedom to be whoever they want, finding the courage to face their destiny and stand tall in the face of challenging life experiences,” Ólafur said. “We’re very happy to have been able to cover Bubbi’s career, life, and values, while telling a story that most people can identify with.”

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Staging stories

At the time of our interview, Brynhildur Guðjónsdóttir has been the director of the Reykjavík City Theatre for exactly five days. She’s known that the job was hers for only ten days: the former director left before her four-year term was over and asked to be released immediately. As I congratulate her and ask how it’s going, her first reaction is the following: “Well, my calendar is full, that’s for sure.” Despite the busy times ahead, the development is a positive one. “There’s a lot of action and movement in Iceland’s theatre life. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few years.”

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District Court Orders Reykjavík City Theatre to Pay Former Employee ISK 5.5 Million

Judge's gavel

This week, the district court ordered Leikfélag Reykjavíkur (the Reykjavik City Troupe), which operates the Reykjavík City Theatre (Borgarleikhúsið); and Kristín Eysteinsdóttir, Director of the Reykjavík City Theatre, to pay actor Atli Rafn Sigurðsson ISK 5.5 million on the grounds of wrongful termination and defamation. Sigurðsson was fired in December 2017 – two weeks before the premiere of the play Medea, in which Sigurðsson was to play a leading role – following accusations of sexual harassment. Eysteinsdóttir declined to comment on the decision, referring the matter to her and the theatre’s lawyer, Sigurður Örn Hilmarsson.

Hilmarsson will be appealing the ruling on behalf of his clients, believing that the decision will engender “uncertainty” among employers, RÚV reports: “Our decision to appeal is two-fold. On the one hand, my clients disagree with the court’s decision. On the other hand, my clients feel that the ruling creates uncertainty regarding the duties of employers and managers in cases where the safety and well-being of their employees are compromised,” Hilmarsson stated, who is surprised by the court’s decision.

“Yes, we’re surprised. First and foremost because the court’s ruling does not, in my clients’ opinion, consider the interests of other employees, i.e. to those individuals who complained about sexual harassment and who experienced discomfort in the workplace. They confided in their employers and their interests were not considered in the ruling. Instead, the interests of a single employee took precedence.” Hilmarsson believes that the case is a test case for accusations of this kind.

Yesterday, Vísir reported that the Reykjavík City Theatre will continue to honour the confidentiality of Sigurðsson’s accusers when the case is heard before the Land’s Court (Landsréttur). The Land’s Court is a mid-tier court handling cases in between the District Courts and the Supreme Court of Iceland.

Excerpt of “Klaustur Tapes” to be Performed by Theatre Group

Gunnar Bragi and Sigmundur Davíð

A portion of the conversation that was recorded between Centre and People’s Party MPs will be performed as a dramatic reading by actors at the Reykjavík City Theatre, RÚV reports. The reading will take place on Monday, December 3 and will be free and open to the public.

Doors will open at 8.00pm and seating will be first come, first serve. However, if the theatre fills, the performance will be streamed live for overflow guests in the lobby. The performance will also be streamed live on the City Theatre website.

Bergur Þór Ingólfsson will direct the reading, which – perhaps pointedly, given the misogynist content of the recordings – will flip the genders of the original speakers and be performed by five women and one man.

In its announcement about the performance, the institution notes that one of the primary functions of theatre is to bring attention to current events and timely issues. With this reading, the theatre aims to examine the responsibility of elected officials in a democratic context.