Ritaskrá

About the author

Hávar Sigurjónsson: On the Plays of Árni Ibsen

Árni Ibsen began his career as a playwright in 1984 with the play Skjaldbakan kemst þangað líka (The Turtle Gets There too). In this play, Árni took two poets who are close to his heart, Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, and explored the relationship between them, real and imagined, basing the work on his understanding of the works of both men and his ideas about their friendship, despite their dramatically different outlooks on poetry and life. This play no doubt came as a surprise to many, not least for of the choice of subject matter, which hardly appeals to the average theatregoer. For that, the subject matter was too specific and the author´s handling of the material was loaded with references to the poetic worlds of the two poets, deliberately avoiding any attempt to offer the audience an easy route to understanding. This work unmistakably showed that here was an author in command of the most important parts of playwriting; i.e. the creation of dramatic circumstance, sharp dialogue; accompanied by a strong sense of the importance of poetry in theatrical texts, an ear for dialogue rhythm and ability for character construction by creating a conversation register for them and a point of view towards subjects of discussion and towards other characters in the play. Skjaldbakan kemst þangað líka seems to effortlessly contain all these elements. His next work was therefore awaited with some anticipation, and it certainly did not fail to surprise, as Árni showed a new side of him there that was very different from what one would expect after the previous play.

Skjaldbakan kemst þangað líka (The Turtle Gets There too, 1984 / 1988)

WILLIAMS:
it is in the silence that it is. And one has to be alone ... completely alone. And not ... interrupt the silence … I am so lucky to be alive precisely now, when it can be said that the telephone has hardly been invented. To be fair, It has been installed now, the poor thing. Hangs on the wall and mumbles something occasionally. Does not interrupt the silence. I look at it sideways. Answer belatedly. Almost the only time I speak on the phone is when I am called on to attend the sick … because I am doctor.

POUND:
(A faint whisper in the distance). it is much too death-like around you.

WILLIAMS:
(Ignores Pound´s voice ). I am growing used to the cars. And they keep fairly still. Up to this point, at least. they do not rip the road up into the air, as I am told they have started to do in your times. No. The cars in my time keep still. And wait. they go extremely slowly and lift the dust gently off the road … about one foot or so … and while in midair, it flaps its wings feebly a couple of times like a dazed hen, then sits back on the road, gently. Yes, I live in damn interesting times. For instance I remember … the silence that was here before. It was filled with the sounds of simplicity. silence with the occasional plough, or a steam engine far away in the distance. And I have seen how silence has reluctantly given in … to all the technology … that has gradually been entering into it. Yes. And it enters ever so gently, technology, because it does not want to wake up suspicion. And it goes to show that in your time, suspicion is just beginning to stir from its sleep, after technology has secured its place and even taken power. But in my time this power struggle has not even begun … Well… Yes … maybe … The struggle has begun … but this war is filled with excuses and politeness and anything can still happen. And machines and tools are still only machines and tools for transferring something simple and necessary from person to person. Transferring a thought from will to action. Transferring signals from person to person, or transporting a person to another person … and by no means faster than s/he could walk. so it is, in this country, in this province, in this small town. Everything is under formation. And they still have not found words for what is being formed. All experience is mute. this world is an unwritten page.


Afsakið hlé (Excuse Me, An Interval) was a one-act play, written for the Egg-Theatre in 1989, a variation on Ghelderode´s one-act play, Escurial; both plays were shown together under the title Sál mín er hirðfífl í kvöld (My Soul Is a Court Jester Tonight). Afsakið hlé was more than a variation though, it was a play in its own right, and turned out to be well received by the public. It is about a life-weary advertising agency executive, who tricks his secretary into vouching for the bankrupt company, blinded by the love she has for this wretched man. Here Árni unmistakably showed that he has a knack for writing satire and the text was taken straight out of the nation´s mouths; colloquial speech, peppered with fraises from English, exactly like people actually speak to each other; yet cleverly sharpened by the poet´s feeling for rhythm and emphasis.


Afsakið! Hlé. (Excuse Me, An Interval, 1989)

LÍSA:
Is it not easiest to just go all the way to the bottom and go through it all the way down and then come out of it on the other side?

