City’s theatres dreaming of an extremely light Christmas

Most festive shows will once again pack up shop early this year, but there is growing optimism that 2013 could be different

The Copenhagen Theatre Circle’s decision to run its annual pantomime entirely in January has left not just English-language audiences, but also Danes, with barely any shows to take their families to this Christmas. Fears of poor ticket sales mean that most Christmas shows pack up shop long before the festivities, with most theatres arguing that it would take something particularly special to persuade the Danes to leave their dinner tables at Christmastime.  

A quick browse through Copenhagen’s theatre listings reveals that over half of them will be completely empty between December 24 and 31, and according to Tivoli, which is hosting the last performance of its classic Christmas ballet ‘The Nutcracker’ on December 22, the reason is a simple one: it is a fear of poor ticket sales.

“The main reason is that there is not as much sales potential between Christmas and New Year’s Eve,” explained the head of the amusement park’s media department, Torben Plank. “There is a tendency for a lot of people to stay at home.”

Tivoli is in good company. Nørrebro Teater hosts the last performance of its Christmas play ‘Montebello’ as early as December 15, and the Royal Theatre’s Christmas ballet ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ will conclude on the 16th.  Folketeateret has no Christmas shows, while Republique is skipping the entire month altogether.

“Traditionally we are not the type of theatre that would be able to attract an audience this month,” explained Republique’s theatre director Martin Tulinius.

“We specialise in experimental performances, and December is primarily for children’s shows or entertainment in the classical genre. This period is all about doing things together: to go out to see something funny or popular with your family and colleagues.”

A glance at the shows being performed on December 27 − a Thursday this year and one that many people are expected to take off − bears this out. The children’s play ’Cykelmyggen Egon’ at Østre Gasværk, the musical ’Love Never Dies’ at Det Ny Teater and the jukebox musical ’Hey Jude’ at Forum are all popular shows that speak to a broad audience.

And while it is a Christmas show in name, the same could be said of London Toast Theatre’s recurrent Crazy Christmas Cabaret, which runs at the Glassalen theatre from mid-November until mid-January. The theatre’s administrative director Søren Hall expects the theatre to be 80-90 percent full between December 27 and 31.

“There is an ongoing myth in the industry that you can’t put on a show after Easter or run a show over New Year,” he said. “But obviously, we would not schedule performances between Christmas and New Year’s Eve if they did not sell any tickets. Big entertainment shows such as ours normally do well in this period. I guess if we had put up a deadly serious Shakespeare play, we would not have performed over Christmas.”

And this optimism is catching, it would appear. Following the success of ‘The Nutcracker’, Stine Lolk, the entertainment manager at Tivoli, is open towards extending the season in 2013.

“It is always tricky determining the length of the run when introducing a new performance like we did this year with ‘The Nutcracker’,” she said. “Next time we will most likely have performances between Christmas and New Year’s Eve as well.”

And Republique’s Tulinius is also considering a Christmas programme next year.

“Our budgets allow us to experiment next year,” he said. “Nothing is settled yet, but we are considering setting up a show over Christmas that has more of a public appeal, while still being of a high national standard. It is going to be a completely different experience from what people usually expect from a show like that.”

For the time being, the theatres will be empty and the dinner tables full. After all, would it feel like a Danish Christmas if it wasn’t celebrated at home?