Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir was born in late september, 1856, on a small farm in the north of Iceland. Over the course of a lifetime she became the leading suffragate in the country, one of the first women elected to a municipal, lectured and became one of the major powers behind the Kvennabladid (The Women‘s Paper) which survives to this day. To honour her, a group of dancers have gotten together at Tjarnarbíó.
The show mixes lecturing (via recorings), movement scenes, painting, Bríet’s own letters and music to create a truly unique biography. Several key moments of her life are played out on stage. Most notably is her first lecture, and by the using of clever staging and quotations, the women manage to convey just how big a step it was for a woman to hold a public lecture. We then move to her thirteen year marriage, and the founding of the paper.
This is where the show enters its best phase. Bríet’s own words are used to great effect. There is a moving tribute to how much the paper meant to her, the struggle when it felt like the whole was attacking her, including a aerial assault on a dancing figure, conducted by paper plane.
Then there is a reading of a letter, about the modern woman. The old line about standing on the shoulders of giants is apt, but the ending of the show tries to make us empaphetic to the giant. The future of the struggle for equality was clearly near to her heart and she wonders aloud about generations to come.
The four dancers come across as a true ensemble, everyone playing their part and even if there is a more dominant dancer, it doesn’t feel like there is a lead. For most of the play they are matching, 19th century outfits.
Making a biographical dance show about someone is tricky to put it mildly. In this brilliant little show we see a portrait of a complicated and dignified woman, to which we all owe a debt of gratitude to for her selfless work across a decade. This tribute should be staged widely, a must see. 4/5
Review written by Ingimar Sverrisson.
Bríet will be showing at Tjarnarbíó on Sunday 13th September. For more information on the production, visit here…