A trip to Denmark and a Playing Theatre weekend

In April, a small posse from Coney – Ben Pacey, an artist sometimes representing Coney; myself, the same and also a co-director; Roz Wynn, Coney’s theatre producer – went on a networking trip to Denmark courtesy of Art Ignite a collaboration between Arts Council England and the Danish Arts Foundation to support collaborative working between the UK and Denmark. We were looking to meet artists, producers and others who might share similar interests in playful/interactive theatre.

We spent a day in Aarhus, meeting dramaturg Thomas Rosendahl Nielsen of Aarhus University, who took us to see the legendary Odin Teater play that evening. The remaining days mostly to Copenhagen, where we met Gry Worre Hallberg of the remarkable ‘school of sensation’ Sisters Academy, Vera and Jakob of adventure-makers hello!earth, Ida Larsen and Marie-Louise Stentebjerg of two-women-machine-show together with our mutual friends Luke Cooper and Sam Moore of Wunderkammer. Via an old collaborator Eva Kanstrup, we boarded the boat of Illutron to meet with Christian Lilledahl and the rest of their gang of pirate-inventors. We ran a workshop on interactive theatre at the ITU hosted by Patrick Jarnfelt and Lena Mechtanova of Copenhagen Game Collective, with whom we also mucked together a game for a party about a mysterious Herr Kralik. And Ben and myself drove down to the tiny town of Stege in the south of Zeeland to spend the day with Nullo Facchini, Siri Facchini Haff, and Catrine Bek of Cantabile2, and experience two beautiful pieces of their ‘human-specific theatre’.

We then invited as many as we could of the Danish artists back to London to reciprocate. The trip coincided with a weekend on playing theatre we were curating at Camden People’s Theatre – a Salon on Playing Theatre (on which you can read more here) and a scratch night of playing theatre. Lining up for the scratch night from the UK were: Will Drew and Michelle McMahon with a lecture before Urban Snail Racing; myself representing Coney with a sketch Theatre Of The Future from a project codenamed REMOTE; Toby Peach with a reflective audio piece A Moment Of Bliss; Ben Pacey playing with maps and imagined locations in You Are Here; Kathryn Beaumont literally phoning in Call Waiting, a side-piece to her developing I Told You This Will Happen; myself and Simon Katan playtesting a new mobile game Clamour; Jenifer Toksvig and The Copenhagen Interpretation wrapping around everything with Accompany. From Denmark, Cantabile2 presented Biographies, one of the pieces Ben and I had loved in Stege, and Wunderkammer with the help of two-women-machine-show made a first scratch towards their new piece Evil.

We did our best to introduce our Danish friends around, to meet people over here with mutual interests or who might help them develop their work. But it felt as useful to have had them around for this packed weekend, to meet people through the conversations at the Salon or to talk around the work at the Scratch Night, the very best kind of networking. It was also great to have introduced to each other CphGC and Illutron, and Wunderkammer and Cantabile2, and those relationships may blossom.

We’re planning to run more open events like these further to talk and play around what it means to make this kind of theatre which audiences can play. If you want to hear first about these, you’re recommended to join Coney’s Network.

Myself and Will Drew returned to Copenhagen a fortnight later to present Crowdplay at the w00t play festival run by Copenhagen Game Collective. I also gave a talk on playing theatre, which will get blogged shortly. Some of my own highlights of w00t were playing the hauntingly simple Seven Stones, a street game from Palestine; running the gauntlet of CphGC’s stirring Human Tower Defence; meeting the great Bernie De Koven, whose book The Well-Played Game is seminal. CphGC are a super-smart gang of people, reflected in the festival they curate.

I later returned to Copenhagen to see some theatre: a couple of pieces in Follow The Money, a festival at Sort/Hvid about the economy (fuelling thinking for A Tail Of Two Cities) and the astonishing My Body Is A Barrel Of Gunpowder by two-women-machine-show, one of the most remarkable pieces I have ever seen.

It’s been a fruitful exchange.

Tassos Stevens

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