Top 5 pioneers of English-language theater: Corona couldn’t hold them back!

Movie ticket sales have skyrocketed in 2021, despite restrictions that have made almost half the year a no-show: January 1 to May 6 and December 18 to December 31 to be exact!

And the same effect was even more noticeable in theaters, where audiences responded enthusiastically to throwback shows such as Crazy Christmas Cabaret’s latest episode “Tell Me About It!” at Tivoli and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the Mechanical Botanic Gardens, desolate in August.

After all, it’s been a long break from being apart from old friends, and besides, it’s bad etiquette to shout on the movie screen how much you’ve missed the Fast and Furious franchise.

2022 is already looking good
CPH POST was happy to see that all the main actors were still fighting: from Why Not Theater Production, with such an acclaimed staging of “Happy Days”, and That Theater Company back with its original play “The Visit” – l had it really been less than two years since it was first played?

And it’s encouraging to see that there will be no hesitation in 2022. This theater will present “Rup-A-Dub-Dub”, another new play by Irish playwright Fergal O’Byrne, from March 16 , while London Toast founder Vivienne McKee will be honoring us with “Shirley Valentine” from April 21.

It’s already a lot to look forward to, but it’s not a crime to look back. In many ways, 2021 has been another banner year for English-language theater in Copenhagen, and here are our top five trailblazers.


TOP FIVE

1 Tanja Mastilo
Now, if that’s not revolutionary, what is? In 2021, Serbian playwright Tanja Mastilo won the prestigious Reumert Prize – Denmark’s top theater prize. Mastilo beat the best of Danish to win ‘Playwright of the Year’ for her screenplay for ‘The Cheyenne Are Leaving’, which was staged in late 2020 by Why Not Theater Company of which she is the resident playwright. “Tanja Mastilo’s psychological chamber piece in English exudes a disturbing and intense presence,” applauded the jury. “Raw, poetic lines morph into a refugee nightmare, peeling back the skin of civilization to reveal a bleeding humanity beneath. Brilliant!” Mastilo may not be the first person well-known to English-speaking audiences to win a Reumert, but as a Serb who emigrated to Denmark in the 1990s to escape the Yugoslav wars, she is the most unlikely. Benjamin Stender, who won best newcomer for “The Woman in Black” (That Theatre) in 2013, is a Danish actor, while British comedian Barry McKenna, who was part of the team that won the ‘Stor lille forestilling’ award for ‘Flammens Muse’ in 2008, was already an established director. Mastilo arrived in Denmark with nothing. And now she has a Reumert. She has made quite a path for others to follow.

2Rebecca Langley Jensen
The maid may too often be the third wheel in August Strindberg’s “Miss Julie,” but in Michael Omoke’s interwar adaptation, set among the hedonistic aristocratic sect of the Kenya’s colonial Happy Valley, Rebecca Langley Jensen took center stage. According to our reviewer Lena Hunter, “his well-executed stoicism acted as a canvas against which the play’s colorful arc unfolded.” And that wasn’t her only success, as her play “Skamløs”, which she also starred in, was one of the centerpieces of Afro to the Future, a presentation of eight new writings by black playwrights at Teater Grob in June.

3 Chris Vincent
We’ve never heard of Danish actor Chris Vincent before, but he’s active in English-speaking theater circles across Europe and, as a computer scientist for ‘Berghain’, he presented the performance of the CPH Queer Theater Festival in August. It was a performance that our reviewer Lena Hunter urged audiences to “embrace. Go in your leathers, bring a collar and leash, wear a strap-on! Or whatever. Berghain isn’t holding back and neither should you. And it was the dynamic stage presence of Vincent, the play’s reveler, that had the audience anticipating his every move and word. Diagnosed HIV-positive at a young age, Vincent combines comedy and activism, daring passers-by to hug him. That’s what we call a pioneer.

4Kevin Kiernan Molloy
This talented Aussie actor made our top five in 2018 after impressing in ‘The Art of Falling,’ and he’s continued in the same vein ever since, without exception in 2021. Absent from the After Hours production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream due to corona last year, our reviewer Lena Hunter found him “thrilling” as Bottom, “oscillating between blokey and camp with thick overtones of narcissism and cutting humor, adding ‘Although he act, it looks like he is dancing. For the Crazy Christmas Cabaret, he presented a “showcase of all kinds of vernacular, sexuality and psychosis”, his funniest moment coming during the tribute to the 1980s diva, stretching in his leotard on Physical by Olivia Newton John. And he even had time to phone in a segment of the web series “Delete This!” of the Why Not Theater Company. during the corona-stricken February when the Aussie ran aground (lucky bugger). Conclusion: this guy never calls him.

5 Kate Barker-Froyland
The American paved the way long before moving to Denmark, her husband’s homeland of 12 years. In 2014, she directed the Hollywood romantic comedy “Song One” with Anne Hathaway, an actress she clicked with while working as an assistant on The Devil Wears Prada. Barker-Froyland later retuned the lead role to suit Hathaway, as he was originally with a 19-year-old in mind. Last fall, she presented another adaptation, The Chekhov Stories, with the support of the Copenhagen Theater Circle. Does that mean she’ll soon propel a CLC actress to stardom? That would be quite a story.