Published December 3, 2015
The British Occupation that started in 1940 has certainly been dealt with a lot in Icelandic culture, as we at the Grapevine have previously discussed.
Just this year, one of Iceland’s most popular crime fiction writers, Arnaldur Indriðason, set his latest novel Þýska húsið (“The German House”) during Churchill’s visit in 1941. And the massive 1100-page non-fiction volume Stríðsárin 1938-1945 (“The War Years”, and yes, that’s 1938 to 1945) by Páll Baldvin Baldvinsson finally saw the light of day. The British Invasion changed everything in Iceland, drawing the country into the wild maelstrom of modernity and international politics.
It has, however, not made much of a mark on British history. Most people in the UK manage to finish primary school (and some even go on to get degrees in history) without so much as a mention of that time Britain invaded, albeit non-violently, a small sub-arctic island. Britian even swung by to conquer the Faroe Islands on the way, another event that has been spectacularly ignored by British fiction.
Until now, that is. Well, sort of. While playwright Agnes Þorkelsdóttir Wild hails from Iceland, her tragicomedy ‘KATE’ is a British production starring British actors, which has been touring Britain after being shown at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. ‘KATE’ deals with the social issues resulting from the occupation, colloquially known as “Ástandið” (“The Situation”). When, during Ástandið, there are suddenly as many British men in town as Icelandic ones, some locals tried to make a profit by opening fish and chips shops, while others turned to prostitution. However, Kate, the hero of the play, does neither and falls in love with one of those mysterious, hunky-looking foreign men.
Apparently, the play is quite spectacular to see, as it incorporates both Icelandic folk songs and lots of fake snow (in case you need some more snow for your snowpocalypse). And best of all for you non-Icelandic-speaking regular Grapevine readers, it will be performed entirely in English.
Apart from the folk songs, of course. You can’t take those away from us.