Interview with Kristín and Kari authors of Karma for Birds

04. Apr 2013


Karma for Birds premiered March 1st 2013 at the National Theatre of Iceland. The debut work of two young playwrights Kristín Eiríksdóttir and Kari Ósk Grétudóttir.

Kristín Eiríksdóttir (b. 1981) has in recent years made a prominent career as an author and a poet, with three published collections of poetry (2004-2008), a short story collection in 2010 and in 2012 her first novel, Hvítfeld - A Family Story, came out. Karma for birds is Kristín´s first play, her second play, Skríddu (Crawl!), premieres in April 2013 at the Reykjavík City Theatre.

Kari Ósk Grétudóttir is an artist and graduated with a B.A. in Fine Arts from The Iceland Academy of Arts in 2007. Karma for Birds is Kari´s first play.

About Karma for Birds

Karma for birds is a polemic play about the consequences of violence and tells the story of Elsa. Perhaps, she is a seventeen-year-old girl on sale, perhaps she is a middle-aged prostitute, or a homeless old woman, and maybe she is a 130-year-old Buddhist nun. Perhaps Karma for birds is happening right here and now, maybe it happens in all times everywhere...

PAI recently sat down with these two young women to talk about the ideology, the concepts and the inflammable subjects of their debut work...

You two have known each other for many years and Karma for birds your first joint work. Are you planning further co-operation projects?

We have been friends since we were teenagers and within close friendships a kind of universe of its own, often emerges. This universe is also a common data bank and a place of dialogue. Karma for birds is partly a product of this dialogue and since we can’t stop talking we will probably continue our co-operation.

We heard that you worked on this piece separately, in two countries, is that true? How did that work out for you?

A part of the play was written while Kristín was traveling in Southeast Asia and Karí was in Reykjavík. We used Skype a lot but also just threw texts back and forth between us via email. One of the great benefits of cooperating in writing is to be able to swap places and serve as each other’s editor. Mostly we agree though and sometimes even got second thoughts separately but at the same time.

Karma for birds has received great reviews, how to you feel about that, as this is your first theatre production? Did you expect these praises or do you think this is quite overwhelming (even a bit “sputnik-y”)?

We are pleased, of course. And happy that the National theatre takes the risk of staging a first play by authors, and one that is dealing with such a inflammable matter. We are grateful to the director, Kristín Jóhannesdóttir, for how she approached the production. The collaboration with her and everyone who worked on the play was an extremely rewarding process. It is important for us to have been able to participate, which is not a given when it comes to director/author collaboration.

In the play you are dealing with some difficult yet very important issues that are both local and global, such as prostitution, abuse, and women slave trade. Are these issues the most important ones for you as playwrights to address? If so why?

The topic of human trafficking is both very political and very social one and for that reason we chose to approach it on an artistic and psychological level. We wanted to speak with the audience through the body rather than feed them facts and reality distant from themselves. Everyone has some experience of abuse. Abuse is multifarious and can be found on so many levels in human relations. The imbalance of male and female qualities in a person is constantly expressed through either force or submission. The text of the play moves from the very familiar and supposedly innocent to the exaggerated, amplified version of the same. In that sense Karma for birds is a global piece, but unfortunately so are its topics: lack of love and disrespect for human life.

Did you do any research on these topics before you started your work?

Yes. And some of it just dropped in our laps. For example: doing internet research on prostitution and porn sets off an algorithm that fills our web surfer with spam trying to sell us brides or virgins. But some of our best research on human evil and misery tended to involve our own experiences.
These topics certainly are very urgent to address, both in order to shed a light on the subjection of women and to reveal myths on women, men have created throughout the centuries.

Do you think, as playwrights, a piece like Karma for birds can make a difference by handling these issues and giving a voice to all the women who have suffered through the ages by the suppression of men? Do you think your work is important on a global scale?

We consider the issue of cultural imbalance to be an inherited structure. It is not our agenda to attack anyone specifically. Culture is a web we’re all stuck in, made up of myths that can and should be exposed, refreshingly. In some cases, merely laughing might suffice, as with Schopenhauer’s theories on women. Pop-cultures’ entrapment of our sexuality and the habitual cruelty that is globally accepted is also laughable. But in order to really laugh we first have to navigate further, look straight down into that pit and confront the fear that runs the oppressive force and its victims. We believe it stems from the same root and if our audience can resonate with this for a while we are blessed.

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