ÆVAR:
How?

LÍSA:
I don´t know how. I mean, I don´t know anything about business.

ÆVAR:
Is it possible?

LÍSA:
Well, Dante did it and why should you not be able to?

ÆVAR:
Dante who?

LÍSA: An Italian writer.

ÆVAR:
A writer! A writer! Are you completely insane! Here I stand, paralysed with boredom and you talk about poetry!

LÍSA:
Yes, what else? everything is possible in poetry, as long as it is neatly done.

ÆVAR:
Lísa, how many times do I have to tell you? Poetry is rubbish! And please do not go and destroy my hope that the fact that you were hired here into this office shows anything other than my brilliance. My natural talent for discovering something fresh. Do not make me begin to suspect that this wavering of yours is just learnt and not congenital. (Pause). Oh, I can not be bothered to get so wound up. It only takes away from the pleasure of my boredom.

LÍSA:
All right then! Merry boredom! (Starts to pick the papers up from the floor). I am just an average waverer. Unfortunately. I am a common moorhen. I am a screaming-duck. I am a collating paper-magnet. (Keeps ranting ad lib).

ÆVAR:
(Looks at her for a moment. Sighs). O.k. How did he do it?

LÍSA: (Brazenly).
Who?

ÆVAR:
That Dennis?

LÍSA:
What?

ÆVAR:
That, you know, that bloke who went all the way down to the bottom and through it?

LÍSA:
You mean Dante.

ÆVAR:
Yes, him. What did he do?

LÍSA:
I don´t know what he did.

ÆVAR:
What, haven´t you read him?

LÍSA:
Dante! Are you insane, man? Read Dante? No one reads Dante nowadays.

ÆVAR:
Why not?

LÍSA:
Well, just because! I mean, it´s many thousand pages and all in verse. Not even in Icelandic.

ÆVAR:
How do you know about this then? That he went like this, like you say, all the way down through it. weren´t you supposed to read these things in Literary History?

LÍSA:
No, my dear! you only had to know a little theory, to bluff your way through Literary History.

ÆVAR:
Oh, so there is a theory about this then, or what?

LÍSA:
About Dante?

ÆVAR:
Yes, and this thing that he did.

LÍSA:
That I don´t know. Yes, I suppose there must be.

ÆVAR:
What should I do then?

LÍSA:
(Slams the pile of papers on the table). I don´t like where this conversation is going at all. It is not like you to be so helpless before one small financial problem. Do you need some theories? Really, if you need to do something then you just do it. You know, I can´t understand either what problem you are talking about. You have invested like crazy all over the place. Own property and stock for millions. You can start to sell off this junk. I just don´t see a problem here. Sorry!

ÆVAR:
I am not interested. Who do you think could be bothered to sell things nowadays? I have been through that phase. And it was only fun when everything was on the up, but now, no one buys anything.

LÍSA:
Can´t you liquidate these investments of yours?

ÆVAR:
It is all totally fixed, that junk. No movement in any goddamn part of it. No demand for anything. Supply without demand! Have you heard of anything more lame? Pathetic!

Árni´s next work, Ský (Cloud), was written for Útvarpsleikhúsið (The Radio Theatre). It had all the main elements of both previous plays, a poetic work which at the same time showed clearly where Árni was heading with his playwriting; towards a creation of situations that had some absurd elements while being at the same time squarely placed inside a very recognisable current reality; the text is poetic in rhythm but colloquial in its register. The use of calculated repetitions in the dialogue also seemed to be becoming a part of Árni´s signature style as a writer.


Ský (Cloud, 1990)
A Radio Play

EIRÍKUR:
It is amazing how blue the sky can get in this country. And the clouds white. This is what I always missed most of all when I was in the shipping business. This light. Always, when we sailed back home, I watched how the sky changed every day, minute by minute. How this heavenly light came over us. When I saw the glacier rise like heaven out of the ocean, I was home. Some kind of an emotion that surged through my whole being. Maybe I was happiest in those moments. Without realising it.

BIRNA:
My happiness was tied up with you.

