Straight Up: ACT’s road less travelled 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” wrote American poet Robert Frost. “And sorry I could not travel both … I took the one less travelled by. And that has made all the difference.” 

Status quo shaker
This could sum up the story of the trailblazing Denmark-based theatre company ACT. 

Founded in Copenhagen in 2015, Afro-Cosmopolite Thespians (ACT) has sought to shake up the status quo, converging artistic talent from the world-over who call Denmark home, pushing boundaries by way of international collaborations. So far this outfit, led by the artistic director Michael Omoke, has put up four productions to critical acclaim.

Adapting the classics
In the summer of 2016, ACT debuted with its production of ‘The Merchant of Copenhagen’. The play, directed by renowned Kenyan director George Mungai, reimagined Shakespeare in present-day Denmark. 

It explored themes of greed, love, duplicitousness, and forces between common good and capitalism. The play staged at Baltorpen in Ballerup attracted a very diverse audience – a rare feat in Danish theatre.

In a quick follow-up, ACT returned to Baltoppen in 2017, this time with the Nordic classic ‘An Enemy of the People’. Once again ACT offered an exploration of the human condition, this time with the lingering central theme “Can the majority be wrong?” 

Democracy, capitalism and environmental protection took centre stage as it reimagined Ibsen’s classic. The production also marked ACT’s first Nordic collaboration with cast members drawn from Nordic Black Theatre as well as ACT.

Powerful voices
Fast-forward to 2019. Under the auspices of New Nordic Voices, ACT cemented its finesse with Ntozake Shange’s ‘for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf’. Featuring an all-ladies cast with an international outlook, ACT recruited Morgan State University professor Shirley Basfield Dunlap as the director. 

Through the interwoven stories of seven ‘nameless’ women, Shange’s poetry expresses the many struggles and obstacles that African-American women face throughout their lives – a representation of sisterhood and coming-of-age as an African-American woman. The play was well received in Denmark, Sweden and Finland. 

In 2020, the group changed tact and tapped on in-house talent. ‘Miss Julie’s Happy Valley’, a creation of artistic director cum playwright Michael Omoke, waged into the murky waters of white colonial mischief in pre-independence Kenya. 

Audiences in Copenhagen and Helsinki were admitted into the secret lives of white settlers in 20th century Africa. The production confronted head-on their care-free debauchery, depicting the sex, drug abuse and murder that pervaded the hedonistic lifestyles of the ultra-privileged white settlers at the expense of the natives. The audacity of the piece is in its maneuvering motif of weight issues such as the killing of Lord Erroll – a murder that British intelligence wing MI6 continues to hold on file as an unsolved case.   

If history is to repeat itself, and the trajectory continues, we can only await ACT’s next serving with bated breath.


ACT was launched in 2016 with the vision of ‘multiple cultures sharing a stage’

Since then, it has involved more than 100 artists representing 46 different nationalities

Two of its four productions also toured Finland and Sweden

ACT has also co-produced a conference and set up two international seminars

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