In Iceland: Day One (Post Two)–At the Theater to See Njála

(This post is by Miciah Foster, BMC class of 2019.)

Today we saw Njála, an interpretation of Njál’s Saga. The saga deals with curses, grudges, feuds, families, friends, and many, many enemies.

Shots of the creative process. Featured here is Unn's husband Hrut's failure to consumate his marriage due to his golden and useless phallus.
A glimpse of the creative process. Featured here is Unn’s husband Hrut’s failure to consumate his marriage due to his golden and useless phallus.
More from the creation process
More glimpses of the creative process.

The story is told in three main chunks, the first of which immediately allows the audience to identify with the separate plights of two women in what can be interpreted as a criticism of marriage. The second tells the tale of the burning of one of the tragic heroes; and the last is an account of the avenging of that same hero.

The aftermath of the feud between Gunnar and Njal's wives Hallgerd and Bergthora, respectively.
The aftermath of the feud between Gunnar and Njál’s wives, Hallgerd and Bergthora, respectively.
Njal as Jabba the Hutt
Njál as Jabba the Hutt.

The show premiered at the City Theatre in Reykjavik, one of two prominent theaters in Iceland. The shows here, as one of our Icelandic friends from RG (the arts college we visited) explained to us, are more fluid and abstract. This was very clear in the show we watched, which had striking auditory and visual elements. Rather than depict a betrayal or a fire or a battle, the actors portrayed the feelings of a betrayal or fire or battle and so on. They achieved this transference of emotions through music, costuming, and lighting. It was a truly awe inspiring performance that connected me to the history of the people of Iceland for the duration of those three hours.

The character map for Njal's saga.
The character map for Njál’s saga.

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