If you’re a hen, is it better to run around with your head chopped off or jump off a cliff without wings?
That question, since details about pretty much everything else absolutely cannot be revealed upon penalty of massive shame, may or may not be answered during the annual theater performance spoofing the past year’s local events Friday and Saturday night at Huset. The performances are part of a packed weekend of events during the annual eight-day Solfestuka festival welcoming the return of the sun to Longyearbyen after four months.
This year’s show has a title that translates in English to “Wow – A New Coal Age! (Or Is It Going The Way Of The Coal Hen?)” While there is no actual English equivalent for the Norwegian idiom used, it basically refers to a hen under the axe.
As for the coal reference – well let’s just say mining hasn’t been a humorous topic in Svalbard during the past year. But that doesn’t mean the performers won’t find a way to inject some.
The absurdly long title is essentially the result of a political compromise, said Kristin Furu Grøtting, a member of the Longyearbyen Community Council who also happens to be among those who will be on stage.
“We couldn’t decide which one to use, it was a 50-50 split, so we combined them,” she said.
Like a hen, just being on stage makes a person vulnerable, said Kari Renate Nilsen, a Vega resident who is spending a week in town to direct the performances.
“It’s almost like they’re jumping off a cliff without security and hoping they’ll get wings before they land,” she said.
Nilsen, who directors a variety of professional and community performances nationwide, said a show with eccentric themes like coal hens means the actors have to be bigger than life.
“I get them to act more dramatic, more gestures,” she said. “Every actor has an instrument, which is their body, and shapes characters.”