June is Copenhagen’s best month. Summer, still in its infancy, hasn’t started resembling a disaster movie – yet. The foliage still has that freshness of spring. And perhaps most importantly … the people really are the happiest in the world. Every day is lived in wonder that life can really be this good, and in hope that the good weather will continue into the next month and their holidays (it never does).
Inhibitions at the door
Since 2013, Copenhagen Stage has been annually welcoming theatre-goers into these feel-good surroundings to enjoy a wide selection of domestic and international theatre at venues spread across the city. It is a time of carefree abandonment in the capital and the performers leave their inhibitions at the stage door to match the vitality on the streets.
Now in its sixth year, CPH Stage is steadily evolving, becoming increasingly experimental in its scope. Performance dance, with strong modern circus influences, is as common in the line-up as traditional theatre, and improvised, interactive pieces are all the rage – so much so, that the audience will soon have to start charging admission prices.
Danish in English
As ever, there is a strong line-up accessible to international audiences, and this special edition includes a guide to 49 of them – well over half of the 90-odd productions that comprise this year’s festival. But while previous festivals have included many foreign productions, the emphasis this year is very much on translating domestic offerings.
Available with English text are two of the past year’s most talked about Danish performances: the stunning Mungo Park production ’Manning is Free’, a biopic of the famed US transgender whistleblower, and a musical theatre adaptation of Charlie Chaplin’s first talkie, ‘The Great Dictator’. While an English-language version of Henrik Ibsen’s classic 1879 play ‘A Doll’s House’ is being performed in an actual Danish home.
Sure there are themes aplenty: from gender and identity, to dystopia and utopia, to post-colonialism and post-refugee crisis. But the most prevailing undercurrent of CPH Stage this year is inclusion: the festival’s willingness to share Danish theatre with the world.
RECOMMENDED BY CPH POST:
Whole in the Head
June 2, 16:00, June 3, 14:00; A Touch of Vintage, Badstuestræde 12, Cph K; 135kr; in English
Mike Leigh would probably love Scene 42’s production of ‘Whole in the Head’, a decidedly uncheery drama about a young woman who falls in love with a much older man – nothing wrong with that, we hear you cry – who discovers he might have Alzheimer’s.
Throw in a son who is the same age as his father’s new bride, and we have a compelling drama in which the characters seek to make sense of something beyond their control.
Jens Blegaa, who plays the father, is a well-known actor thanks to standout direction and performances for the CTC and Down the Rabbit Hole.
While Johanne Wang-Holm, who plays his lover, is the play’s author.
Mr Tesla Played
June 6-8, 17:30, June 9, 15:00; Teatret ved Sorte Hest, Vesterbrogade 150, Cph V; 100kr; in English
Back by popular demand for a third run is this production by Why Not Theatre charting the life of the inventor Nikola Tesla, an unrecognised hero who many regard as the true father of the electric age.
His drive, inventiveness and need to create are shown through a monologue in a very intimate setting, creating a close relationship between the audience and performer. It also shows what happens when an ambitious person is way ahead of his time.
The monologue has already been seen by many Copenhageners. Find out why they’re buzzing.
After all, as Why Not Theatre points out, ‘Mr Tesla Played’ … and electrified the world.
June 8, 17:00, 18:00 & 19:00; Copenhagen Muay Thai Bokseklub, Ragnhildgade 1, Cph Ø; free adm; in English
Forget Thomas Hearns vs Sugar Ray Leonard, the kind of fight everyone wants to see today invariably involves rappers, whether it’s a revival of the East Coast-West Coast rivalry, or a battle of words on the streets of Brooklyn.
But what if you could combine both of them and pitch the kung-fu kicks of Bruce Lee at the wise-ass speed of Eminem?
That’s the inspiration for ‘Punch Line’ as martial arts and rap come colliding together in spectacular fashion.
At the Copenhagen Muay Thai Bokseklub, the boxers’ punches and kicks and rap performers’ lyrics will fly off one another as they punctuate the air.
The result is a cacophonic tour-de-force like no other.
The Great Dictator
June 5-8, 20:00, June 2 & 8, 15:00; Nørrebro Teater, Ravnsborggade 3, Cph N; 75-395kr; text in English
Not everyone saw Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’ when it came out in 1940 – for understandable reasons. Even Britain came close to banning it – in line with their appeasement of Germany, which was ongoing when production started.
For Chaplin, it was his first talkie, but most of the truly memorable scenes wouldn’t look out of place in his earlier work, and adapter Nikolaj Cederholm has captured their magic in this staging, which has been a big success with Danish audiences and is now accessible to English-speakers.