EIRÍKUR:
No one can own another person.

BIRNA:
You owned me.

EIRÍKUR:
It was frightful.

BIRNA:
Yes. it was frightful.

EIRÍKUR:
Still, I loved you. Still love you.

BIRNA:
Men don´t love.

EIRÍKUR:
I loved you. I love you now.

BIRNA:
Perhaps. In your way. Maybe men just love differently than women.

EIRÍKUR:
They probably do.

BIRNA:
Men are strange animals, when it comes to it. And it is even stranger that women don´t discover it until they are dead. They do not love. They do not cry. They do not tell the truth. Some do not even sleep. They engage in some activity, but they say one thing and mean something different. Their hands are cold. Then their conscience eats at them for being the way they are, for not being the way they imagine they should be. And yet they should not be any different from what they are. They try. Or pretend to try. Pretend to be other than what they are. And it is so odd that women should love them only when they can see through them. It seems that it gives them a sense of safety to see through them, to know that they are as insincere as they are. Yet they never have any idea why they love them. Somewhere there is an absurd paradox in this whole thing.

EIRÍKUR:
Men are vagrants by nature. They follow the sun. Find their way back to the glacier in the spring.

BIRNA:
(Laughs at this). You for one, were on an eternal vacation from any problems.

EIRÍKUR:
It´s true! Never present. Even though the body was there, the mind was elsewhere. I was even absent in the best moments of my life!

BIRNA:
Absent at all times.

EIRÍKUR:
Once I got . . . close to understanding . . . something. I don´t know what. Maybe my own poverty. Poverty was probably the only thing I had. I am talking about a different kind of poverty.

BIRNA:
I know which one you mean.

EIRÍKUR:
It was after you . . . left. I came to our house at night. I had quit the boat then, had sold the house. The furniture was gone to Reykjavik. The house stood empty, the moon shone through the south facing windows. And it was so still, so eerily still. I walked inside and stopped at the end of the corridor, held my breath as if I didn´t want to disturb the stillness. Then I heard drops falling from the kitchen tap into the sink, just drops, one by one with long breaks in between. I froze. I sat down on the floor and listened, just listened, for a long time. And gradually . . . I was overwhelmed by . . . sadness, some great sadness which grew as more and more drops fell into the sink. Then I don´t know what happened, must have blanked out, and before I knew it, there were tears running down my cheeks. By the break of dawn I was crying my eyes out, alone in the empty house, crying like a baby. I have never thought about it until now, that I was not crying over of you. No. I was crying over of me. I know that now. And the love I was incapable of feeling, let alone give. I sailed off on the ship in the morning and have not been to the village since. Maybe it was that time that I came closest to being . . . present . . . or whatever it is called . . . being alive.


Fiskar á þurru landi (Fish out of Water, 1993), which the Pé-leikhópurinn (the P-Theatre Group) produced, is a comedy with a satirical edge. An absurd comedy about a young man and an older woman, running a B&B in the countryside. They are visited by a young girl and a businessman from the capital; she is charmed by the boy´s sincerity and a bond is forged between them; at the same time it becomes increasingly clear that the businessman is running on empty and owes everything he has been showing off with. Here again one of Árni´s main characteristics as a playwright are clearly visible; his sensitivity to the pretension and arrogance of the nouveau-riche class and compassion for those who are less ostentatious but have a rich inner life, a kind of contentment, or rather an acceptance of your plight without giving up. His comedies therefore hit a strong note in their social criticism but at the same they go very far by their absurdity.

Fiskar á þurru landi (Fish out of Water, 1993)
An Absurd Comedy

"I do everything. Buy the groceries. Cook the meals. Wash the dishes. Sweep the floors, mop the stairs, scrub the thresholds, wash he windows, vacuum, polish, wash and iron. Take care of the accounts. Charge the regulars. Charge for the bed and breakfast. It is all I am good for. Know nothing. Can´t do anything. On top of this, I am awfully busy renewing all the draw tickets, buying the lottery tickets. Keeping it all together. I also watch television. Someone has to watch it. the television needs to be watched. Since we are paying for it anyway."

