The National Theatre of Iceland

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The NTI has been a leading institution of the Icelandic theatre scene since the formal opening on April 20th 1950.

Today the theatre has five separate venues: the Main Stage (Stóra svidid, 500 seats), the  Black  Box (Kassinn, 140 seats), the Small Stage for Children (Kúlan, 80 seats), The Puppet Theatre Attic (Bruduloftid, 70 seats) and The Theatre Cellar (Leikhúskjallarinn, 100-120 seats).  

With its varied selection of different productions, The National Theatre endeavours to stimulate interest in theatre and the dramatic arts while encouraging Icelandic playwrights in their writing and supporting the development of other dramatic creations.
The NTI stages around 20-30 productions each season (new productions, re-premieres, co-productions and guest performances), comprising a varied repertoire of new Icelandic works, new foreign works, Icelandic and foreign classics, musicals, dance pieces, puppet theatre and children's productions. The theatre stages around ten new productions each year, and also collaborates with independent theatre and dance groups on new productions. 

The NTI is located in the historical centre of Reykjavik. The building itself, designed by state architect Gudjón Samúelsson, was the architect's vision of the theatre as a Palace of Elves, with reference to ancient Icelandic belief that the elves live inside rocks, and that incidentally humans can enter their colorful world of plenty, dance and song. 

The National Theatre of Iceland belongs to the Icelandic nation and is funded by the Icelandic Government's Ministry of Education, Science and Culture.

The artistic director of The National Theatre is Mr. Ari Matthíasson.

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Season 2017-2018

The National Theatre's season 2017-2018 will feature many exciting and ambitious productions. First class artists will create numerous funny, challenging and fascinating productions, all with their own strong and individual appeal to theatregoers.

New Icelandic plays relevant to contemporary issues are prominent in the programme, along with new prize-awarded plays from other countries. A new Icelandic musical will have its premiere, as will a new dramatization of a classic masterpiece. The theatre also features diverse productions for children of all ages. The National Theatre will have cooperation projects with various theatre groups, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, The Iceland Academy of the Arts and Iceland Airwaves.

The National Theatre endeavours to make art accessible to as many as possible, for instance by inviting preschoolers to the theatre, taking productions on the road, broadcasting a performance on national television and offering subscriptions at a very reasonable price. On the theatre's new website theatregoers can access electronic playbills with various information, photos and videos.

Stóra sviðið (The Main Stage)

The National Theatre's first premiere on the Main Stage will be Óvinur fólksins (Enemy of the People) by Henrik Ibsen, a new dramatization by Una Þorleifsdóttir and Gréta Kristín Ómarsdóttir, directed by Una. Ibsen's widely famous drama is very relevant in our time and age and here it is explored from a novel point of view, resulting for instance in some changes of the traditional gender roles.

A new Icelandic drama, Risaeðlurnar (The Dinosaurs), will have its premiere in October. The play is written by moviemaker Ragnar Bragason, who is also director. The Dinosaurs is a tragicomic and intense drama about a small nation in a big world, and it is also the final instalment in Ragnar's highly entertaining theatre-trilogy about hidden corners in Icelandic society.

It is certainly newsworthy when an Icelandic play is staged for the second time, and this will happen at Christmas, when Ólafur Haukur Símonarsson's powerful drama Hafið (The Sea), directed by Sigurður Sigurjónsson, has its premiere. Hafið was first staged in 1992 and later a movie based on the play and with the same name became immensely popular. Ólafur Haukur has rewritten this confrontational family drama springing directly from Icelandic reality.

On the occasion of the playwright, writer, poet and songwriter Ólafur Haukur Símonarson 70 year birthday in 2017, a concert with his popular songs, performed by the actors of The National Theatre, will be held on the Main Stage in October, under the name Eniga Meniga .

Next February a blast of fun will be had on the Main Stage with the premiere of Slá í gegn (Make It to the Top), a new Icelandic musical, written and directed by Guðjón Davíð Karlsson, built around popular and treasured songs by the Icelandic band Stuðmenn. The production is a fast-paced and colourful musical and a tribute to the music of Stuðmenn, who have entertained and enthralled the nation for over four decades.

Svartalogn (Breezeless) is a new dramatization of Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir's novel by the same name, written by Melkorka Tekla Ólafsdóttir and directed by Hilmir Snær Guðjónsson, which will open on the Main Stage in April. This fascinating drama shows how different women struggle with rejection and obstacles, the fight with the subversive powers of the human soul – and the unexpected possibilities in life. The music is by the Czech Academy Award winner Markéta Irglová.

Kassinn (The Black Box)

While new, Icelandic productions are prominent on the Main Stage this winter, the Black Box features translated contemporary plays. The season starts with a new, awarded French play that has taken the world by storm, Faðirinn (The Father), a tragic farce by Florian Zeller, directed by Kristín Jóhannesdóttir. Faðirinn is an unusual and poignant drama about a sensitive issue, full of pain and humour.