It helps having talent, of course. Søren Pilmark (‘Downsizing’) is one of Denmark’s best known actors, while musical theatre supremo Cederholm is a master at rearrangement.
Manning is Free
No more performances; Betty Nansen Teatret, Frederiksberg Allé 57, Frederiksberg; 70-200kr; text in English
Chelsea Manning is this generation’s Nelson Mandela – imprisoned for 35 years for leaking confidential information about the American war machine, but fortunately released much earlier.
And now English-language theatre-goers have a chance to appreciate one of Denmark’s most raved-about productions for years – not least at a time when we can’t take freedom for granted.
CPH Culture was one of several media outlets to award Mungo Park’s production a six-star rating, applauding a “masterful” performance by Anders Budde Christensen in a 100-minute drama that “will not bore you – even for one second”.
Originally born as a male, Manning changed the world and herself – and who knows, maybe the way you think as well.
A Doll’s House
June 2, 13:00; Nørrebrogade 208, Cph N; 100kr; in English; SOLD OUT
Who said this year’s line-up at Copenhagen Stage was all modern circus and translations of modern Danish plays?
Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play is a classic of our time, and its position on gender roles feels as fresh today as it did back then.
This staging will take place in a real home – so just like ‘A Doll’s House’, which plays out in the home of the Helmers as the Norwegian family prepare to celebrate Christmas.
Unbeknown to the patriarch Torvald, his wife Nora secretly harbours dreams of self-fulfilment.
Fix & Foxy has already taken this production to Oslo and London – with great success. Are you going? Metoo.
(I could go on singing) over the rainbow
no more performances; Warehouse9, Halmtorvet 11, Cph V; 55kr; in English; fkalexander.com
Did you hear the one about the Germans, the Arabs and Judy Garland?
Is it Cabaret meets the Wizard of Oman? No, but close, as they underpin the three opening shows of this year’s Copenhagen Stage festival in the city’s fashionable meatpacking district.
The pieces include a meta level whereby they refer to former works and thereby challenge theatre as an artform.
In ‘(I could go on singing) over the rainbow’, the audience takes centre stage.
Hold hands with and gaze into the eyes of Scottish artist FK Alexander as she sings along to Judy Garland’s last ever performance of Over the Rainbow while the noise band Okishima Island Tourist Association to try their best to disturb the lullaby.
Presumably there’s a queue.
ALSO ACCESSIBLE TO ENGLISH SPEAKERS:
June 2, 19:00, June 3, 16:00; Dansekapellet, København Bispebjerg Torv 1, Cph NV; 135kr; non-verbal
Choreographer Stephanie Thomasen’s humorous dance piece examines the nature of belief. After all, religious or not, surely we all believe in something intangible, whether it’s love, peace or happiness, or the inevitability that humans will enter conflict.
June 2, TBC; Warehouse9, Halmtorvet 11B, Cph V; 135kr; in English/non-verbal
Choreographer Shaymaa Shoukry has merged two of her pieces into one: ‘The Resilience of the Body’ and ‘Portray’. The first, which questions the practicalities of modern life, is mainly dialogue, while the second, which lets go of the former’s inhibitions, is mainly physical.
June 2, 16:00; Teaterøen, William Wain Gade 11, Cph K; 135kr; in English
This is the story of Fireburn – a worker uprising on the Danish Caribbean island of St Croix in 1878, which led to the deaths of 200 people over three decades after the abolition of slavery. And to think it was all for a finely-ground white substance.
Mass – Bloom Explorations
June 2-3, 20:00; Space10, Flæsketorvet 10, Cph V; free adm; in English
The Recoil Performance Group presents an interactive, open-durational choreographic installation in which a symbiotic system composed of worms, plastic and a human poses eternal questions about decay, decomposition and death.
The Golden Dragon
June 2-3 & 5-6, 19:30, June 2, 13:00; Basement København, Enghavevej 42, Cph V; 100kr; in English
The Copenhagen International School of Performing Arts graduates welcome you to their Asian restaurant to sample from a menu listing the nine circles of ‘Dante’s Inferno’. The clientele are unforgettable and the coconut soup to die for.
June 2, 15:00; Teater V i Prøvehallen, Porcelænstorvet 4, Cph Valby; 140kr; in English
Translated into English for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017, this acclaimed Danish tale of existentialism in the classroom will make you address what really matters to you. Don’t miss this teenage take on the meaning of life.
