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Performance Review: Better this unpretentious Brexit squabble than some pseudo-Beckett twaddle
The performances and casting were mostly strong in the Copenhagen Theatre Circle’s staging of ‘The Queen’s New Border’, a comedy by long-time member Alun Thomas that runs until Sunday at Biblioteket Rentemestervej in Nordvest, but the humour didn’t connect with its audience as strongly as it should have done.
Still, it was an enjoyable evening out with plenty to please most theatre-goers.
Second night blues?
On Thursday, the second night, this was evident in the all-too-often muted response of the sold-out, 150-strong audience at the spacious theatre space – a great venue, it has to be said, which is opposite the city’s most popular pool hall. Mostly, they didn’t really have time to laugh. The beats were flat, and it wasn’t what the material merited.
Was this second night hypoglycemia? Sometimes the euphoria of a premiere can be draining and render the cast a little lacklustre – among the key players only John Kelleher (Gerry) was routinely landing with his punchlines.
Perhaps the production would have been better served by the creator of the comedy choosing ‘conducting’ over the main role, as on this occasion the percussion section was sorely lacking.
What kind of comedy was this?
Some actors trusted the material more than others, delivering their punchlines with aplomb as opposed to burying them, or by actually taking the time to connect with the audience.
Perhaps the problem was that this story of Brexit gone wrong also wanted us to take it seriously: to invest our belief in these characters being more than comical creations. But it’s hard when they’re mostly presented to us as sitcom characters and then only evolve later.
The comedy was in equal measures surreal, slapstick and surly when what it was crying out for was some sort of surefooted satirical edge. But then again, each to their own!
All hail the star performers on the night
Three actors in particular shone, not least Kelleher, who demonstrated perfect timing as the ‘shop steward’ Gerry. It crept up on us how sinister his character was, even though his ‘off-camera’ bullying of wee Finn (a gift of a role for Roger LeBlanc) exposed his nastiness in plain view. But overall, I would have preferred to see him play Seamus and let a more weasley actor take on Gerry. The Globe quizmaster doesn’t need props to look threatening!
One of three Irish actors to appear in the play (along with Kelleher and Thomas), it was a shame that Kathryn Dorgan (a standout in the 2018 Leftfield production of ‘Queers’) as Fiona didn’t have more stage time, or a more pivotal role, as she was brilliant. When she started to ponder ‘The Troubles’, it was truly the first moment in the play when I felt removed from my issues with my seat. She luxuriated in finding her own pace and took us into a different world.
But in truth, all the play’s finest moments came in scenes featuring Anant Atul Visaria as the Cambridge University-educated engineer of Indian descent, Ed. There was something magically likeable and extremely believable about his performance. Like Fiona, every time he spoke, he transposed the audience away. Whether it was his brief interlude about cricket, or ruminations on Brexit, it was like Dick van Dyke was singing ‘Rockabye Mountain’ onstage.
Classic CTC fare
While the laughter wasn’t loud, most of the audience were smiling and happy with the show, as this was the kind of feel-good theatre that the Copenhagen Theatre Circle has developed a reputation for.
With the inclusion of surreal dream sequences and video-chats, madcap costumes and props, and Benny Hill era music, sound effects and outright sexiness, it was reminiscent of the first three or four pantos they did back about a decade ago, in which they really cut loose. Some of those were self-penned too. The whole shebang had the anarchic fingerprints of long-time CTC member Iven Gilmore, who shared directorial duties with Joan Bentsen, all over it.
At around 90 minutes in length, 160 kroner is money well spent on what is a fun evening out. If you were expecting mind-numbing satire, don’t sweat it, as you’ll leave the theatre dancing like Theresa May.