‘Viva la Republique’ seeks to overturn parliament’s theatre plans

Stated-owned institution’s vision will see more home-grown performances at the expense of international productions

For almost three years, Theatre Republique has been bringing international contemporary theatre to Copenhagen. In February it produced the worldwide premiere of ‘The Tiger Lillies perform Hamlet’, and in March it staged ‘Orakler’, a globally-acclaimed instalment by Enrique Vargas and the Spanish theatre troupe Teatro de los Sentidos.


However, according to proposed plans, this is all going to end. Instead, its owner, Københavns Teater, will open a new theatre at Republique’s current home, Kanonhallen in Østerbro, to provide a home for new independent performance groups – a move that will ultimately lead to less international but more home-grown theatre. 


Sten Pade, the head of the state-owned Københavns Teater, told Politiken newspaper that the proposal is part of the theatre’s plans to provide a stage for independent performance artists in the city, while Republique’s artistic director Martin Tulinius conceded: “Republique is basically history, and I’m very disappointed.” 


“We’ve had two and a half years to build an international contemporary theatre, and I think we’ve succeeded. We have had two Reumert nominations, and we have had an international breakthrough with the co-operation with the South Bank Centre in London” – a collaboration that led to last autumn’s ‘The Bollywood Trip’ and the aforementioned ‘The Tiger Lillies perform Hamlet’, with another one in the pipeline for later this year.  

According to Politiken, the new theatre will have a CEO, who will have four artistic directors working under him. Of these, one will take charge of the theatre’s own productions – which will fall from eight a year to three – while the other three will oversee productions by outside contributors. The theatre’s annual budget will be reduced by four million kroner to 18 million.


Republique believes that the politicians are committing a big mistake. The theatre’s chief executive/international director, Hans Christian Gimbel, told Politiken that if the proposal is adopted, there will be no room for collaboration with international partners and presenting international performances on stage. 


“There simply won’t be enough money,” he said. “While Republique currently produces eight performances a year, there will only be three [of the theatre’s own productions] at the new theatre.”


The association of performing artists, Foreningen Scenekunstnere, on the other hand, welcomes the new initiative. “There has been a great need for a theatre in Copenhagen,” its spokesman Bjørn Lense-Møller told Politiken. 


“It is necessary for the development of performing arts to have an independent and open stage. Given the task Københavns Teater has been entrusted with by parliament, this is the best solution,” spokesman Lense-Møller said. The association thinks the theatre will naturally attract international attention.


Tulinius and Gimbel point out that they believe the solution lies somewhere else. Smaller stages like Frederiksbergscenen or Pakhus 11 could have met most of the needs of the independent theatre groups, they believe.


The proposal has been presented as the result of a co-operation between Copenhagen and Frederiksberg Councils, the National Arts Council (Statens Kunstråds Scenekunstudvalg), the Ministry of Culture and the independent stage artists’ organisations. However, it turns out that plans to cut spending are only coming from Københavns Teater.


The chairman of the National Arts Council, Rikke Juellund, explains that the committee has been part of the process and that they’re happy that it finally looks like there will be an open stage. 


“An open stage will without a doubt help to lift some of the projects that get support from us, because they will get better conditions,” Juellund told  Politken. “But the plan to cut spending is solely coming from Københavns Teater, which we are critical about. It is a drastic reduction going from eight to three stage productions.”


Last week on Friday, a petition entitled ‘Luk ikke Republique’ (Don’t close Republique) was started. “Almost 1,834 people have signed the petition,” Republique told The Copenhagen Post.


This week will prove whether or not the petition has had any effect – the proposal is currently in consultation, with a decision expected imminently.