June 2, 16:30, 17:30 & 19:30; Kvægtorvet, Halmtorvet 11, Cph V; 110kr; in English
This powerful Teater Får302 production explores inherent racism and the will to dominate. It is an intimate, playful and sincere discourse that uses both brutality and humour to explore the origins of racism.
Country of no Dreams
June 2, 16:00 & 22:00; Sort/Hvid, Staldgade 16-30, Cph V; 135kr; in English
Inspired by the 1967 French sci-fi comic Valérian et Laureline, two performers urge us to reach into our dreams to save the world. They are our saviours, they tell us, but it slowly transpires that the only one who can save the planet is ourselves.
June 2-3 & 7-9, 20:00; TBC after ticket purchase; 150kr; in English
Don’t forget your toothbrush or your sleeping bag on Københavns Internationale Teater’s nocturnal odyssey through the city centre. A light dinner and breakfast is included. Surrender to the unknown. Sleep – or perchance to dream!
June 2, 22:30; Teatret ved Sorte Hest, Vesterbrogade 150, Cph V; 145kr; in English
Six actors take to the stage – some of them familiar faces from the Copenhagen stage community – with no script, props nor costumes. But this isn’t improv – things are going to get serious and acutely felt by all.
Our Other Body
June 2, 15:00 & 21:00; Warehouse9, Halmtorvet 11, Cph V; 90kr; in English
Imagine what it must be like to sit in a cramped vehicle for days on end in your bid to find a new home. Two performers from Teater Fluks evoke the kinds of emotions refugees feel, often sitting in the dark and clueless of their whereabouts.
Men who think they are right
June 2, 18:00; Basement København, Enghavevej 42, Cph V; 80kr; in English
He lives in darkness – the man who thinks he is always right and within his right to behave as he chooses regardless of the damage he causes. We too sit in darkness – his unempathetic actions an onslaught on our senses.
Folkets All Out Choir
June 2, 14:30 & 17:30, Kvægtorvet, Halmtorvet 11, Cph V; free adm; in English
Take your average musical chorus and make them the star attraction. Throw in a few inanimate everyday objects – a carpet, iron, chainsaw – and some national flags, and let the storytelling and singing commence.
June 2, 16:00; Folketeatret, Nørregade 39, Cph K; 55kr; in English
This 2016 award-winning Danish drama is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia. A soprano opera singer leads us through a song-cycle as five human-sized puppets act out a compelling narrative barely visible through the dustclouds of despair.
June 2-3, 17:00, June 4, 20:00; Københavns Musikteater, Emblasgade 175, Cph Ø; 135kr; in English
We are all hungry. If it isn’t for food, it’s invariably warmth, money, love, drugs, alcohol, sugar, sex, shopping or social media. This lyrical solo performance takes us through a collage of images on a journey to the raw basics of this instinct.
The Urban Hunt
June 2, 18:00; Huset-KBH, Rådhusstræde 13, Cph K; 160kr; in English
This recent recipient of five stars from CPH POST questions whether we have the stomach to kill for our supper. The solo performer takes us hunting in the city for the likes of rabbits, squirrels and pigeons.
Becoming Human, Becoming Woman
June 3, 16:00, 17:15, 18:15 & 19:15; Teaterøen, William Wains Gade 11, Cph K; 160kr; in English
Pernille Rübner-Petersen stars in her own take on ‘The Little Mermaid’. It’s a reminder that Andersen’s heroine faced the same challenges as modern women in her quest for love – namely the imposed gender role of womanhood.
June 2, 20:00; Teaterøen, William Wains Gade 11, Cph K; 135kr; in English
The kids from the Akademiet for Moderne Cirkus (AMoC) are running amok, reinventing traditional circus with a more streetwise, less flamboyant take than the likes of Cirque du Soleil. Marvel as the aspiring students reach for the sky.
June 7, 14:00 & 22:00; Aveny-T, Frederiksberg Allé 102, Frederiksberg; 50-175kr; in English
In this multi-genre hybrid of documentary, electronic music, opera and other performance arts, returning soldiers recount how it feels to return to civvy street and be a stranger in their own family. Not for the faint-hearted, this is a walk on the wild side.
Sex in Situ
June 7, 20:00, June 8, 23:00; Sort/Hvid, Staldgade 26-30, Cph V; 135kr; in English
This performance piece by Teater Nordkraft serves us with a reminder that porn has blind-sided us to our true sexual nature and practices. Cum shots have clouded our perspective of the most natural thing in the world.
