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Top Five English-Language Theatre Trailblazers

Ben Hamilton
February 6th, 2023


This article is more than 1 year old.

Read on to discover why an actor, playwright, director, artistic director and musical theatre school owner impressed us the most in 2022

It’s been a standout year for Anglophone theatre in Copenhagen, not least thanks to two highly significant landmarks: the ruby jubilee of the Crazy Christmas Cabaret and the silver jubilee of the creation of That Theatre Company.

It’s fitting therefore that their founders, Vivienne McKee and Ian Burns respectively, have been shortlisted for CPH Culture’s 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award along with eight other nominees. February 1 will reveal all.

McKee, who in September scooped the theatre review site’s 2021-22 Best Actress award for ‘Shirley Valentine’, is probably the slight favourite, although Burns is nominated in connection with two plays: ‘Rub-A-Dub-Dub’ and ‘Fly Me to the Moon’, which both picked up nominations for Best Play originally written in a language other than Danish.

Worthy inclusions
Additionally, Dawn Wall and Alexandra Jespersen have both picked up well deserved acting nominations for the latter – in the Best Actress and Best Breakthrough categories. 

Needless to say, all four would have been worthy inclusions in our list of the Best English-Language Theatre Trailblazer list for 2022, but on the whole, we try to select hitherto unknown, or at least unheralded, names on the theatre scene.

But while these five are not as well established as the founders of anniversary-celebrating theatre institutions, who knows what the next 25 years, or even 40, will bring.


Theatre personality of the year

5 Rachel Kador

(photo: Hasse Ferrold)

No doubt, CPH Musical Theater is a team effort. Spawned by members of Copenhagen Theatre Circle, it’s a logical progression. Let’s face it: most thespians haave lovely singing voices – their dulcet tones singled out for the big parts back in their school days and the habit stuck. Name me an actor who can’t belt out a song … besides David Soul. The upshot for Copenhagen is that fans of English-language musicals now have a haven where they can wallow in the company of show-stopping tunes sung with genuine passion. Hats off to Rachel Kador and the rest of her team.

4 Anant Atul Visaria

Every so often, we’re privileged to witness raw talent before its inevitable ruin: a bit like when Paul Potts took that first tentative step into the Simon Cowell universe before he got his teeth fixed. Some performers spend the rest of their lives looking for that formula, while we’re just left with the memories. Anant Atul Visaria stole the show in the CTC production of ‘The Queen’s New Border’ with a magical performance that 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. Also worthy of mention, Kathryn Dorgan luxuriated in finding her own pace and took us into a different world every time she spoke.

3 Joseph Sherlock

(photo: Lorenzo Martin)

As an established theatre director in Denmark, Sherlock had already enjoyed plenty of success, including the HIT Copenhagen show ‘Harry Brown’, before the pandemic started. Like many, that knocked the steam out of his sails, but he came back fighting in 2022 with a well-received ‘Coriolanus’, the first production staged by his theatre company Københavns Shakespeare Kompagni. It performed the Shakespeare play in both English and Danish, and recognition of this madness by the domestic media was instantaneous. But don’t be fooled by the name, as other playwrights are fair game – in June, the troupe performed a James Joyce short story at the Bloomsday Family Picnic. With talents such as Kevin Kieran Molloy, Jessica O’Hara Baker and Sarah Dahl Hasselgren onboard, watch this space in 2023!

2 Russell Collins

If we had to name a trailblazer of the 2010s, Russell Collins would probably be right up there with Vivienne McKee and Ian Burns for the undeniable contribution he has made – not only to English-language theatre, but to Danish culture in general. When he and his wife Christina Anthony founded the SceneKunst musical theatre school in 2008, they must have questioned why Denmark didn’t already have an answer to the Sylvia Young Theatre School, the UK establishment that since the 1970s has been producing notable singers and actors by the truckload. The debt owed by Denmark’s musical theatre scene to SceneKunst, which today has 22 schools, is already incalculable and, in 2022, he enjoyed his greatest triumph: an autumn run of the musical ‘Bugsy Malone’ that charmed everyone who saw it. As our reviewer proclaimed: “Crazy amazing costumes. Audaciously authentic props. Sass levels up to the nines, Evita-style. It’s no exaggeration to already say the bulk of Denmark’s young musical theatre talents are SceneKunst- trained. Give it another decade, and they will hold a monopoly.”

1 Alun Thomas

For the second year in a row, we’re naming a writer as number one English-Language Theatre Trailblazer. Not only did Thomas pen the script for the successful Copenhagen Theatre Circle play ‘The Queen’s New Border’, but the Irishman also took the lead role – a herculean effort all round. He was helped by strong support – not least from Anant Atul Visaria and Kathryn Dorgan (see number 4) but also the always dependable John Kelleher. 


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