Banging Denmark

‘Banging Denmark’ // PIP Theatre

‘Banging Denmark’ was bawdy.

The premise of ‘Banging Denmark’ isn’t new: a cocky pickup artist selling his manipulative tips on how to get women into bed falls for a woman (in this case, a Danish librarian) who is immune to his game. The misogynist requests help from his opposite — a feminist academic in desperate need of cash.

But Australian social commentator Van Badham’s vulgar comedy is anything but your typical rom-com. Sharp dialogue and plot twists spur consideration of how modern men and women are expected to act in friendships and romantic relationships alike – both online and in real life.

Published and performed by the Sydney Theatre Company in 2019, ‘Banging Denmark’ was shortlisted for the 2020 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting. Badham’s written talents were on full display and her satirical style was enjoyable, as long as outbursts of heavy-handed misogyny doesn’t put you off. There were sexual references aplenty, vulgar images, and certainly some clever wordplay if you could get past the initial ick.

Emphasising the focus on dialogue, PIP Theatre’s stark tennis court set design by Helena Trupp added another layer– split in half and sitting across from each other, the crowd could see and hear the emotional reactions of our fellow theatregoers. It served as a reminder that there is so often an audience to our relationships as we post and posture on social media, watching one another’s lives unfold and reacting after each story update. Risers, good use of a ladder and scaffolding created levels that worked well and helped the actors execute their blocking without sacrificing sight lines.

Lighting design and operation by Noah Milne was basic to signal the different locations. One opportunity to consider would be to experiment with lighting effects during the slow-motion scene, a fantastic bit of comedy that highlighted Tegan Braithwaite’s expressiveness.

Sound design and operation by Tommi Civili added humour to the pickup artist’s live helpline schtick and included music for some scene transitions. The TLC ‘No Scrubs’ dance party finale seemed to come out of nowhere, but delighted the audience, nonetheless. Another pleasant surprise was when the technical crew joined in the dialogue – earning a big laugh.

Direction (including intimacy direction) by Heidi Gledhill resulted in a fast-paced show with an excellent use of space. Creative blocking never left the performers’ backs to one side of the audience for too long and allowed for some fun over-the-shoulder asides to the crowd. Perhaps a few beats could be added to help the audience pause to unpack the main characters’ belligerent battling; there was a great chemistry and flow in the sex scenes.

Choreography by Neridah Waters and fight direction by Jason McKell worked seamlessly. The fight scenes were particularly effective, especially in PIP’s smaller theatre where the audience could see every move.

Finally, captivating performances by the five actors of ‘Banging Denmark’ had the crowd hanging on every word, laughing along or open-mouthed at the vicious verbal combat.

Rijen Laine was perfectly revolting as pickup artist Jake Newhouse / Guy de Wit. Laine embodied the two sides of his characters with equal conviction; not quite fully reformed by the end but giving hope that he’s reconsidering his approach with women in the future.

Tegan Braithwaite as feminist academic Ishtar Madigan delivered some difficult lines with seeming ease. She also performed her incredulity then mockery of Jake’s game with a dazzling array of facial expressions. Braithwaite had excellent comedic timing and chemistry with the other characters; she was a joy to watch.

Janaki Gerard as Denyse Kim was a crowd favourite on opening night, earning many laughs and cheers for her hilarious performance as the smartest-person-in-the-room who can’t figure out why her best friend hadn’t made a move on her – and doesn’t know if she wants him to.

Amelia Slatter as Anne Toft embraced the Danish librarian character with just the right amount of aloofness and wit. Like Laine, she was equally convincing with both sides of her character: the straight-faced librarian and the wine-drinking seductress. Comparing her “game” with Jake’s is a good thought exercise in how context and power dynamics impact interpretation of the same behaviour.

Dudley Powell as endearing Toby Bello depicted a character with vulnerable yet self-assured strength in a scene-stealing performance. Playing Toby as the mathematics-loving, kindhearted antithesis to Laine’s lecherous Guy de Wit, the character showed an alternate way to behave as a man in a relationship – without games or seduction of any kind. He also garnered laughs with his delivery of one of the best running jokes of the show (to do with what it means to pick someone up from the airport).

‘Banging Denmark’ was bawdy in its hilarious indecency and exploration of what it means to be a man versus a woman amid today’s constantly evolving relationship roles. If you’re looking for a thought-provoking laugh, this would be a great choice for a night out with friends, or date night – if your partner is game for a sparring match.

‘Banging Denmark’ performs until Saturday, 23 March 2024 at PIP Theatre. For more information, visit their website.


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