June 7, 20:00, June 8, 19:00; Warehouse9, Halmtorvet 11, Cph V; 90kr; in English
This 30-year celebration of the lesbian feminist theatre group Split Britches delves into their archives for some of their most classic observations on love, life, work and play, along with the politics of gender and sexuality.
June 3, 16:00, 17:15, 18:15 & 19:15; Teaterøen, William Wains Gade 11, Cph K; 150kr; in English
Running concurrently with ‘Becoming Human, Becoming Woman’ as part of Teaterøen’s monthly Teater Tapas is this dance fairy-tale performed to the rhythm of the new year speeches given by the Danish queen and Angela Merkel.
June 3, 13:00, 15:00 & 17:00; A-salen, Tordenskjoldsgade 10, Cph K; 100kr; in English
Prepare to be the star attraction! Join the KGL dance company Corpus on stage and interact with six professional dancers to create a unique show. Fall and they will help you find your feet.
June 7, 19:30, June 8, 20:00, June 9, 15:00 with supertitles, June 6, 22:00 in English; Husets Teater, Halmtorvet 9, Cph V; 50-210kr; text in English
Inspired by the Sylvester Stallone film, Morten Burian narrates and then acts in this politically-charged monologue about how modern Denmark has trampled on the underdog. Served by powerful imagery, this one is hard to forget.
The Greenlandic Man
June 2, 17:30 & 22:00, June 3, 15:00; Husets Teater, Halmtorvet 9, Cph V; 110kr; text in English
When urban living encroaches on our natural habitat, the results can be brutal and despairing. Take this journey (in Greenlandic with English supertitles) through painfully honest monologues and montages of music and dance.
June 2, 15:00 & 18:00; Operaen, Ekvipagemestervej 10, Cph K; 175kr; non-verbal
Three award-winning choreographers – including Alessandro Sousa Pereira from Dansk Danseteater – have been given free rein to make full use of the Opera House’s spacious stage to present innovative new performances.
June 2, 16:00 & 20:00, June 3, 14:00; Per Knutzons Vej 5, Cph K; free adm; non-verbal
This co-production by Glimt and Teatret Om reaches for the skies from the vantage point of a dockside crane. Expect aerial acrobatics, slackline dancing and live music in this search for new horizons in performance dance.
June 2, 18:00, June 2, 14:00; Per Knutzons Vej 5, Cph K; 120kr; non-verbal
The big tent is coming to one of the world’s smallest circus venues in which performers are so close you can smell them. Planck promises a “Twin Peakesque mix of rock ’n’ roll, black humour and death-defying stunts”.
Vanity of Modern Panic
June 6, 21:00, June 7-8, 17:00; Dansekapellet, Bispebjerg Torv 1; Cph NV; 135kr; non-verbal
The eternal quest to beat old age – how far are we prepared to go? Silicone-pumped bodies and botox-stiffened faces feature prominently, alongside Baroque powdered wigs, in this dance performance about our hunt for the perfect body.
The Great Paradox of Play
June 2, 15:00; Dansekapellet, Bispebjerg Torv 1, Cph NV; 135kr; non-verbal
Performing to a live electro-acoustic soundtrack, three magicians transform the stage into an illusory universe dedicated to play and magic with the use of 40 pillows. Forget about the rat race and give in to living a carefree existence.
June 2, 17:00; Teaterøen, William Wains Gade 11, Cph K; 135kr; non-verbal
We all breathe, and we all do it for the same reason – from the first choke until the last gasp, normally on a bed of some kind. Routinely, carefully, thankfully, deeply, heavily, noisily and frantically – it’s the one human activity we can all relate to.
June 3, 12:00, 15:00 & 18:00; Teaterøen, William Wains Gade 11, Cph K; 135kr; non-verbal
Take a journey to the heart of the sound process on the coat-tails of Location X’s triptych performance installation – a three-piece work of art inspired by choreographic research into the kinaesthetic process of making some noise!
One One One
June 9, 13:00; Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Kongens Nytorv 1, Cph K; free adm; non-verbal
The KGL group Corpus take on this interactive piece by Ioannis Mandafounis and Aoife McAtamney in which the dancers react to the movements of selected audience members sitting in their chairs. No show is the same!
June 2 & 6-7, 21:00; Ved Staldgade 35, Staldgade 35, Cph V; free adm; non-verbal
Ever felt your life is one long loop? From your daily grind to meglomaniacs invading Russia during the winter, Black Box Pangea and Rostra co-present a performance that depends as much on the audience’s circle of life as the performers’. No show is the same!