My name is Nanna Gunnars and I graduated from BA (Hons) European Theatre Arts in 2012. I still look back on my years at Rose Bruford College fondly, and am so happy I got to know my incredible classmates, many of whom I’ve collaborated with since graduation, and was encouraged to devise and create my own work on the course.
Right after graduation I was a bit unsure about what to do. I dived into every open call and audition I could find, giving me a somewhat varied, but sporadic performance experience. Although I managed to be a part of some incredible shows, after a short while I realised that I would rather be creating my own work than relying on others to employ me, and I would need to find my own platform to present it. Luckily, this is something that ETA encourages you to do, so I had the tools to do it.
In 2016, I created the arts company Huldufugl with my partner, Owen Hindley, and we set up a couple of performances in London before moving to Iceland. His background is in engineering, programming, sound and lighting design, so not the obvious choice for a theatre duet company. We didn’t have a set plan of what we wanted to do, all we knew was that we wanted to create something.
I am passionate about immersive theatre, and as it turned out, Owen is an excellent partner in helping to create the design, sound and music as well as marketing material – basically all of my weak spots. For different projects, because they vary so much, we take on other collaborators as necessary. Everything from year-quarterly projects such as the immersive party-style Poetry Brothel Reykjavík, to visuals and set designs for one-off concerts.
The first large scale project we created was an outdoors artistic labyrinth for Culture Night in Reykjavík called The Maze of Yggdrasil. The maze was 370 square metres and filled with artistic installations, live music, film screenings, dancing, circus and more, from 24 contributing artists. This installation was open for a month and received 3000 visitors.
A year later we developed a short script I had written into a virtual reality theatre piece called Kassinn (In English: A Box In The Desert). In Kassinn, one audience member at a time experiences a 20-minute virtual reality performance, that includes a live actor. Kassinn was also presented at Culture Night, but we wanted to perform it in other places too. I thought to myself, “if only there was a Fringe festival in Iceland”. Long story short, I decided to create one, so the Reykjavík Fringe Festival (RVK Fringe) was born in 2018.
Running the RVK Fringe both gave me the opportunity to present my own work, and help other artists in the same position, artists that have been struggling to find a stage and get their work seen in Iceland. A Box In The Desert has spent the majority of last year on tour, and so far has been performed in Stockholm, Berlin, Brighton Fringe, London, Los Angeles and San Diego Fringe, with more planned dates in Asia and Australia next year. We’ve been lucky to have sold out shows wherever we go (the blessing and the curse of having one audience member at a time) and managed to pick up good reviews and some awards. Huldufugl is also currently collaborating on a brand new show with another ETA & American Theatre Arts graduate company Hikapee, to be ready in 2020.
In the meantime Reykjavík Fringe has blossomed, and this year it has doubled in size. 100 acts from 25 countries took part in the week-long festival in 2019, performing over 250 times in 20 venues. The festival has joined the Nordic Fringe Network, and aims to help local acts go global. Artists can apply for up to 8 festivals in 6 countries with one application; this year we organised a Nordic Season at Brighton Fringe, sending acts from 2018 to perform there.
My time at Rose Bruford really opened my eyes to all the possibilities out there, and all the various sides of performance art. My ideas of theatre before going to Rose Bruford were very narrow-minded, but European Theatre Arts truly helped me think outside of the box. Where I am right now has taken a while and a lot of hard work, but I feel that all the hands-on experience I gained from Rose Bruford has helped a lot, and my advice to students would simply be to take chances. Create your own work, collaborate with other artists, contact your dream venue, invite your favourite critics, dream big and just go for it!
The Maze of Yggdrasil – credit Kristina Petrosiute /
Kassinn / A Box In The Desert – Huldufugl
A Box In The Desert tour poster – Huldufugl