70th anniversary of The National Theatre of Iceland –

cards and drawings by Thorbjørn Egner

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the official opening of The National Theatre of Iceland. It took place on the 20th of April 1950, on the First Day of Summer, and truly marked a turning point in Icelandic history and culture. This year‘s anniversary play is the popular children‘s play When the Robbers Came to Cardamom Town written by the Norwegian playwright and songwriter Thorbjørn Egner (1912–1990). It is dedicated to the 70-year history of children‘s shows in The National Theatre. The play premiered on the Main Stage in 1960 and is now staged for the sixth time.

On the occasion of the anniversary a micro-exhibition with cards and drawings by Thorbjørn Egner has now opened in the entrance hall of the Icelandic National Collection – which is also the highlight of the month in the National and University Library of Iceland. The material belongs to two private collections from the Theatre Museum of Iceland, now preserved in the National Library. On the one hand, the collection of Klemenz Jónsson actor and director (1920–2002), with the shelfmark Lbs 2019/57, and on the other hand the collection of Lárus Ingólfsson (1905–1981) actor and costume and stage designer, with the shelfmark Lbs 2019/58.

Klemenz was the first in Iceland to stage Egner‘s plays, When the Robbers Came to Cardamom Town and In the Forest of Huckybucky. During his career Klemenz directed restagings of the plays many times. The shows were a great success and Egner was so impressed by Klemenz‘s productions that he gratefully gave The National Theatre the royalties for his plays for a hundred years. Their families also developed friendship and relations, as can be seen in Egner‘s cards and greetings to Klemenz and his wife Guðrún Guðmundsdóttir (1928–2013). The cards are decorated with Egner‘s drawings, including various characters from his stories such as the robbers in Cardamom Town and the animals in the Huckybucky Forest. He himself was educated in art and illustrated his own books, as well as creating costumes, stage designs and posters for his plays, including for the initial productions of his works in The National Theatre of Iceland.

Most of Egner‘s drawings and cards, which are now on display in the Icelandic National Collection, belong to the private collection of Klemenz and date from 1961–1981. One card from 1962 belongs to the private collection of Lárus, with Egner‘s drawing of „the man on the farm“ In The Forest of Huckybucky, a role that Lárus played the same year in The National Theater‘s production of the story.

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