To Be Perfectly Frank | The play’s the thing …

´All things cultural were, in many respects, a lot different in Copenhagen in 1979 than they are now. Having been a member of two thriving amateur theatrical groups in Geneva, I came here to find a small bunch of people calling themselves the Copenhagen Theatre Circle (CTC). At the first general meeting I attended, there must have been a grand total of half a dozen members and they hadn’t put on a play for two years. And this was the only source of live theatre in the English language in Copenhagen, and probably in the whole of Denmark. Something had to be done! With a bit of effort, more people heard of the group and we gradually built up a critical mass so that we could put on two or even three plays a year.

Theatre spaces seemed to be more available in those days. I remember performing at Det Danske Teater in Bellahøj, at the now defunct Windsor Teater in Frederiksberg, at the old Skovriderkroen in Charlottenlund, and at Teatret bag Kroen in Ordrup, soon to be pulled down to make room for flats and a Netto. Most fondly of all, I remember the lovely little theatre in Lyngby Storcenter, long since ripped out to make room for more lucrative shops and replaced by the so-called ‘kulturcenter’ across the street, comprising fast-food outlets and soulless cinemas reeking of popcorn. After that we found Krudttønden in Østerbro, and with one or two exceptions, we’ve been there ever since.

Not only did the CTC expand but new, professional companies performing serious works in the English language started appearing. The first of these was That Theatre Company founded by Ian Burns in 1997, to be followed in 2007 by the Why Not Theatre Company founded by CTC members Sue Hansen-Styles and Nathalie Johnson. All these developments have clearly reflected a growing market for theatre that all can enjoy because it is in a language that all can understand, Danes and non-Danes alike. The fact that none of this was (or yet has been) instigated by those who purport to want to attract foreign workers and tourists is further proof of a lack of understanding of their needs – or an unwillingness to understand them. Pretending to provide ‘international theatre’ in the summer by resorting to nothing more than circus (most of which is conveniently mute) is an insult.

When I chose to write this article, I intended to draw attention finally to the one Danish professional theatre that is actually leading the way in producing shows in English. That theatre is Republique, which has brought a breath of fresh air into the otherwise stifled (and stifling) atmosphere of the Copenhagen theatre establishment. It seems, however, that Republique is in real danger of being closed in favour of an ‘open stage’, one that is not run by a self-styled artistic director but is open for hire. (Artistic directors are the kind who insist that reading Breivik’s manifesto is ‘art’, whereas we all know it’s just an opportunity to cash in: one actor + large audiences = $$$.) God knows we need an open theatre, but why single out Republique? I leave it to you, dear reader, and your conspiracy theorist friends to think on’t.
But back to the CTC. In a few short years we will be celebrating half a century of bringing high-quality English-language theatre to Copenhagen audiences. And being amateur, we can more easily mount large-cast productions. In the last three shows alone, including the current one, we have put nearly 50 actors on the stage and played to full houses. That includes people of many nationalities, including Danes. In October we will be producing the premiere in Denmark of Tim Firth’s ‘Calendar Girls’, again with a sizeable cast, and after that our annual pantomime, this time ‘Aladdin’. We certainly ain’t just a cosy little ‘expat’ society theatre any more!

In my 70th year, I am proud not only to be the current chair of the CTC but also to be making my debut as a director with our April production of Neil Simon’s ‘The Good Doctor’. I am working with a talented cast of ten and have no doubt that, once again, the CTC will thrill its audiences with a thoroughly satisfying evening of entertainment. The production plays at Krudttønden from 18-28 April (See G3 for more details). Tickets to all our shows are available through our website at See you there!

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