On Stages: Saluting our own Scorsese

Ask film fans to name a director and actor who have a prolific working relationship, and most will choose Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese.

But did you know there are 31 director-actor teams who have made more films? Granted, some are the result of nepotism. Mia Farrow, for example, was in 13 of her husband Woody Allen’s films, and Sofia Coppola in seven of papa’s – so pretty much all of them.

Way out ahead of DeNiro and Scorcese are the likes of John Wayne and John Ford (21 films), Toshirô Mifune and Akira Kurosawa (16), Max van Sydow and Ingmar Bergman (11), Stephen Rea and Neil Jordan (10), Danny Trejo and Robert Rodriguez (10) and even John Turturro and Spike Lee (9) – not bad for a director whose films are predominantly set in US black communities … with a fondness for pizza.

Tesla, Tanja and Sue too
And now Copenhagen has its own partnership to cherish. Mairead (ongoing since Feb 15, ends March 9; Teatret Ved Sorte Hest; 135kr; whynottheatre.dk) – which Why Not Theatre Company describes as “a tender love story about prisons, expectations, and about risking your heart” – will mark the third time Why Not Theatre founder Sue Hanson-Styles has decided to stage a work written by Serbian playwright Tanja Mastilo.

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But according to Hansen-Styles – who stars alongside Kevin Kiernan-Molloy (The Art of Falling), Nathan Meister (played alone in Mr Tesla Played) and Kerry Norton-Griffith (flown in from London especially for the job) under the direction of Nina Larissa Bassett – it was only by chance that she found out Mastilo wrote a bit.

Mastilo helped out with some PR at WNTC in 2009, but it wasn’t until 2014 that she happened to mention to Hansen-Styles that she dabbled.

“I read some of her stories and was so impressed – she writes from the heart and there are echoes of Sarah Kane in her work,” she recalled. “Before we knew where we were, we were staging ‘Secrets’ in 2015.” The monologue Mr Tesla Played duly followed.

Stylish risk-taker
Staging new works is exciting but risky, according to Hansen-Styles “Fewer theatre are staging new works these days. Instead they put on former commercial successes in an effort to ensure ticket sales,” she said.

“I have never wanted Why Not Theatre to go down that route. Taking risks in the theatre is what it is all about for me. Mind you, it also means a lot of sleepless nights!”

Mastilo feels blessed. “I think that our fruitful collaboration is really a testament to Sue and her openness to try something new,” she said.

Speaking from the heart
Mastilo’s characters speak from the heart. “There’s that great Hemingway quote that I always loved: ‘Write hard and clear about what hurts’. And with ‘Secrets’, each and every story came from a very honest place and had a very deep significance to me, and I think that was something the audience picked up on,” she recalled.

In Mairead, she tackles love and romance – a theme that she has given up on many times because there is “a very thin line between cheesy and deep”. But in this era of interconnectivity, Mastilo can remain quiet no longer.

“Even though we’re so connected, we’re constantly becoming more isolated, and I find that paradox interesting: the selfie culture; the nearly perfect profiles on social media and on dating sites that people try to create,” she explained.

“I can’t help but wonder: where does that leave love? What chance does it have when narcissism rules and you’re constantly reminded to love yourself above anything and anyone.”

The art of a good combo
Hansen-Styles and Mastilo aren’t the only pretenders to DeNiro and Scorsese’s crown. Over at That Theatre Company (TTC), Ian Burns has been cultivating a director-actor rapport with Benjamin Stender, and Art (ongoing since Feb 20, ends March 23; Krudttonden; 175kr; that-theatre.com) will be the third play in which the young British talent has taken instruction from Burns, following success with After Miss Julie and Marathon.

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Stender’s sparring partner in that acclaimed production, Rasmus Emil Mortensen, also returns, along with Peter Vinding (last seen in Shakespeare Unplugged).

Returning to Reza
For Burns, choosing another play by Yasmina Reza – following great success with God of Carnage in 2014 – was an easy option.

“She has the knack of being able to put reasonably intelligent people into absurd situations. The play asks us if we are authentic people, or just the projections our friends want us to be,” reveals Burns.

“Art as we know is a matter of taste. But what’s friendship all about? I hope the audience will shift allegiances between each character during the course of the play. The play has a great dynamic of the triangular relationship. Think of The Odd Couple and add one.”

With some epic productions to look forward to in 2019 and 20 – Look Back in Anger by John Osbourne, a new play about HC Andersen’s visit to the home of Charles Dickens, and The Red Lion by Patrick Marber – the future looks bright for TTC.

Best of the rest
So what else have we got to look forward to this spring?

The CTC has two offerings – An Inspector Calls (April 3-13) and its Fringe Festival (May 2-4) – both of which are at Krudttønden.

Down the Rabbit Hole Theatre is again staging a Harold Pinter play, Party Time (ongoing since Feb 15, ends Feb 28; LiteraturHaus).

READ MORE: Pinter at his most political … and then raised one

Leftfield Theatre’s next production, Truth by Falsehood (April 23-30, Teaterøen) is a trio of taboo plays.

Given director Lee Elms’ penchant for shocking (The Pillowman, Queers), who needs Scorsese.