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To Be Perfectly Frank | Times they are a-changin’
As most of the regular readers of these hallowed pages will know, I am what is called in this country a teatermand. This covers a multitude of sins but basically means somebody who is heavily involved in the theatre world in some way or another. However, I am perhaps rather different from my peers in that all my energy goes into amateur theatre. And not just any old amateur theatre, but the English-speaking variety in the shape of Copenhagen Theatre Circle (CTC).
Now, amateur theatre in Denmark has traditionally been patronisingly referred to as dilettantteater, in other words not just amateur but amateurish. Good citizens wishing to tread the boards − but without the time, inclination or perhaps talent to become professional actors − have often been given ‘suitable’ (i.e modest) premises by their local kommune and left to get on with it, in the certain knowledge that their activities will not tarnish the reputation of the professional theatre. For, as everyone knows, only the professionals have the skills and talent to perform theatre ‘properly’. They are the products of the theatre schools (and/or well-known theatre families) and therefore have been thoroughly indoctrinated into the ways of the Danish theatre scene.
But then theatre in any other language other than Danish does not fit very comfortably into such a cosy set-up. And in any case, the concept of the nature of amateur theatre varies enormously among different cultures. In the UK, for example, one finds a whole range of levels: from what one could truly call amateurish (even embarrassing) to some of the best theatre to be found anywhere. Being an amateur actor (or director, or stage manager) in the UK does not immediately label one as less than competent in the field, as it seems to do in Denmark.
This concept of amateur theatre has been exported to the four corners of the earth. There are English-language groups, for example, in pretty much all of the countries of western Europe. And once a year, a selection of these groups comes together at the Festival of European Anglophone Theatrical Societies (FEATS), where I can assure you the standard is usually sky-high and the performances are judged by a professional adjudicator. The CTC has won this festival twice and received various other awards, including best actor and best actress.
FEATS takes place in a different city each year. It has been staged as close to home as Hamburg (2005) and Stockholm (2008). But whereas the groups there were able to hire the large professional theatre necessary to stage the festival, at present it would be nigh on impossible to do that here in Copenhagen. Amateurs in a professional theatre? The very idea …
So is all lost? Not on your proverbial Nelly! Things are beginning to change, slowly but surely, and not least as a result of initiatives by certain Danish amateur groups. One such, Mastodonterne, aimed from the outset to present large-scale musicals of a high standard and has certainly lived up to its promises. It caused consternation among the Copenhagen theatre establishment a few years ago by collaborating with a professional composer to produce his musicals. Now it performs at Tivoli’s Concert Hall each year. And even though we, as an English-speaking group, have had to battle the worst manifestations of the integration mentality to show that we’re worthwhile, here too, there are silver linings. Now we can even look forward to the possibility of our hosting FEATS in a few years.
But of course, as you may have suspected, all this is just a lead-in to a plug for the CTC’s latest block-busting production, Tim Firth’s ‘Calendar Girls’! You’ll have seen the film some time ago, so why not now spend a paltry 140 kroner to see it live on stage at Krudttønden in Østerbro. It opened on October 3 and runs until October 13. Book your tickets at www.ctcircle.dk.