The drama Efi (Doubt) by John Patrick Shanley, directed by Stefán Baldursson, premiers in the Black Box in January. The play has won a number of awards as the drama of the year, among them the Pulitzer, the Tony, the Drama Desk and the Obie Awards after its premiere in New York. Efi is a riveting drama about the borders in interaction between people, distrust, suspicion and heartbreaking uncertainty.

Reruns of popular productions

A few popular productions from recent years will be restaged this season.

The hugely popular Með fulla vasa af grjóti (Stones in His Pockets), premiered in the year 2000 and restaged in 2012, will have a rerun early in this season. The number of nights is limited to 10 and sold out in the blink of an eye. The last show will be broadcast live on national television, RÚV, and everybody in the country will have a chance to enjoy this great production.

Two hits from last year's season in the Box will be restaged.

Tímaþjófurinn (Thief of Time) by Steinunn Sigurðardóttir, dramatized by Melkorka Tekla Ólafsdóttir and directed by Una Þorleifsdóttir, opens in September. Steinunn's extraordinary love story takes on a new life in this unusual and fascinating production, which had five nominations to The Icelandic Performing Arts Awards Gríman and was incredibly well received.

Maður sem heitir Ove (A Man Called Ove) by Fredrik Backman, directed by Bjarni Haukur Þórsson, was sold out every night last season, then went on tour and was staged all over the country. Sigurður Sigurjónsson was nominated to Gríman for his performance in this extremely funny and poignant Swedish monologue. The play will be restaged for a few nights in the beginning of 2018.

Productions for children

 The National Theatre prides itself on staging productions for children and families, which appeal to young people of different ages. The National Theatre wants to actively introduce children to the world of theatre, as it can, along with the pure joy of a seeing a stage play, stimulate emotional maturity and strengthen our abilities to face life and our emotions.

A new, Icelandic musical for the whole family, Fjarskaland (Far-away Land) by Guðjón Davíð Karlsson, directed by Selma Björnsdóttir, was a big hit last season and will reopen on the Main Stage. Fjarskaland is a buoyant musical for the whole family, with captivating music by Vignir Snær Vigfússon. The storyline is about an exciting and dangerous mission into the land of fairytales.

Two new productions will be staged in Kúlan (The Sphere), both directed by Björn Ingi Hilmarsson. Oddur and Siggi is a lively, funny and boyishly sincere play about personal interaction, suitable for children between 9-12 years old. The director and the actors write the play together. It will open in Ísafjörður in October and will also be staged in other parts of the country before making its way to Reykjavík. Ég get (I can) by Peter Engkvist is a lyrical production intended for 2-5 years old children, an entertaining theatre show for children who are getting to know the world.

As usual The National Theatre invites kindergartners to the theatre to see Sögustund (Story Hour), this time a fairy tale created by the puppet master Bernd Ogrodnik. Two older, widely popular productions will also be on the programme, Pétur og úlfurinn (Peter and the Wolf) by Bernd Ogrodnik in Brúðuloftið (The Puppet Attic) and Leitin að jólunum (The Search for Christmas) by Þorvaldur Þorsteinsson in Leikhúsloftið (The Theatre Attic).

Cooperation projects

The National Theatre participates in various cooperation projects this season.

Smán (Disgraced) by Ayad Akhtar, directed by Þorsteinn Bachmann, opens in Kúlan on September 11th, in cooperation with the theatre group Elefant. Smán has won many awards for stage play, a combustible exploration of self-identity and self-image in our contemporary multi-cultural society. It premiered in USA in 2012.

The National Theatre continues our rewarding and fun collaboration with the stand-up comedians group Mið-Ísland and the improvisation group Improv Ísland .

Stríð (War) is a major cooperation project of The National Theatre and Iceland Symphony Orchestra, by artist Ragnar Kjartansson and composer Kjartan Sveinsson, who have so far created two stage productions for the Volksbühne theatre in Berlin. Stríð will premiere on the Main Stage in May, when the artist and the composer, along with an actor and a symphony orchestra, will create a unique theatre experience.

The National Theatre will also work with the music festival Iceland Airwaves, staging a concert with Megas on the Main Stage on November 2nd, under the title Mösterið logar.

The drama Aðfaranótt (The Eve) is the graduation project of the Performing Arts department of the Iceland Academy of the Arts, written by Kristján Þórður Hrafnsson and directed by Stefán Jónsson. It opens in Kassinn in May, when eight young actors graduate from the academy. Aðfaranótt is an intense study of the various manifestations of aggressiveness in social interaction; a powerful stage play about darkness and light, full of unexpected, sharp wit. 

