Following its opening year in the early 1980s, the annual English-language show Crazy Christmas Cabaret quickly became an institution.
The key to its success has been establishing a strong Danish audience, and that’s the first thing that strikes you upon entering Glassalen theatre in Tivoli. The vast majority of the audience seems to know one another, greeting one another like old friends – “That year went by quickly” – at what has become an annual tradition for many, many people.
The lady sitting to my right summed up the joy the show can bring. She didn’t stop laughing all night, repeating the jokes under her breath like Long John Silver’s parrot.
Her guffaws intensified upon the arrival of her clear favourites – founder Vivienne McKee and long-time dame Andrew Jeffers – even before they had said anything.
When you witness adulation like this, it really is commendable how a long-running comedy like this can bring so much mirth to so many. From the inventive sound effects to the outlandish costumes (how do they manage to change so quickly?), its imprint on the theatrical history of Denmark is undeniable.
Brilliance mixed with occasional banality
The central premise of ‘The Three Brexiteers’ was brilliant. Instead of wanting to leave Europe, the French heroes of this story wanted to leave Brittany.
This involved at some point going to Britain, the subject of the satire, where the Boris Johnson character (‘Duke of Bonkingham’, well impersonated by David Batseon) was introduced on a tripwire to great hilarity.
An ensuing game of Britain’s Got Talent in which Bonking Horace and his cronies were ‘splendidly beastly to some frightful commoners’ delivered some comic gold.
But overall, the plot was a bit weak. It involved a necklace with something like 12 diamonds, and then there were ten, or was it none? A little more simplicity might have enabled a shorter running time with less need for exposition.
Give the Spanish Inquisition their own show
Newcomer Kevin Kiernan-Molloy was a hoot, introducing a welcome Australian brogue to the proceedings, but even he was struggling in the final 30 minutes as eight actors juggled 30-odd characters in the climax. From his role as Amorous, the loved-up Brexiteer, to his prancing King Louis XIII, he brought great energy to the production.
Likewise Jefferson Bond, a stand-up comedian, started like a train … and a dame, affecting a wonderfully comical French accent that really brought the house down, and then some Beatlemania Scouse – because that’s the beauty of these productions; you really can go over-the-top with the voices. Together the pair rendered a particularly fine Spanish Inquisition, but perhaps they were underused.
Bond is a really good singer as well, and the strongest group number of the night was undoubtedly the adaptation of ‘Summer Lovin’’. When I say strongest, I mean musically pleasing, as the performance of Lady Marmelade, which ended the first act and was surprisingly reprised in the second, had to be seen to be believed. It was astonishing good.
Leaving a strong vocal imprint on both was the impressive Katrine Falkenberg, who it transpired had the best written role in the play thanks to some fine McKee ingenuity that saw her turn on her creator with the song ‘Diva’s Lament’.
More than in most previous productions, the cast were constantly flicking between their real selves and the 17th century characters, and in the final scene their Glassalen gripes reached a crescendo as they turned on the creator.
Laughter ensued, but as McKee authoritatively cried out: “Enough”, there was a palpable sense that the audience were firmly on her side, thinking as one: “You tell ‘em, Vivienne, you’re the one we came to see. We love you, and don’t ever try to leave us again.”
Recalling the woman to my right, I was reminded of Stephen King’s ‘Misery’.