Nordic Drama Train 2012 - 2013 Iceland's contribution

24. Feb 2012

Nordic Drama Train 2012 - 2013 Iceland's contribution Performing Arts Iceland (LSI Leiklistarsamband Íslands) is proud to announce Icelands ´s contribution to the Nordic Drama Train 2012 – 2013. A tree member selection committee received 18 original plays, premiered on the Icelandic stage in the period January 1st 2010 – December 31st 2011. The committee reached the decision to nominate the play The Chickens (Hænuungarnir) by Bragi Ólafsson.

Performing Arts Iceland (LSI Leiklistarsamband Íslands) is proud to announce Icelands ´s contribution to the Nordic Drama Train 2012 – 2013. A three member selection committee received 18 original plays, premiered on the Icelandic stage in the period January 1st 2010 – December 31st 2011.

The committee reached the decision to nominate the play The Chickens (Hænuungarnir) by Bragi Ólafsson.

The Chickens was premiered in the National Theatre’s Black Box on February 27th 2010. The play revolves around a house owners’ meeting in a four-apartment house in Reykjavik, where the jazz fan Sigurhans intends to expose who stole some frozen chickens from his basement a few days earlier.

Argumentation of the committee:
"In a farcical yet overly realistic style Bragi Ólafsson manages to capture compelling social issues and place them within a small house owners’ meeting in the district of Hlíðar. The play presents questions of crime and punishment, guilt and responsibility, which have to do with a lot more than a petty chicken theft. Through everyday situations and a dialogue, which seems to focus on anything else then the issues that matter, the play depicts a community where the only standard is each individual’s egocentric point of view. The play demonstrates Bragi Ólafsson’s skillfulness in writing texts for the stage. The characters are lively and in its plainness the dialogue is layered with meaning. In a critical yet playful manner the play portrays a society, which has lost sight of its founding values."

The committee’s members were: Magnus Thor Thorbergsson, chair, Thorgerdur E. Sigurdardottir and Gudjon Pedersen.

The playwright
Bragi Ólafsson has published five novels, all to critical acclaim. The second of Bragi´s novels, The Pets, has been published in the US, Germany, Denmark, and France, and will be published this year in Argentina. The Ambassador, his fourth novel, is published in U.S.A., Germany and Denmark. Bragi has written three radio plays, but The Chickens is his second play for the stage. It ran for 70 performances at The National Theatre in Iceland. Bragi´s first play for the stage, Belgian Congo, became one of the most popular plays in recent years in Iceland, and had a run of three years at the City Theatre in Reykjavik. Bragi has translated into Icelandic City of Glass by Paul Auster, and The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter (for The National Theatre in Iceland).

The Nordic Drama Train
The Nordic Drama Train is a new endeavor organized and hosted by the Nordic Theatre Union and its members, the Nordic ITI´s and information centers. The Train replaces the Nordic drama prize; formerly give to one Nordic playwright, every second year. In 2012 - 2013 five Nordic playwrights, one from each of the five Nordic countries will travel on the Nordic Drama Train with their selected work. Readings of the work will be organized, often in connection to larger festival events and thus given the playwrights a wide exposure of their work.

The Nordic Drama Train will be ignited in Reykjavik in August 2012 as part of the Nordic Performing Arts Days hosted by Performing Arts Iceland. The Days collaborate with two festivals taking place simultaneously, Lokal, international theatre festival and Reykjavík Dance Festival.

About the The Chickens by Bragi Ólafssson
According to television news there’s a wave of burglaries in Reykjavík. The stolen goods are mostly flat screen television sets and laptop computers, but from the basement storage-room of Sigurhans and Olga, who live in a small apartment block in the East part of Reykjavík, it is not any electric gadgets that have been stolen, but a few frozen chickens.

And that is why the jazz aficionado Sigurhans, with the backing of his wife Olga, has decided to summon the other inhabitants of the block to an extra house meeting. He is quite certain of who stole the chickens from their freezer.

The suspects, the father and son Carl and Anastasías, who live next door to Sigurhans and Olga, have recently bought a big flat screen television, and not only are they in the dark about why there’s an extra house meeting, but a bit upset with not being able to spend the Tuesday night at home, as Sigurhans was looking forward to seeing an educational program about underwater vegetation on their big new screen. The third person to be summoned to the meeting is Elín, an elderly lady who lives on the floor above Sigurhans and Olga, but according to her, Carl and Anastasías had been seen in the storage-room basement the same day the chickens were stolen, which was last Saturday. The owner of the flat above Carl and Anastasías, Thoroddur, died three weeks ago, but his daughter, Lillý, who drops in at her father´s place this Tuesday night to pick up something, makes an unexpected appearance at the house meeting.

What happens at the meeting is not very easy to explain in a few words. In a way it turns into a kind of a farce, and could be said to evolve into some sort of an unprepared duel between the equals in age Sigurhans and Carl. However, it becomes clear that Sigurhans´s suspicion about the father and son robbing the chickens turns out to be not very solid. Sigurhans´s and Olga´s son, Karl, had on the other hand visited his mother on the Saturday, while his father was with his friends buying some two hundred second-hand jazz records at a flea market, and according to Lillý she met him in the basement around the time the chickens were stolen from his parents. And not only did she meet him but also the boyfriend of Elín´s granddaughter. But because of Lillý´s dubious past (despite her young age she spent some months in prison a few years ago) she almost automatically becomes a suspect herself, and not only in connection with the frozen chickens but also (at least in the eyes of those who watch the play) when another burglary takes place during the second act, while the house meeting is in full swing. Two young men break into Carl´s and Anastasias´s flat and take with them the flatscreen television, a computer, a suitcase and a portrait of Carl painted by this brother. When Carl and Anastasías find out, near the end of the play, we have also found that, through a telephone call that Sigurhans receives from one of his friends, that the jazz records they bought at the flea market are stolen goods, and that the rightful owner is on his way to pick them up.

THE CHICKENS is a comedy with a tragic twist – possibly a tragic farce. Its themes are perhaps mainly egocentricity and prejudice, and in direct context with the recent Icelandic economic and political collapse: renunciation and condemnation.

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