The gay play that shocked Icelanders

Cinema Bíó Paradís will send direct from a performance of Angels in America in The National Theater in London this August (part 1 shown on August 18 as well as the 19th and then part 2 on August 25 and 26th). It’s a star-studded production which has gotten rave reviews and will be a treat for theater lovers in Iceland.

Hlín Agnarsdóttir directed the first part of Angels in America, when The City Theaer of Reykjavík in 1993. She says that the play is very relevant today.

It’s not the first time Angels in America will be seen in Iceland though, in 1993 The City Theater of Reykjavik (Borgarleikhúsið) staged it’s own production of the first part of the play, which was a very bold move in Icelandic theater at that time. The director was Hlín Agnarsdóttir and she says that people did not really want to talk about the subject matters of the play back then as being gay was still a taboo in Iceland.

GayIceland contacted Hlín and asked her about the production and it’s reception in 1993. Whether it was a controversial choice for one of the two biggest theaters in Iceland to stage such a ‘flammable’ play?

“You bet! Eiríkur Jónsson, the one and only yellow press journalist, interviewed me on the TV-station Stöð 2 and tried the whole time to put me off track with questions about this horrible homo play and weather it was not awfully rude to offer such garbage to Icelandic audience. I don’t remember how the theater critics reviewed it but I do remember that Jón Viðar Jónsson, critic for the national TV-station (RÚV), hissed with indignation talking about the play on TV. I also remember that many of my friends were not eager to discuss the content of the play with me, thought it was far-fetched and difficult to handle. The production in Borgarleikhúsið was only the third production of the play in the world (after the U.S. and the U.K.). A very bold decision made by the then manager of the theatre, Sigurður Hróarsson, and it’s dramaturg, Páll Baldvin Baldvinsson. An even bolder move was getting me to direct it, but I got recognition as a female director after I directed another bold play Horrible happiness by the Swede Lars Norén at theater Alþýðuleikhúsið in 1992 and after that the doors opened.”

“(the play) tackles witch hunting in many senses of the word. Today the witch hunting goes after people of other origin … gay or in any way representing what Trump, Putin and Erdogan are most afraid of.”

What did the actors think? Were they shocked by the play’s subject?

“Yes, at first, but that did not last as I started the rehearsal period by establishing a week-long academy where the actors attended lectures in the theater in the morning with openly gay lecturers; the chairman of The National Queer Organisation (Samtökin ’78) and men with HIV. Besides some closet gays that knew a thing or two for example about Roy Cohn (an American attorney with ties to Joseph McCarthy and Donald Trump, who is part of the play) and his track record. One of the lecturers was a professor of political science and he declared that one could hardly call Roy Cohn a usual gay guy because he was not a ‘receptive gay’, as he called it. He did the fucking, he was not fucked. We also had a great lecture from a professor of religion and the history of religion who introduced us to the religious aspects of the play, the religion of Jews and Mormons, which was as foreign to Icelandic actors as the gay world.

Actors Árni Pétur Guðjónsson, Elva Ósk Ólafsdóttir, Ellert A. Ingimndarson, Jakob Einarsson, Jón Hjartarson, Magnús Jónsson, Margrét Ólafsdóttir and Steinunn Ólafsdóttir in the Icelandic production of Angels in America at The City Theater (Borgarleikhusið) in 1993. Photo/courtesy of Hlín Agnarsdóttir

The actors were allowed to ask the lecturers anything regarding the play, but I forbade any personal questions. Such as: “Are you gay”? At this time we did not frequently hear words as ‘gay’ or ‘trans’ in Icelandic, the Reykjavík Pride parades had not yet started and it was still taboo to be gay in Iceland. Only one of the actors was openly gay so it was necessary to educate us all in these gay matters and in the end I became the gayest of them all.”

How was the production received? “As I said before I don’t really remember in detail what the critics said, but I think it was all a bit hush-hush. People did not really want to discuss this play, not even the people in the theater, this was a too big bite to swallow. The gay people I knew complimented me, at least the ones who had come out and dared to talk about it. People just didn’t really know how to talk about the production which makes sense as it is very complicated, both the subject where several stories are told simultaneously and some of them happen in reality, others in dreams, and also in form as it consists of 22 scenes and a multitude of characters. The scenes are very short and take place in a variety of places so the manuscript looks more like a film than a play.”

Do you think the production of Angels in America helped open up the discussion about gays and HIV in Iceland?

“I have no doubts about that. But as it all happened BI (before internet) the discussion that the traditional media did not partake in were not as obvious as now and one did not necessarily hear it. If there was a discussion it was not official.”

Actors Andrew Garfield and Russel Tovey on the cover of Gay Times promoting The National Theater in London’s production of Angels in America. The production will be shown at cinema Bíó Paradís in Reykjavík this week.

Was there no discussion about HIV at the time?

“Yes there was, but very hushed up as everything else regarding the taboo that being queer was at that time. That changed around the same time as we staged Angels in America and the Directorate of Health held a play writing competition in 1993 and asked especially for plays that tackled aids, as it was called then. I won that competition with the one-act play Alheimsferðir Ernu, which was about the danger of HIV among straight people. The Directorate of Health wanted to look at HIV from as many sides as possible, not limit it to looking at the disease in gays and drug addicts.

A young Icelandic actor, Gunnar Rafn Guðmundsson, had died from the disease in May 1993 and of course that affected the discussion about the danger, especially within the theater world.”

The play premiered in 1990 and was shocking and relevant at that time, but how do you explain it’s success in later years both as a television mini series and now in this production at the National Theater in London? Is it still as relevant?

“I think it is obvious now, not least when we see Donald Trump becoming the president of The United States, but his lawyer and main advisor was no other than aforementioned Roy Cohn who died from aids in 1986 but always denied having the disease. He was a Jew who persecuted Jews, one of the primus motors in the persecutions of communists in the McCarthy area, closet gay from hell, satanic in all his lies.

“Angels in America is about the lies in life, politics and culture, the lies that now are categorised as alternative truth. But it’s not just the situation in the U.S. today that calls for this relevance of Angels in America but also the persecution of gays in other parts of the world.”

Angels in America is about the lies in life, politics and culture, the lies that now are categorised as alternative truth. But it’s not just the situation in the U.S. today that calls for this relevance of Angels in America but also the persecution of gays in other parts of the world, in Russia, Turkey, and some other countries, not to mention Chechnya and Iran, where gays are right out executed. Angels in America is relevant and actuel in the same way as Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, as it tackles witch hunting in many senses of the word. Today the witch hunting goes after people of other origin, skin color, Muslims, gay or in any way representing what Trump, Putin and Erdogan are most afraid of, and I would think that it has do do with these guys ‘homophobia.”

Main photo: The production at The National Theater in London is a star-studded production (with actors such as Nathan Lane, Andrew Garfield and Russel Tovey) which has gotten rave reviews.

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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        Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.