"It is just that she has already told everyone in town their fortunes a hundred times. Everyone is fed up with seeing into the future."

"Women know these things, Guðmundur. And I am a woman. Get it? Do you know what that is? No. you don´t know. You don´t know what it is to be a woman until you have become a woman."


Elín Helena (Elin Helen) followed shortly after Fiskar á þurru landi and premiered in Autumn 1993 at Borgarleikhúsið (The City Theatre). Árni has said himself that the material for this play had been with him for a long time, and the incubation period of the work had therefore been very long; in a sense it could even be said to be older than The Tortoise (at the Literary Conference on Árni Ibsen in Gerðuberg in May 1999). This may partly explain why Elín Helena is in many ways different from other works that Árni was writing at the time. This is a serious dramatic work and there are clear signs that the author is struggling with the theatrical form, he speculates about time and space, and the text alternates between poetry and everyday language. Here the subject is a central question in Icelandic society, concerning the occupation of people´s minds, as an Icelandic girl who is looking for her American father keeps discovering more about her own past and her family history, as she continues her search. In the end she no longer knows whether she is American or Icelandic, whether she is her father´s or her mother´s daughter, and who she belongs to when push comes to shove?


Elín Helena (Elin Helen, 1993)

Rikki:
You know? I have seen the earth and the sky ... touch. they took each other´s hands, their fingers entwine. Like this. Look! And they melted together. there was so much heat! So much heat. The sky sent heat into the earth and from there it rose up as water. As humidity. Glistening in the sun. it is called fata morgana, this love tryst between the earth and the sky. I was there. Became a part of it. And the heat so intense that you enter a new state of being, where everything is upside down. And the silence in the scorching sun. a silence so intense, it makes a creaking sound; it echoes throughout the forest. And you think it is the enemy. the demonic enemy sneaking up on you from behind. BUT IT IS NEVER HIM! IT IS NEVER HIM! it is only the silence. And this sexy love tryst between the earth and the sky. I was there. Saw it. Fell asleep to it. in this place, where being sober was to be drunk. From blood and smoking bodies. where having to squint was the norm. where your bones turned to dust and the fatigue held your body upright. where being a man was to be an animal. Do you know what I mean? Do you? you need to know what I mean, otherwise ... otherwise this has no purpose, no ... no purpose ...

Elín Helena:
Are you talking about the war?

Rikki:
What war? I am talking about God!

Elín Helena:
God?

Rikki:
God has passion. therefore he is God. Did you know that?

Elín Helena:
No, I didn´t know that ...

Rikki:
No. After all, you are not in Philosophy. He is so ... so passionate.

Elín Helena:
But you said before that he is cold.

Rikki: Yes.
Emotionless.

Elín Helena:
How can he have passions then?

Rikki:
that is precisely it, you see. that is the great paradox about him. Clever of him, don´t you think? I don´t know anyone who has figured this out. He is so extremely characterless that you notice it. Look! One more paradox. it is his passion to be cold and emotionless. And if you have passion ... yourself... Or, if some earthly man has passion, look, then he is God. God. Imagine that! To be God. Don´t you have passion?

Elín Helena:
I ... I don´t know ...

Rikki:
I´ve had that. I was God once.

Elín Helena:
That I can well imagine ...

Rikki:
Helena has told me about it, but it is as if it was someone else, like she is describing a dream ...

Elín Helena:
You were ... lovers ... ?

Rikki:
There is just one thing that I don´t understand.

Elín Helena:
What is that?

Rikki:
Do you know why people bother to live? Do you? Do you know? I don´t know. There is no way I can figure that out. You see? everyone can become God. If they only want to. If they have love.

Elín Helena:
I ...

Rikki:
Why don´t people just die? You know? Since they are so passionless? I would be dead a long time ago if I wasn´t so handicapped. Would have killed myself a long time ago. No, people are so overwhelmingly passionless. I want to shake it sometimes, see if they don´t snap to consciousness. there is no fun in this otherwise. You know? No point if the passions are missing. Don´t you think so?

Elín Helena:
I ...

Rikki:
Have I given you a tricky question?

