Sirkus Islands Circus Tent Reykjavik, Iceland Saturday, 13 December, 2014 19:20 Greenwich Mean Time
Setting the Tone
As the show starts, Maria and I settle into our seats with cups of glögg (spiced mulled wine), and the female ringmaster appears, sporting the traditional red and black outfit, top hat included. Of course, there’s very little traditional about this show, as we are about to find out.
The ringmaster asks the audience, “Is there anyone here who does not speak Icelandic?” A few of us tentatively raise our hands. “Look to your left or right,” she says. “This is your translator for the rest of the show.” The audience laughs. I don’t know whether or not she’s kidding.
Turns out, she’s not. After a short monologue (in Icelandic), during which, she explains to the audience how to appropriately applaud the performers (by clapping, cheering, and stomping), she introduces the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show!”
Well, I guess it is a burlesque show, I think to myself. But to my surprise, it is not scantily-clad women who appear from behind the curtain, but scantily-clad men! A handful of men in various stages of comical undress — sporting wigs, feather boas, and one wearing a dick-sock (there is no other word for it) strut their way around the stage to the raucous applause and laughter of the audience.
The Women Run the Show
In this performance, it’s clear who’s in charge. From the female ringmaster, to the sexualized performances of the men — including a lapdance for a (hilariously mortified) female audience member from a man dressed like one of the Yule Lads — to a darts-throwing lady taking the piss out of a male audience member. Watching the show reminded me of something I read in a magazine I picked up in Reykjavik — that the Icelandic women are interesting and the Icelandic men are just men. Of course, the men in this show were far from boring, but they did seem to cater more to a female audience — or perhaps an enlightened male one — than most burlesque-circus hybrids I’ve ever heard of (not that I’ve heard of that many…or any).
And how did this make me feel? Refreshed, to be honest. For once, it’s nice not to feel uncomfortable on the behalf of my gender, or to feel as if entertainment — especially “raunchy” entertainment — has to be at the expense of female integrity. Of course, the show isn’t exactly what one would call “wholesome”, but somehow its brand of crude humor feels original and interesting. And I’m attributing this to the role-reversal between the men and women of the show.
Not a One-Trick Pony
Skinnsemi did have a number of performances not involving sexual innuendo. There was a man stacking and climbing chairs, a woman on the trapeze, a hula-hoop dancer, a man dressed as James Bond performing with a cyr wheel, “dry-water” synchronized swimming, fire-eating, juggling, acrobatics, and all kinds of tricks you’d find at an ordinary circus.
Sirkus Islands was definitely one of the highlights of our trip — if not the highlight. Despite the fact that we didn’t understand Icelandic, it was easy to follow along and enjoy the physical comedy in Skinnsemi. Absolutely recommended.