When do the Danes say no? When it comes to their men, the answer is: never! They are up for anything. But before you think I am about to write ‘Fifty Shades of Gregers’, I had better explain what I mean.
Danish men, in my experience, will do anything for a laugh. They are good sports. If there’s a silly sketch at a party, they’ll happily don a wig and lark about. I know this to be true because every year I make good use of their willingness to ‘do anything’ in my Crazy Christmas Cabaret shows. And now here I am, putting the finishing touches to my script for this year’s show, ‘Smartacus’, and I am still desperately trying to think of a good way to make use of those never-say-no Danes. After 30 years of writing the shows, I have to admit I’ve got writer’s block.
In the CCC, my annual comedy musical at Tivoli, I always include a moment when the actors involve a member of the audience in one of the scenes. Some people think this person is a plant – a member of the theatre company – but they are not. Why? Because it is much more fun for the audience and for us. It is the moment when anything can happen!
Recently I went to see a comedy in London’s West End, ‘One Man, Two Governors’. It was really good, but then a woman in the audience was selected to help them out. The audience held their collective breath with anticipation … until she was squirted head-to-foot in white foam by a fire extinguisher. At that moment we knew she was a plant, and indeed, she took a bow at the end of the show. I felt oddly cheated. Perhaps it was just me? The man beside me shrugged and said he didn’t believe for one minute she could have been a real member of the audience anyway.
English audiences can be more cynical than their Danish counterparts. My CCC audiences are 98 percent Danes and go with the flow, leave their brains on the train and arrive at Glassalen ready to have a laugh. My ‘victims’, both men and women, have over the years been subjected to all sorts of crazy situations. (The women are good sports too, but we rarely choose them because it is harder to make them look foolish.)
In one show, I created a ‘Hygge Torture’. The victim was forced to sit in a Jacobsen ‘egg chair’ under a PH design lamp while the villain pumped him for information. When he didn’t speak, the Hygge Torture got worse! The victim was made to drink Gammel Dansk. When that didn’t work, candles were lit, a case of beer was plonked at the victim’s feet and he was threatened with watching the full DVD box set of ‘Matador’. Yes: Hyper-Hygge! In ‘Tarzan, King of the Swingers’, we dressed the victim as a gorilla and he danced ‘Hot Stuff’ with the other actor-gorillas. In ‘Dracula’, our willing Dane was asked to help a fellow Dane, Dr van Helsingør from Elsinore, drive a stake through the heart of the lovely vampire while she lay alluringly in her coffin.
When I produced the first CCC in 1982, I was told Danes would be too reserved to join in with our crazy English fun. How wrong could they have been! Sixty shows a year and 30 years later, not once has a chosen member of the audience refused to come on stage. Indeed for some, it has become the part they look forward to the most. I receive emails from fans asking me to take their cousin/father/ex-husband on stage because of a birthday/an anniversary/ need for revenge.
So back to this year’s show, ‘Smartacus’. What shall I do? How do I break my writer’s block? Should I ask my victim to strip down to a loincloth and fight as a gladiator in the arena? Should I put a price tag around his neck and try to sell him to his wife in the audience as a house slave? Possibly. One thing I do know is that, whatever idea I come up with, my Danish volunteer will be happy to join in and make a fool of himself. So I say ‘Hooray’ for the Danes who can’t say NO!
I’ve just had a great idea. My victim could be invited on stage and come face to face with the Roman courtesan, Nymphomania, and then … no. I won’t tell you. See you at Tivoli!