Elín Helena:
Well ...

Rikki:
You can´t answer?

Elín Helena:
There are so many answers, I ...

Rikki:
There are? Are there many answers to one question? Strange. Give me an example ...

Elín Helena:
An example? An example of an answer?

Rikki:
Yes.

Elín Helena:
Maybe ... maybe people don´t die, but continue to live ... because they always have something in front of their eyes. Something ...

Rikki:
How so?

Elín Helena:
There is always something on the horizon.

Rikki:
Like what?

Elín Helena:
Just ... something which keep them going ...

Rikki:
Like a bait?

Elín Helena:
Yes! Like a bait. But it is — always — out of reach, no matter how we try to get near it.

Rikki:
(Laughs). this is good! you did well ... (Stops laughing). Always out of reach! You did damn well. But the bait is an illusion, isn´t it? (Pause. No answer). Much better to have passion, I think. Yes. You see, then you don´t buy into the illusion. then you don´t take the bait. Are you chess mate or are you stalemate?

Elín Helena:
I ...

Rikki:
What did you say your name was?

silence.

Elín Helena:
(Carefully). Dad? (silence). My name is Elín Helena. Your daughter. (silence. He just stares at her). Your daughter.

Elín appears. Stands quietly at a distance. Watches. He sees her. He is struggling with himself. He blinks his eyes rapidly, as if he has lost control of his eyelids. His hands start trembling. He places them on his head to make them stop. Runs a hand through his hair. Rubs his palms against his face, like he just woke up. Finally.

Rikki:
My daughter is dead. it is not nice of you to remind me of that. She died.

Elín Helena:
No. She ...

Rikki:
She is dead I say!

Elín Helena:
No ... (He is about to say something). Wait! Wait a second ... you told me a story when I was little. Many times. I wanted to hear this story again and again. Do you remember it? (He just stares at her). I was about the man who was so lonely. (She waits for his reaction. No reaction). He sat down on a beach and started to wait for love. But it never came. Don´t you remember? (He just stares). And he sat there a long, long time, his hair grew and went grey and fell down to his shoulders, and he sat with eyes closed until finally his heart burst with sorrow. But then his chest opened. And birds came from the sea, a whole flock of them, and they flew through him. In through his chest and out through the back – you said that it was time passing. But then ... all of a sudden ... he opened his eyes, his chest closed and one of the birds got stuck inside. The man´s hair became dark again and the bird struggled inside his chest — and neither of them died.

Rikki:
Had he stopped being lonely then?

Elín Helena:
Yes.

Rikki:
This is a nice story.

Elín Helena:
I never wanted to hear another story.


Himnaríki (Heaven) was a turning point in Icelandic playwriting. Árni made a noteworthy attempt here to combine in an interesting way an experiment with form, text and material, so that the work became an ambiguous symbol for the generation that it describes. People who were in their twenties near the middle of the last decade of the 20th century. The structure of the work almost makes it into two one-act plays. They are played simultaneously and the action happens outdoors on one hand and indoors on the other. The audience were sitting on either side of a stage that had been divided into two parts, and those who watched the indoors action in the first act, switched seats with the others and watched the same story take place outdoors in the second act. In the end, a new plot thread emerges, so that the ending of the work is a surprise, as it should be.

The author says himself that this work, to him, reflects the split personality disorder of the generation it describes. The text of the play also breaks new ground; the conversations are loaded with English expressions and some of the characters have considerable difficulties expressing themselves verbally, but find it easier if they use English. The author paints an exaggerated picture of a generation that has grown up on American films and television shows, but the message is clear: if things continue as they have, then we will stop speaking Icelandic a few decades from now. The characters are also quite special, in the sense that it is a homogenous group, children of Reykjavik´s moneyed class who have come together in a summer house in the country. They have no affinity with the environment, the countryside has no meaning for them, except as a party place; they have no idea about the people who have built this country or what difference it makes.

Himnaríki – geðklofinn gamanleikur (Heaven – a Scizophrenic Comedy, 1995)

"You know, it´s just "no prob" for Tryggvi´s dad! Don´t you know what Tryggvi´s dad always says? Tryggvi´s dad, he always says: "Listen mate! it´s just plebs who have worries!""

