VÖGEL IM TODESKAMPF
(BIRDS IN DEATH THROES)

By Elías Snćland Jónsson

Nobody knows why Bror shot his father.
The boy is taken to the psychiatrists,
but they can't make sense
of his confused stammering.

Sista, Bror's sister, who often protected him
from their father's attacks, returns home
from the United States.

In her recollections of their
dominant father she
remembers with horror
how he abused her
sexually many times.

She needs to talk to Bror
in order to understand what has happened.
Her weak and enduring mother can be of no help.

With BIRDS IN DEATH THROES
Elías Snćland Jónsson wrote
a thrilling play
about violence and abuse in the
family, that deserves special attention in these days.
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Samuel Lucas Kübler as Bror


12TH MARS 1999, The Tyrant's Deadly Dance.

"Vögel im Todeskampf" war first performed at the
"Theater Junge Generation" in Dresden, Germany, in April 1999.
The author answered the following questions from the
theater staff about the play:

Q: Why do you especially write for children and young people
and what subjects are of interest to you?
A
: I have written six novels (and one play) for children and young people,
but so far only one novel and two plays for the general public. In many respects
I find the first 15-20 years in a persons life to be the most important; it is the time
of personal discovery and development, of learning - often painfully - about love and life.
This makes the years of youth an interesting period to write about. In my novels I
usually write about young people who have to face difficult choices in their
early life and make important decisions that may determine their future.
In most cases the setting is realistic and contemporary, but always quite different;
the drug scene in Reykjavík in my first novel, for example, the forbidding wilderness
of the Icelandic glaciers in the cold and dark winter in the next one, or the
exhilarating interaction with the our immense neighbours, the Great Blue
Whale, that I wrote about in my latest book - Lords of the Sea.

Q: Do you use any regional features in your play
that we, who do not know your country, have to pay attention to?

A: The characters, events, problems and dialogue in "Vögel im Todeskampf" are
of a universal human nature and could therefore be found in many societies. This is
really a play that could be placed anywhere, at least in the western world.

Q: What was your intention to digest the subject of sexual abuse and misuse
of power within the family, and why did you use the cinematic flashback?

A: The terrible experience of the tyrant is really at the central core of the
history of this century. I found that the best way to examine this in human terms
in a play was to look at the deadly dance of the tyrant and his victims in the microcosm
of the family. I wanted to show how the root of all abuse, sexual or otherwise, is a
strong lust for having absolute power over other people and using it. But also to
explore the terrible effects the tyrant can have on the individuals under his control and
the different ways people react to tyranny. To use the flashbacks was a conscious
decision from the beginning, although I realised that it could make the
performance of the play more challenging. This is really how
memory works; some things that happen now prompt
people to remember unpleasant experiences from
their past. In this way the audience can also follow the
characters on their dramatic and painful journey of discovery.
My hope was to give the audience a thought-provoking theatrical experience.

Q: How did your journalistic experiences influence the play?

A: Having been a journalist for many years, writing about domestic
and international news, gave me some of the background for the play;
especially about the cruel forms abuse of power can take in the
family, but also of course in whole societies.

Q: What chances do you give the figures to get out of the cycle
of abuse and use, out of the victim-offender-spiral?
Do you give any figure any chance of all?

A: This is really a question about what will happen to the characters in the
play after the last curtain has fallen. I don't feel very comfortable speculating about
their development outside the play itself. But of course there are some clues to
their probable future in the text. The Sister and the Fiancee are especially
interesting in this respect; they are in a somewhat better position than
the Mother or Brother to make a conscious choice, so what will
it be? The clues are there and I would like the audience to make up their
own mind about this, without telling them any more about my conclusions than
I have put into the play.

Q: What are you working on?

A: At this moment in time I am working on a new play.
As it is still a work in progress I am not as yet able to tell you much
about it. Only that it is a contemporary play and examines the wide gulf
between people's intentions and realisations. As in "Vögel im Todeskampf"
a sudden tragic event brings the main characters, who are in their late twenties,
together for the first time in ten years. They feel compelled to remember the
feelings and dreams of their youth - and wonder "what if?" and "is it too late?"
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