Polishing Iceland | Reykjavík Ensemble

Polishing Iceland is a kind of light-hearted revue or a philosophical, lighty-political psychic cabaret about cultural conflicts, keys and words, which, as everyone knows, is not enough to describe what we experience, let alone how we feel. Pálína Jónsdóttir’s elaborate direction renders the text effortlessly into a composition of choreographed, realistic and expressive gestures that are played out in a simple set, consisting of a table and a raft, that her agile actors transformed into all required situations
— Þorgeir Tryggvason, Morgunblaðið: Ferðsaga pólfara


Polishing Iceland is a physical theatre performance conceived and directed by Pálína Jónsdóttir, based on an autobiographical short story collection by Polish author Ewa Marcinek. The play explores the experience of a Polish immigrant finding her way in Iceland. Pálína Jónsdóttir’s direction turns confusion into comedy, fear into action. Through sensual and surreal physical theatre, Polishing Iceland conveys a universal story about looking for human connection and understanding beyond words. The production features humorous and deeply touching narration with translingual dialogues in English, Icelandic, and Polish.

Polishing Iceland was selected as one of the best theatre performances of 2022 by the theatre critiques of Morgunblaðið Newspaper.


The inspiration for the book was my personal experience, the anecdotes I’ve heard, and people I met,” explains the author. “Ísland pólerað belongs to the creative non-fiction genre. It is an autobiographical story in which I experiment with poetry and change some details. This is my favourite writing style.
Ewa Marcinek


Writer: Ewa Marcinek
Dramatization and direction: Pálína Jónsdóttir
Dramaturg: angela rawlings
Cast: Magdalena Tworek, Juliette Louste, Pétur Óskar Sigurðsson
Music and sound design: Anna Halldórsdóttir
Light design: Juliette Louste
Producer – Reykjavík Ensemble International Theatre Company

Marketing and production team: Ewa Marcinek, Pálína Jónsdóttir, Bryndís Jónatansdóttir, Claire Paugam, David Nelson, Emma-Line Solander Aubry, Kim Wagenaar, Martyna Daniel, Michael Godden, Naila Zahin Ana, Rakel Snorradóttir

Ewa Marcinek comes from Poland. She studied cultural studies and creative writing in Wrocław, but it wasn’t until she moved to Iceland in 2013 that her writing career began. 

I started writing Ísland polerað during a literary workshop for international women organized by the Reykjavík City Library and UNESCO City of Literature, hosted by a Canadian-Icelandic poet, Angela Rawlings. Angela encouraged me to write in English and play with Icelandic, a  language that I had just started learning.” 

In 2015, together with a group of international writers, Ewa co-founded Ós Pressan, a collective and publishing house dedicated to authors-immigrants, just like her. Four years later, in 2019, together with Pálína Jónsdóttir, an Icelandic theatre director, they initiated Reykjavík Ensemble, an international theatre company. In March 2020, the group staged Polishing Iceland, a play based on the book. Polishing Iceland–one of the best performances of the year according to critics of Morgunblaðið newspaper–will return to the stage this autumn and travel to Poland, to the Shakespeare Theatre in Gdańsk for the international festival The Treasure Iceland. 

Ewa Marcinek works as a manager and writer at the Reykjavík Ensemble theatre company. Apart from Polishing Iceland, her literary works were presented in the Opening Ceremony and I will always return performances. The short film Liminality, by Pálína Jónsdóttir, mixing Ewa’s poem with music of Halldór Smárason is currently in post-production. Ewa teaches creative writing in Iceland (Reykjavík City Library, LungA School, Gröndalshús) and in Poland (Saint Jadwiga Foundation, DraBiNa project). In 2021, the author was a columnist for the oldest Icelandic literary magazine, Tímarit Máls og Menningar, and in 2022, she received Listamannalaun, a prominent artistic grant from the Icelandic Ministry of Education, Science and Culture in the field of literature.