"Hey! Look, sorry! ´scuse meee! Here: What are you bothering about this for, you know? I mean, listen, why don´t you take, you know, look, a little bit less, you know?! You know? I mean: Why, you know, don´t you just leave all that gear for me, you know? Females, man!"

"A bit you know ... extreme ... a bit much national pride ... a kind of, you know. Go off to the countryside and act like it´s summer already. there´s this thing of premature pleasure-seeking ..."

"And then you come outside and there´s just nothing happening! Jeezus, man ... everything´s almost ready in there man, man! Huh?! It´s just a matter of throwing the stuff on the grill, and then it´s just ... ! Jeezus, Tryggvi! you just won´t do! Everyone starving, man, I mean there´s a major famine taking hold and all ... and then all of a sudden there´s this discovery in the middle of our death throes, man, that just one man! You know! Just one man, Tryggvi! One man who forgot to light the fucking grill!"

"I don´t know nothing about what they´re like´ or anything and they know nothing about what I´m like and no one knows nothing about whether anyone fits in with anyone else and then it just ends with no one feeling confident and no one knowing anything about how they should be or anything and nothing ... and just ... C´mon, Gaui. you should have figured out the possibility that me and that Steinunn girl, you know, you should have figured that possibility. And that Unnur, man! Whoa! I mean: it kinda looks like she was accidentally left behind at the maternity ward and basically missed the whole elementary school"

"Look, Gaui. you are all right and all, it´s just ... I even think you´re probably a good guy, but ... Look, if I am to tell you exactly what I think, I think you shouldn´t make a habit of being where ever there are a lot of people around."

"You know, I was starting to think that we were going to have to bury the whole family here."

"If there is anything I can´t stand about you, it is how sickeningly positive you always are. I mean, you are terribly negative too, but that´s just a front, you see, you negativity is somehow so ... so positive ..."

TRYGGVI:
(Gleefully). I´m going to chop the bloody shoot into small bits! And just bloody spread it all around the cabin so that the old bastard can just wade through plant pussies up to his waist! Then we just tear off into town! Hah! Aníta! What´ya think?!! Me and you, Aníta! What do you think?

ANÍTA:
Jee, Tryggvi ...

TRYGGVI:
Yes, baby ...

ANÍTA:
Wow! you were almost sexy just now!

Árni´s follow-up to Himnaríki was writing a conventional farce for The Reykjavík Theatre Company which premiered in autumn 1996. He himself has described Ef ég væri gullfiskur (If I Were a Goldfish) as one of the most challenging projects he has undertaken, as a farce has to be built with engineering-like precision. (Literary Conference in Gerðuberg in May 1999). Ef ég væri gullfiskur takes place in the Reykjavik of our time, where the main character is an average Joe, an office worker who one day decides to take some action so that life does not pass him by completely. His wife is busy in politics, his brother has shit-loads of money and his father, the goldfish salesman makes a fat profit from his business with foreign companies. The office worker invites a woman home with him to his father´s house, safe in the knowledge that he is abroad, but this turns out not be the case at all, and his wife and brother had also planned to use the house for private purposes on that same night.

Ef væri ég gullfiskur! (If I Were a Goldfish, 1996)
A Farce

"you have no use for money! You can´t hold on to it! You see, money is a social being. therefore it doesn´t want to stay with poor people."

DÓRA:
She is awfully high strung, that lady. Did she hurt you?

BINNI:
It is none of my business. no one gives a toss about how I feel anyway.

DÓRA:
Oh, Binni! Don´t say such a thing! everyone is so fond of you!

BINNI:
Why am I not happy then, if everything indicates that I am? It must be because of something that happened when I was little. Don´t you think so, Dóra?

DÓRA:
Jeez, Binni, don´t ask me about such things!

