From amateur theatrics to terror attack

How a Copenhagen theatre group member is coming to terms with his beloved Krudttønden being sprayed with bullets

As the home of English-language amateur theatrics in Copenhagen for many decades, the thought of dear little Krudttønden being subjected to a hail of bullets belongs in the theatre of the absurd.

Yet, just hours ago, the impossible happened.

Andrew Blackwell, a member of the Copenhagen Theatre Circle, has duly penned his thoughts on his beloved corner of the English-language suddenly becoming the most talked about little theatre in the world.

Hiding for their lives where we keep the pies
Little Krudttønden theatre was tonight the top subject of most of the world’s media, after being the scene of the latest cartoon-related terrorist attack.

Most of my Copenhagen friends know Krudttønden as the venue where the Copenhagen Theatre Circle has been performing its shows since time immemorial – many of us know the place like the back of our hand.

For all of us, today’s events are bizarre on so many levels. Bizarre to hear that the kitchen where we stored our home-made pies for the end-of-show parties was the room where the targeted cartoonist hid from the shooters, bizarre to hear that the familiar staff of the foyer café managed to narrowly escape death by throwing themselves behind the bar, bizarre to think that the foyer where some of my photographs of the shows we performed over the years have become a part of the fixture is now riddled with bullets.

And above all bizarre to learn that our director friend Barry McKenna, our lighting designer Katja Andreassen and the rest of the crew of Ian Burns’s That Theatre Company left the building after successfully setting up the stage for their next show at 2pm, not long before the shooting started. They can thank their professionalism for possibly having saved their lives. Unlike the pros at That Theatre, the CTC’s so-called get-ins before the show are usually far less efficient and last well into the night, and much time is spent in the foyer relaxing, sipping coffees, and being mildly interested in the parallel event going on in the venue’s other space – no doubt like That Theatre’s crew were today.

How could this happen to Krudttønden?
But what I’m sure many of us are grappling with right now, is how this could happen to innocent little Krudttønden, and how anything going on in there could be seen as being so threatening that a salve of lethal machine gun shots could be a legitimate response.

Krudttønden has always been our first choice because, quite frankly, we’ve never had any other choice. All the other theatres in the city are keen to keep their programming standards up, so amateur us have basically been a no-no. For Krudttønden, on the other hand, anything goes, and we have used and abused the place to perform shows with greatly varying levels of intellectual appeal.

I have had the privilege to perform in five of these shows in Krudttønden – in one of them I was a schoolboy whose hypocrisy revealed the absurdities of Catholicism and religion in general, in one of them I was a Cockney bully whose aggression revealed the absurdities of macho behaviour, in one I was a Gestapo officer whose quirks revealed that fascists are nothing but a bunch of clowns, in one I was an impotent aristocrat, and in one I was an average white man revealing the absurdities of being, well, an average white man. Yes, much of it was taking swipes at others, but most of it was taking swipes at ourselves and the fragility of our condition. That’s what theatre does, in all its manifestations ranging from comedy to drama, and that’s ultimately what culture does.

A sublimation of everything we address
What really gets me is the thought that what somebody has lost their life for today in Krudttønden is nothing more than a sublimation of the things that we have been addressing in our various shows over the years. Not opening fire on them should be as much of a no-brainer as not opening fire on one of our shows.

But, unfortunately, not all people tick that way. Asking people to recognise their own fragility, and the fragility of everything that surrounds them and gives them the moral backing to act as they act, is obviously seen as threatening behaviour.

But this still continues to baffle me. On the one hand, because a belief in absolute truth should make you immune towards its challenges. On the other hand, because the space in which this mirror of our fragility is set up on closer association reveals very little else than the beauty that belongs to culture and its performance.

That this space had to see the loss of a life today is not just bizarre, but profoundly saddening. My thoughts and prayers today are with the victim and his family.




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