A winter wonderland fast becoming a tradition
On the face of it, Old King Cole might not be all that he seems. The merry old soul can trace his origins back to a very short nursery rhyme back in the early 1700s, which was presumably written to warn children of men who smoke pipes. He enjoys a daily fiddle, and he ends up marrying a man.
But last Saturday afternoon, actor Raymond Shinn – fresh from his run in the autumn as Felix in an ‘Odd Couple’ adaptation that had a very long name – breathed warm gusto into the old king’s bones, embodying the pantomime spirit the Copenhagen Theatre Circle has been steadily cultivating at the Krudttønden theatre in Østerbro over three consecutive winters.
Once again, it was another infectiously upbeat performance from the amateur theatrics group, and it was evident from the reaction of the many children and adults in attendance that the CTC has nurtured a formula for success that it can repeat again and again. Dare we say it, but a trip to the CTC panto is on the verge of becoming a winter tradition.
For the children, it was an absolute riot. In fact this writer knows a nine-year-old Danish girl with not a word of English (well maybe a few Anglo Saxon monosyllables) who was delighted to come back for a second time, although the free sweets, encouragement to shout out whenever you please and memory of the intimacy of the 100-capacity theatre probably played a small part.
Central to their enjoyment was Martin Popplewell, a superb villain in last year’s ‘Aladdin’, who this time wore a series of outrageous frocks to play the dame, Dotty Dumpling. The affection on the faces of the children as they mingled with him after the show was impossible to deny. He lit up the stage, and then they lit up the whole room.
Cast as Dotty’s daughter, Alice Presencer also shone as the love interest. The singing in these productions is always variable, but Presencer delivered with a conviction that was sometimes lacking in the others. Her duet with the principal boy (a personable Rebecca Vaa) – an inspired version of Justin Bieber’s ‘Boyfriend’ – was definitely the musical highlight.
With Debbie Taylor at the helm, this was a slicker production than before. The dance arrangements were well rehearsed and fun, the lighting effects mesmeric at times and the scene changes lightning fast.
In previous years, some of the changes have taken up to three minutes, but there was a good reason for that. While ‘Old King Cole’ was penned by Paul Reakes, an overseas playwright who specialises in the genre, the previous two were ‘homemade’ by Barry McKenna, the Anglo theatre scene’s most sought-after director.
When McKenna wrote his scripts, it’s unlikely scene changes were at the forefront of his vision! But overall, it has to be said that his pantos better captured the essence of the Copenhagen we all inhabit, and were more creative, quirkier and funnier – or at least for the adults. There was more banter – most of the actors spoke less to the audience and more to each other. If anything, ‘Old King Cole’ was sorely missing the classic ‘friend to the audience’ role (Buttons in ‘Cinderella’ and Wishy-Washy in ‘Aladdin’) to warm them up properly for the rest of the show.
Overall, it made the way Popplewell and Shinn were able to muster so much mirth out of the material all the more impressive.
‘Old King Cole’ is playing at Krudttønden theatre in Østerbro until February 1. Visit ctcircle.dk to purchase tickets. More details here.