Dóra goes into to kitchen. Binni hurries hesitatingly and sneakily up to the sports bag underneath the couch. Pulls it out, opens it and empties the contents onto the floor. At first, a few pieces of clothing fall out of the bag, then a whole bunch of banknotes fall out. A big pile of money. Binni almost has a nervous breakdown and stares at this handsome money pile. He hears a sound, panics and quickly stuffs everything back in the bag. He now puts it into a different hiding place and sits down, as if nothing had happened. yet he is quite shaken.

DÓRA:
(Comes in). Why don´t you go for a swim? To freshen yourself up?

BINNI:
I´ve stopped swimming. Now I only do the rescue swim, trying to spot the shore before I sink ...

DÓRA:
I find this pessimistic talk absolutely unnecessary.

BINNI:
I wish I were a goldfish.

DÓRA:
Goldfish?

BINNI:
Nobody has it as easy the goldfish. He doesn´t hear a thing, knows nothing, remembers nothing. Just gapes into the air and the food falls from the sky, without him having to do anything. And he just swims. Keeps swimming and swimming, one lap after another and doesn´t remember a thing. Fantastic. Doesn´t remember a thing. Just keeps swimming and swimming.

DÓRA:
Yeah, yeah. I did get that. He is quite a keen swimmer.

BINNI:
He meets his wife at every lap that he takes around the tank. And the remarkable thing is, that he can never remember having seen her before. Isn´t that crazy? it is always a new spouse. Always a new wife.

DÓRA:
I say! Is his memory that bad?

BINNI:
He doesn´t remember further back than a few seconds. Isn´t that great?

DÓRA:
Well, I don´t know. I feel that I am bad enough myself, without others being worse.

Dóra goes back into the kitchen. Binni quickly takes out the bag, opens it. He glances sneakily around him. He opens the vacuum cleaner, tears the dust bag out of it and stuffs the money into it. He closes the vacuum cleaner and the bag. He stuffs the bag back into the hiding place, just as Dóra walks in.

DÓRA:
Are you trying to say that you are tired of Stína, Binni?

BINNI:
(Sneeks the dust bag behind a chair). What?

DÓRA:
I guess I can´t say I blame you ...

BINNI:
I have never cheated on Stína, Dóra. I want that to be absolutely clear. Never in my life! I have always been Mr. stability in every sense of the word! And then ... this marriage of ours has become like all other marriages. Like any other joke...


Árni wrote the play Að eilífu (Forever) with the graduation class of the Icelandic Acting School of 1997 and Hafnarfjarðarleikhúsið (The Hafnarfjörður Theatre) in mind, and there he again showed yet another side of him, as the form of this play is entirely different form his previous works; Að eilífu reminds one of a film in the sense that the order of events revolves around one point in time, a traditional Icelandic wedding with an American emphasis. This work proved to be so funny that its critical aspect may have been partly lost, Árni makes fun of the nation´s novelty obsession and the compulsion to take up all sorts of foreign customs, without giving any thought to their meaning or their cultural origins. The materialism and excess that characterizes modern Icelandic weddings, the hen- and stag parties, not to mention the rice, and the effort that is made to recreate the Hollywood film wedding; and the style of the work imitates the object of its ridicule.

Að eilífu (Forever, 1997)
Snap shots from the wedding of Guðrún Birna Klörudóttir and Jón Pétur Guðmundsson, its preceding events, preparation and after effects.

"it is a short word. Love. Very short. You almost can´t hear it. Just a, just a kind of a breath, "lo", a kind of a sigh, you know, with a tiny little vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv-sound tagging behind, and then ending with a faint "e"! Sort of like a door being shut behind the "v"-sound. Shut and locked. Love. A very short word."

"you are not going in this raggedy jacket or in this exhauster, worn out jumper, Einar! you are not going to a teachers´ meeting. you are going to visit the parents-in-law to be of my daughter. they are classy people. He owns fisheries. Find something a bit nicer."

"Well, I teach this and that, mostly Icelandic. Started out in pre-med, yes, yes. Flunked the anatomy. It was much too construed for me. Went into clinical psychology after that, dabbled a bit in Philosophy on the side, an then started to develop a bit of, well, a theoretical interest in theology mixed in with hypothetical deconstruction, but the Theology Department didn´t really do much for me. Not much at all."

