From panto and the Red Lion to self-discovery and Stephen Hawking

Written off by many of his friends as someone who has lot the plot, Martin Popplewell returns to a city stage this weekend to present a narrative charting his journey to enlightenment

It was the elephant in the room, and it had to be confronted.

“So, there might be some people out there who presumed you had a breakdown following your time as the landlord of the Red Lion,” this CPH POST reporter ventured.

READ MORE: Red Lion to close

Martin Popplewell, a well-known publican and member of Copenhagen Theatre Circle whose obsession with the strange and the wonderful in recent years has succeeded in alienating many of his friends, shuffled in his chair, his eyes lighting up.

“Yes, it was a breakdown, but not the kind you might presume,” he said.

“It was literally a breakdown of all the reality that I presumed to be true.”

The thin line between genius and insanity
The result of this breakdown was that Popplewell decided he would “go with my thoughts and see where they take me”, thus beginning an experiment in conscious cause and effect.

He started reading – history and theology, philosophy and psychology, maths and geometry, quantum mechanics and physics, science, and the unknown – and it wasn’t long before he had an altered view of the world.

The more he learnt, the more he expanded his mind, but there was a downside. Like a child who’s just discovered the key to the book of secrets, he wanted to share it with everyone. And most of them didn’t want to know.

“I lost contact with everyone around me, but I found myself,” he said.

“I’ve met a lot of fear and repression. People say I’m mad, and it might be true that I nearly got lost in the madness, but a genius is a schizophrenic who knows how to act normally.”

The journey of his life
A genius? Popplewell played opposite a genie once. In the 2012 Copenhagen Theatre Circle pantomime ‘Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp’ at the beginning of 2013, he memorably played the villain Abanazar. He returned a year later to play the Dame in Old King Cole, and then as the frontman of the English Drama Company staged ‘The Fast Show – Stood Up’ in late 2014 to rave reviews.

Now with his new-found knowledge, Popplewell is returning to the scene of his triumphant pantos to present a one-man show, ‘Once Upon a Time: The Deepest Journey Ever Made’.

Its tagline claims it will be “the world’s first sixth sense performance”. At 160 minutes long, that could very well be the sense it’s never going to end.

By presenting an inversion of Stephen Hawking’s ‘Theory of Everything’, Popplewell is hopeful it will make the audience change the way they see the world – rather like his own experience.

Following his thoughts
Like with many of his recent endeavours, Popplewell is where his thoughts have taken him.

“I remember writing down on a piece of paper: ‘Produce a theatre piece for five senses, and possibly even a sixth’ – I didn’t even know what that meant,” he recalled.

And this weekend that dream is about to come to fruition – a vision that Popplewell so very badly wants to share with you.



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