“COMEDY! THEATRE! MUSIC! DRAG! CIRCUS! POETRY! CABARET! PHOTOGRAPHY! FILMS!”—reads the website for the Reykjavík Fringe Festival in all caps, but not in an aggressive way. The event, celebrating art in all forms, kicks off in the Icelandic capital on June 24th and invites everyone to join. With over 90 satellite events, Fringe might be a headache to organise, but Festival Director Nanna Gunnars and Production Manager Jessica LoMonaco went out of their way to make it easy to navigate and assured us this one is not to be missed.
“In Icelandic terms, I like to say that it’s like Culture Night and Off-Venue Airwaves had a baby,” says Nanna, who has been behind the festival’s organising team since its conception in 2017. “We make art that Reykjavík didn’t know it needed,” Jessica rushes to add.
Reykjavík Fringe Festival has its roots in the Edinburgh festival, now the largest arts festival in the world. The festival is run by a core team of four and attracts 50-60 volunteers every year. Nanna and Jessica are there to help make the theatre and arts scene in Iceland more approachable and inclusive. “You’ve got this big theatre history here in Iceland. But it’s really hard to approach if you haven’t been raised with it,” Jess points out. “We want everyone who wants to be on stage—to be on stage.”
It’s all about love
2022 marks the fifth edition of Fringe in Reykjavík—this time, the festival’s central theme is love. “Me and Nanna are both engaged,” Jess shares. “Our partners are on the team as well. We’re all thrilled and we love everything in this scene. The thing that brought us all together was the community and love for the arts.”
“This year we’ve expanded the festival to two weekends,” Nanna explains. “That was for several reasons, both to celebrate our fifth anniversary and because we have artists that we accepted in 2020 and 2021, but they couldn’t make it because of the pandemic.”
Get a taste of art
Fringe has grown massively over the past year—from about 16 acts to more than 90, divided into thematic groups. To help attendees find what they like, the first weekend of Fringe is more of an introduction of what’s to come. “We have a preview night where every act gets two minutes to introduce themselves, and then we have a comedy taster which has all the comedians doing this,” Nanna is confident that it’s a combination of preparation and flexibility that can help you make the most of Fringe 2022, but adds: “People need to be available to be surprised.”
Is there a limitation to what acts Fringe accepts? Not really. “We try to accommodate everyone,” Nanna explains. Except for times when someone wants to perform outside in complete darkness in July. “Mainly the ones that we say no to are because we don’t have the space.”
To make sure you don’t get overwhelmed with the extensive programme and can truly savour Fringe, we’ve picked Jess and Nanna’s brains to compile a must-see list.
A mini burlesque festival
This year’s Fringe will host a miniature burlesque festival with six different cabaret artists. From a burlesque 101 workshop and travelling burlesque by Margrét Maack, to tassel twirling tips, bootyswing burlesque, a show on sex positivity and, of course, burlesque that revolves around love. “I’ll basically be living in the burlesque fest,” Jess, who runs the burlesque group this year, can’t hide her excitement.
Best and worst of stand-up comedy
The Fringe’s stand-up comedy group has it all. Netflix superstar Ari Eldjárn, a horror show from an award-winning Richard Brown, immigrants ranting over the oddities of the Icelandic lifestyle while they try to fit in—24 events in total. “We have so much comedy,” Nanna says when asked to pick her favourites. “We have political comedy, we have gore, or like, horror-comedy,” the list goes on and on, and Nanna stresses: “It’s so easy to put up. They just need a microphone.”
Homage to the drag scene
“Borderline between documentary and performance”—reads the description of ‘No makeup’, the only event within Fringe that qualified as a film. “This is a documentary about the Icelandic drag scene,” says Nanna. “We don’t have a lot of actual drag acts happening. They haven’t been able to perform for a while with Covid and everything. It’s almost like a nostalgia of not seeing the drag scene for two years.”
Solo dance performance on the intersection of reality and fiction, hilarious acrobatics and dance by an Israeli trio, a playground dance adventure suitable for kids, a truly vulnerable autofictional portrait, a workshop on body flexibility from a neo circus legend—these are not random Google search results on ‘dance’, but just a peek at what’s on offer at Fringe’s dance group. Rumour has it that you will also be able to match with your favourite dancer with the help of the Icelandic dating app. Single hearts, beware.
All things theatre
“I think one of the greatest things is that we’ve got such a mix of new talent and experienced talent,” points out Jess. “We’ve got artists who’ve been around Fringe festivals around the world for years. And then we’ve got people who’ve never been with their production on stage.” Theatre performances on Fringe’s lineup are nothing like the traditional theatre: they are an intersection between multi-disciplinary arts, live theatre and even virtual reality. For instance, ‘Dead People are Liking Things on Facebook’ explores our lives on social media long after we are gone. “I’m excited about this one,” Nanna says. “But I don’t know what to expect from the show. Is it sad? Is it funny? Am I supposed to laugh or cry?”
“Fringe is a place where you can test out new things or come back with the same stuff that you’ve done, just bigger and better,” Jess is confident that even if your art doesn’t fit into the boundaries of a specific genre, it will still find an audience. A mind-reading show? Yes. Satirical and political rap performance? Yes. Post-Eurovision extravaganza? Yes. A show that is 100% unplanned? Definitely yes.
“I think it’s something that Reykjavík needs,” says Jess—and she really means it. “It’s a weird, quirky city and it needs a festival that shows that instead of trying to just elevate everything.”
“Let’s get it on the street. Let’s get it on the ground. Let’s bring everyone to us,” she concludes. “We don’t want the Fringe Festival to ever leave Reykjavík.”
The Reykjavík Fringe Festival will take place from June 24th-July 3rd. Check it out or get involved: rvkfringe.is
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