There is a little red brochure going around the Edinburgh Fringe titled #Danish. It represents the seventh season of work presented by the Danish Arts Foundation in Edinburgh, and this year follows on from a highly successful run in 2022 which was crowned by The Infallibles Theatrical Excellence award for the Best National Presence.
Upon scratching the surface however, one quickly finds out that the work on offer is a bit more international and diverse in its interests than a single nation label suggests. Aarhus-based queer performance and dance company Himherandit, led by globetrotter Andreas Constantinou presents high octane Mass Effect at Summerhall, a piece in which a seven-strong ensemble of professional dancers are aided by members of the community to move beyond exhaustion. Meanwhile in Recoil Performance Group’s Harvest at Zoo Southside, contemporary dancer Hilde I. Sandvold meets Puerto Rican bomba via neoflamenco specialist Jossette Reilly in a conceptual exploration of agriculture and dance. At the other end of the scale, Lituanian Petras Lisauskas, Pole Mikolaj Karczewski and Dane Jeppe Kaas Vad portray three different types of traveller – reveller, business person and spiritual trekker, respectively – in Don Gnu’s fun and thoughtful piece Tourist, which also cleverly brings into question our obsession with travel vis-à-vis the future of the civilisation.
Also at Zoo Southside, Teater Katapult’s touring piece The Insider deals with the trans-European Cum-Ex tax scandal uncovered in 2017 in Germany, whereby a network of banks, stock traders and lawyers were found to have collectively defrauded several Western European governments of the total of more than 69,2 billion US dollars by trading shares between each other and claiming tax reliefs for the same shares simultaneously in different countries. Johan Sarauw’s high tech production of Anna Skov Jensen’s monologue, performed in English by Christoffer Hvidberg Rønje, takes place within an office-looking glass case requiring the audience to wear binaural headphones. It is a dark but vibrant confession charting the protagonist’s struggle against the grasp of the conspiracy of greed that may also carry some wider metaphorical value about the world we live in.
The absolute hit of the Danish season that has had the loudest word of mouth at the Fringe this year has been the transcontinental collaboration between Fix&Foxy’s director Tue Biering and Johannesburg-based choreographer/director Nhlanhla Mahlangu – Dark Noon at Pleasance EICC. Created in 2019 with a South African cast and Danish set designer Johan Kølkjær, the piece is a smart reconstruction of the history of violence that lies beneath the American Dream. Quite literally, the piece starts on an empty set, but in the course of the two hours, an entire ramshackle city is built on stage and without sparing the audience the blood, sweat and tears that go with this sort of labour. Using the genre of the Western movie as a prompt, the ensemble delves into the less comfortable and hitherto eclipsed topics concerning the Europeans’ conquest of the ‘wild West’ – the law of the gun, exterminations of the local species and genocide against the indigenous populations, extractionism, religious colonialism, exploitation of the Asian immigrants, and, eventually, ‘the end of the wild’ tamed by telecommunications and technology, killed by ‘bullets, eros, whiskey and diseases.’ Biering’s script, divided in ten chapters, is often witty and highly quotable, and it also makes plenty of space for the ensemble’s playfulness and some riotous audience participation. It is a fast-paced production with excellent use of music (Lillian Tshabalala’s voice is particularly memorable), whereby a number of popular references are irreversibly repurposed with irony and wit. Above all, played by a (nearly) all-Black ensemble that whitefaces for the occasion, the work inverts the stereotype of the Afro-Americans as the gun-carrying gangster threat to the mainstream civilisation, and restores to the Africans a sense of true cultural dignity.
Dark Noon is part one of a trilogy about empires that Biering is working on under his production company Fix&Foxy; the second part Imperial Troopers explores the clash of the Chinese and the American civilisations and was recently premiered in Copenhagen. At least there is the hint of what we might expect in future editions of Danish Ed Fringe.
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This post was written by Duška Radosavljević.
The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.