Recent productions

Enemy of the People ( Óvinur fólksins ) by Henrik Ibsen. Adaptation: Gréta Kristín Ómarsdóttir and Una Thorleifsdóttir. Director: Una Thorleifsdóttir. Main Stage, September 2017.

The Elves Palace (Alfahollin) by and directed by Thorleifur Örn Arnarsson. Main Stage, April 2017.

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The House (Húsid) by Gudmundur Steinsson. Director: Benedikt Erlingsson. Main Stage, March 2017.

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Faraway Land ( Fjarskaland ) by Gudjón Davíd Karlsson. Director: Selma Björnsdóttir. Main Stage, January 2017.

Othello by William Shakespeare. Director: Gísli Örn Gardarsson. Main Stage, December 2016.

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A View from the Bridge (Horft frá brúnni) by Arthur Miller. Director: Stefan Metz. Main Stage, September 2016.
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Djöflaeyjan - Devil's Island by Einar Kárason. Adapted by Atli Rafn Sigurdarson, Melkorka Tekla Ólafsdóttir and the ensemble. Director:Atli Rafn Sigurdarson. Main Stage, September 2016.
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The Thief of Time ( Tímathjófurinn ) by Steinunn Sigurdardóttir. Adapted by Melkorka Tekla Ólafsdóttir. Director: Una Thorleifsdóttir. Black Box, March 2017. Pdf for further information.

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Good People (Gott fólk) by Valur Grettisson. Adapted by Valur Grettisson and Símon Birgisson. Director: Una Thorleifsdóttir. Black Box, January 2017.

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A Man Called Ove (Madur sem heitir Ove) by Fredrik Backman. Director: Bjarni Haukur Thorsson. Black Box, September 2016.

Segulsvid - Magnetic Field by Sigurdur Pálsson. Directed by Kristín Jóhannesdóttir. Premiered at The National Theatre of Iceland, Black Box, 2015.

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The Woman at 1000° - Konan vid Thúsund grádur by Hallgrímur Helgason. Directed by Una Thorleifsdóttir. Premiered at The National Theatre of Iceland, Black Box, 2014.

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The Crucible - Eldraunin by Arthur Miller. Director: Stefan Metz. Premiered at The National Theatre of Iceland, Main Stage, 2014.

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Independent People - Sjálfstaett fólk by Halldór Laxness. Directed by Thorleifur Örn Arnarsson. Premiered at The National Theatre of Iceland, Main Stage, 2014.

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Karitas by Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir, adapted by Ólafur Egill Egilsson and Símon Birgisson. Directed by Harpa Arnardóttir. Premiered at The National Theatre of Iceland, Main Stage, 2014.

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Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Directed by Benedict Andrews. Premiered at The National Theatre of Iceland, Main Stage, 2012.

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King Lear - Lér konungur by William Shakespeare. Directed by Benedict Andrews. Premiered at The National Theatre of Iceland, Main Stage, 2011.

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Utan gátta - Off Target by Sigurdur Pálsson. Directed by Kristín Jóhannesdóttir. Premiered at The National Theatre of Iceland, Black Box, 2008.

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Touring

The NTI often tours its productions around Iceland and many productions have also toured abroad, most recently Othello at the Eurokontex.sk 2017 Festival in Bratislava (2017), Gerpla at The Bergen International Festival (2010), Shimmer the Silver Fish at international children festivals in Sweden and Russia (2010 and 2011), The Sea Museum at the Centre Dramatique National d'Orléans and the Théâtre de Gennevilliers in France (2009 and 2010), Peer Gynt at the Ibsen Festival in Oslo (2006), Barbican Centre in London (2007) and Bozar in Brussels (2008), The Green House in the Faroe Islands (2006) and Kitchen by Measure at the Royal Danish Theatre (2006).

Eurokontex

Othello at the Eurokontex.sk 2017 

Theatre Awards

The National Theatre of Iceland has won several theatre awards. Ever since the establishment of The Icelandic Theatre Award Gríman in 2003, the theatre and its artists have won many Gríman awards, including Best Production for Macbeth (2013), King Lear (2011), Off Target (2009), Metamorphoses, co-produced with Lyric Hammersmith and Vesturport (2008), Peer Gynt (2006) and Things are Going Great (2004).

Young Audiences

Young audiences at The National Theatre of Iceland, pdf.

Artistic Directors of The National Theatre from 1950

  • 1949-1972   Mr. Guðlaugur Rósinkranz
  • 1972-1983    Mr. Sveinn Einarsson 
  • 1983-1991     Mr. Gísli Alfreðsson 
  • 1991-2005    Mr. Stefán Baldursson 
  • 2005-2015    Ms. Tinna Gunnlaugsdóttir 
  • 2015-              Mr. Ari Matthíasson