Slouching Towards Spectacular


Slouching Towards Spectacular

Costumes for Stripp.
Costumes for Stripp. Photo: Team Spectacular

Thanks to the LÓKAL theater festival, founded in 2008, and the Reykjavík Dance Festival (RDF), which began including a substantial foreign-made component around 2013, abundant international performance work has become available in Reykjavík at last. Grateful as we may be, the youthfulness of these organizations shows: five works I saw at this year's joint LÓKAL/RDF festival, Everybody’s Spectacular, were all over the place, both in fundamental impetus and in quality.

In their word to spectators, the organizers attempted to tie the works together, suggesting that the examination of the vulnerability of our life today in a simultaneously serious and playful manner might link the works on view. Sticking with the playfulness theme, I’d posit that Snickers, which came up twice, was as good of a binding factor.

One work that used the candy bar was Stripp, a theater piece by Dance For Me and Olga Sonja Thorarensen. Contemplating life as a parent, Olga worried that she might begin to watch boring TV and “Maybe I'll eat a Snickers, which I don't even like.” This detail exemplified the strength of the work: fidelity to specific experience. The matter-of-fact piece—no gratuitous titillation here—gave us an excellent idea of how stripping felt for Olga. But anything beyond that, such as what stripping was like for Olga’s clients, coworkers or boyfriend, was barely explored, a laser focus that kept the work small (if shiny).

Gosie Vervloessem is ready for her show, Recipes for Disaster.

Gosie Vervloessem is ready for her show, Recipes for Disaster. Photo: Team Spectacular.

Snickers made a second appearance in Gosie Vervloessem’s glorious mash-up of cooking show, science demonstration and story-telling session, Recipes for Disaster. The theme was cosmopolitanism and its discontents. The joy, once again, was in the details. We learned how to use a pickle as an alternative light source, saw two sections of our favorite candy bar rammed together to illustrate the formation of Iceland and tasted heavy sourdough bread, descended from Belgian, Swiss and Icelandic microbes. All while learning about the inadequacy of Brussels airport screening, Gosie’s hometown saint, prison life in Belgium and how Japanese knotwood invaded Great Britain.

Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir’s Spotted veered away from the everyday, but kept an eye on the details. Two performers, one clothed and one naked, portrayed aspects of exhaustion. For Laura Siegmund, taking a sip of water became an arduous task; for Louise Dahl, crawling morphed into an art. The pace was glacial, the destination nowhere, the only payoff moments such as the lovely, lonely knee dance Laura performed in a puddle.

Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido in Still Standing You.

Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido in Still Standing You. Photo: Phile Deprez.

Theoretically about friendship, Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido’s Still Standing You, looked more like a dare: what can two men do with their bodies? It turned out to be quite a lot (they got naked, not for show, but to make full use of the penis). The inventiveness, lack of physical fear (Pieter drops Guilherme, hard, then walks on him) and sudden changes of tone (lover to robot?) kept the work absorbing—but it still felt like a stunt.

Verk Produksjoner’s Beat the Drum: Walk took place deep in theater-concept world. We were led on a silent walk around the neighborhood (yes, we were reminded of Aristotle and the peripatetics) and then, in a room with papered-over windows, listened to the actor’s voice platitudes about the future. “We’re in a bubble,” one said, “this isn’t the real world.” Oh, how I longed for a Snickers!

Stripp continues through September 16 at Tjarnarbíó, with performances in Icelandic and English, (rather than in English only, as at the Festival).