Margrét Erla Maack is a dancer, entertainer, and one of the faces of the increasingly popular Reykjavík Kabarett. Here, she talks us through some the the formative influences that made her the artist she is today.
The art of karaoke
Everyone has access to the stage at karaoke to charm the crowd with raw talent, crowd-pleasing or stage presence. Then, after a few minutes, it’s someone else’s turn. Through karaoke I’ve met guardian angels and—most importantly—gained stage courage.
This cabaret phenomenon, comedian and force of nature is one of my role models, not only because she thanks karaoke for starting her career, but because she has it fucking all: voice, attitude, talent and drive. Her power of crowd control is out of this world. Her mantra comes from LL Cool J, and it’s my new one: DDHD, Dreams Don’t Have Deadlines.
Not only the most talented person I’ve ever met, but it’s thanks to him that I do what I do. We met through friends I met at karaoke—of course—and he was my key to the variety scene in New York. He demanded that I quit school and pursue stage life, and I will be forever grateful. He still pushes me towards new goals.
My old roommate was obsessed with this documentary about the Cockettes, a queer variety drag commune in San Francisco in the late 60s. This was on our TV the whole time we lived together. John Waters is in it, and I love this quote of his: “It was a complete sexual anarchy.” I don’t want to say too much—just watch it.
The Slipper Room
Dipping my toe into New York’s variety scene has lead me to this mecca of neo-burlesque, comedy and cabaret. The people I’ve met through performing there are an inspiration that I truly look up to. My dream is to open a similar place in Reykjavík that caters to the growing comedy and variety scene. I just haven’t found a location with proper ceiling height. So if anyone wants to collaborate, call me. We’ve had some of them over to perform, and there’s more on the way this winter.
The bravest of them all. Sure, I was a founding member, but the bravery of the owners—Lee Nelson and Alda Brynja Birgisdóttir—is special. You wouldn’t believe how many times they’d heard that circus would never make sense in Iceland. I always feel insulted when people compare something negatively to a circus, because everything is done for real in a circus. It’s the most honest job you can find.
Another crazy idea that no one thought would work is Kramhúsið Dance Studio. In the 80s the Valkyrie Hafdís Árnadóttir founded this dance studio—the first one of its kind—focusing on adults that wanted to have fun exercise through body positivity. She’s still teaching classes in her mid-seventies. Kramhúsið has been labelled the g-spot of 101 Reykjavík, and once you’ve taken a class there you’ll understand why.
The blood family on my mother’s side is mostly made up by stage artists, both dance and theatre. Growing up in such an environment is helpful. My parents were supportive when I gave up TV anchoring for sticky stages. They taught be to take the occasional bread and butter gig to do the fun ones. I also have a showbiz family—I want to namedrop every single one of them, but I’m out of space. You know who you are.