If you’ve been in Iceland for more than 24 hours, someone probably has, by now, already asked you, “How do you like Iceland?” The question itself has become so clichéd as to become a concept in itself, one that encapsulates the experience of the tourist interacting with most Icelanders for the first time. It’s this experience that the play “How Do You Like Iceland?” tries to capture, through humour and satire that also takes a stab at Icelandic history.
The inspiration behind the piece, actor Darren Foreman told Grapevine, came from the tourists themselves.
“All the time you’re walking around downtown, you always see tourists looking like this,” he said, miming a person holding a map and looking around with a confused expression. “We wanted to create a light show that people could go to; nothing heavy like Light Nights or Saga of Guðríður, but something fun. So I went to Benni [Benóný Ægisson] about the idea and he came up with an hour-and-a-half long play that we managed to trim down to 50 minutes.”
The show, with a two person cast comprised of Foreman and Icelandic actress Kolbrún Anna Björnsdóttir, runs less than an hour long, and because of a lack of props or setting, can be performed anywhere. Although so far they’ve only performed a ten-minute sneak preview at downtown café Solon, they’ve been setting their sites on such tourist spots as the Blue Lagoon, stops on the Golden Circle tour, and even cruise ships.
The script pokes fun at Icelandic stereotypes and how some nationals interact with tourists.
“I play this traditional patriotic guy,” says Foreman, “and I’ll be walking among the tables asking people, ‘How do you like Iceland?,’ clapping people on the back, while Kolbrún plays a modern, intelligent woman who’s there to sort of set the record straight. But we play different characters throughout the play,” including such Icelandic sacred cows as settler Ingólfur Árnasson, where a comedic look is taken at his first experiences in this country. If the trial run at Solon was any indication, the parody won’t rub Icelanders the wrong way.
“I was a little nervous about the satire,” admits Foreman, “but the crowd at Solon was mostly Icelandic and they seemed to love it.”
Audience participation also features prominently in the piece: during one part, Foreman and Björnsdóttir take two people from the audience and ask them to play Icelandic farmers, working only with cue cards, while Foreman plays a visiting English aristocrat.
“It did cross my mind that some foreigners not might find the jokes as funny as Icelanders would. For example, during one portion we say, ‘The traditional Icelandic winter wardrobe is a T-shirt, jeans, and a car for an overcoat.’ Foreigners think this is funny, but Icelanders think this is really funny.”
Foreman himself has starred in numerous commercials and films in Iceland, and has plans on doing more, with the concept of open auditions at the forefront.
“Acting is a skill,” he explains, “and like any skill, anyone’s capable of learning it.”
How Do You Like Iceland?, 1500 ISK (with discounts available for larger groups), Mondays and Wednesdays, 17:00, Café Sólon.
For more information on booking and performances, contact Darren Foreman at 616 9883 or Benóný Ægisson at 897 8694.