"Some women are nothing but drawers and secret chambers and it is impossible to organize all the things that are in there."

"they had a collective nervous breakdown here, the ladies. In quite an elegant way."

"I just do not feel that things are really happening if nobody worries about them. "

"That figures! Two weeks later! What do you think about this? It shows itself that I am pregnant! By him! By þórarinn the Kleenex, that dog-face, bullshit-monger and looser. And to top it all! Nine weeks after this discovery, another shock! Twins! it is amazing, what creeps some men can be. […] those, who stay the shortest, always leave the most stuff behind."

"Guðrún, it ... it was nothing! It is just one of those nights, you know!"

"Just start talking. then you will automatically start to think."


The next play Árni produced, Maður lifandi (Man Alive), had been a long time in the works, and can hardly be considered original in the same sense as the others. It is a rewriting and a translation of the British medieval play Everyman and Árni handles the original text liberally, making some changes to it and creates a fresh version in order to find a modern approach to the work. According to him, he made the first draft back in 1981, and it distinguishes itself sharply from everything else that Árni has written, but it establishes clearly his strong command of different forms and styles; the dialogue register in this work is very different from the previous ones, proving that Árni is a playwright of the highest order: His characters speak in the language they are most comfortable in and when they fail to express themselves in Icelandic, they resort to English or gesturing; behind it lies always the author´s awareness that the needs of the theatre can not always be reconciled with the writer´s refined feeling for language.


Maður lifandi (Man Alive, 1999)
An Opera Play

THE SWEETEST BLOKE EVER:
Sometimes we run into life. And it may happen so suddenly that we stop for a while, nod you heads and say: this is what I have, this is life.

Most days — most of the time — we wander about, imagine that our jobs are important, our actions are worth something, even if measured on the scale of eternity, that we are good and valued by our contemporaries, but we seldom pay attention to life.

I am an actor. I look at life through the eyes of others. I do it in the hope that this other person is you and that I am looking with your eyes; and that this way your eyes will see better.

Sometimes we run into life. Most of those times we say nothing, but we could say: this is what we have, this is life.

A BEING WITH WINGS:
In yourself innermost is darkness
and innermost in that darkness is you.
And innermost in yourself is another darkness
and innermost in that darkness is you.
And innermost in you there, is one more darkness
and in there, there is still only you.
In yourself innermost
is darkness darkness —
into that space you carry a light
when you die —


Lastly, we have here an example of Árni´s latest work when this is written, a short excerpt from a radio play. This work can be viewed as a kind of variation on August Strindberg´s famous one-act play, Hin sterkari (The Stronger), in which two women are having a conversation in a cafe; one of them stays almost silent but the other one talks incessantly and gradually loses control over the situation, the more that is said. The two mates in Snóker (Snooker) are involved in a battle of a similar kind, one of them is having an affair with the other one´s wife, and the question is, who of them is the stronger one in the end.


Snóker (Snooker, 2001)
A Radio Play

FRISSI:
Siddi. You know, this is exactly what I mean. (Prepares for a stroke). you let everyone take you for a ride.

SIDDI:
Oh yeah?

FRISSI:
(Changes his mind). I was lying about that.

SIDDI:
Are you now!

FRISSI:
Jesus Christ, Siddi. Like someone can just pick up a dame by sending her a Morse signal across the harbour? ´Mean, you´re impossible, mate! Someone is having it off with your woman. And what do you do? Not a thing! You don´t even use the opportunity to cheat on her. Just in case. Just to be sure you are even. ´Mean what would you do if it was true? What would you do if she was with someone? Well? Would you do something? Come one? Jesus! (Strikes. Softly). What if she was doing it with me? (The ball drops into a pocket. He cheers in a low voice). Yess!

SIDDI:
With you?

FRISSI:
Aha …

SIDDI:
Is she?

FRISSI:
No! I mean: NO! I´m only saying, what if? You know? What if? you know. What if that was the case? (Strikes. The ball touches other balls, then bounces off the cushion, settling behind the other balls). Hah! I managed to snooker you there. your turn.


© Hávar Sigurjónsson, 2001.

Translated by Vera Júlíusdóttir.


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