What would happen if a bunch of nerdy intellectuals assembled some kind of strip show? Well, we would probably have a sexy version of the grey wizard, Gandalf himself, wouldn’t we? And perhaps some raunchy flack for the booming tourism industry in Iceland? In a word, you’d probably have something like The Reykjavík Kabarett. And we had to see it for ourselves.
A few words about the sleazy era
Perhaps we need to explain the complex relationship Reykjavík has with stripping. The city of Reykjavík legalised strip clubs in the late 90s, and it didn’t take long for clubs to open on seemingly every corner of Reykjavík (and even Kópavogur). For a short time we had the most strip clubs per person in the world. To be fair, Icelanders have always been the best in being the best.
The situation was out of control. So, in the end, the city of Reykjavík was fed up with horny Icelanders and regulations became strict again, although we didn’t ban strip clubs completely. A few of the clubs survived in the form of “gentlemen’s clubs” (the change in nomenclature doesn’t really fool anyone, except perhaps the poor sucker who think he’s classy for being ripped off by strippers).
One of these clubs, Strawberries, was closed few years ago amid allegations that prostitution was ongoing there. The charges were never definitively proven, but the club closed anyway after the tax inspectors had their way with it (they always get you somehow in the end). And today, the former location of Strawberries is the host of a new era in downtown exhibitionism: Reykjavík Kabarett, founded by the former TV personality Margrét Erla Maack.
New life, a sexy life, a funny life
Which brings us to the sexy life of modern-day Reykjavík. The Kabarett is an ensemble of different artists with one thing in common: they’re hilariously funny, and they’re sexy at the same time. The core of the group is Icelandic, though foreign performers take part. For example the drop-dead gorgeous Wilfredo, who looks like a combination of Marty Feldman (the one who played Igor in ‘‘Young Frankenstein’) and Serge Gainsbourg. And then there are hula hoops, a magician and yes, a weirdly sexy version of the Grey Wizard (I am not ashamed of admitting that).
The show is held in the damp cellar of the Green Room (Græna herbergið at Lækjargata, the former location of Strawberries). But the venue is plainly too small, because at a recent performance, every seat was taken and the air was damp and boozy, like the show itself.
“We are going bigger,” said Margrét Erla Maack when I talked to her at intermission. “But we don’t want to be too big,” she added. Well, size doesn’t matter, does it?
But the show is getting bigger, and it’s getting louder. This is the kind of theatre Icelanders don’t see often, and they’ve taken notice of these unique performers. Although the Kabarett is raunchy show, it is probably far-fetched to called it a strip show. The correct word would be burlesque. This is intellectual theatre where a different bunch of people find very interesting and funny ways to express humour, sexuality—and even opinions about abortion.
The next show will be at Kex Hostel on May 8. Then it will be weekly from june. Grapevine of course went to the show with a photographer to document a whole night with the strange bunch.