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Banging Denmark - Harbour Theatre

Reviewed by Kelly Salathiel


Banging Denmark by Australian playwright Van Badham is currently performing to audiences at Harbour Theatre in Mosman Park until October 1, directed by Melissa Merchant.

Ishtar Madigan, portrayed by Grace Edwards, is a feminist academic who's writing her thesis on computer games, and Jake Newhouse, portrayed by Ryan Emery, is a full-time management consultant and part-time pickup artist - you couldn't find two more different people. But when Jake's latest crush, Danish librarian Anne (portrayed by Injeong Hwang) doesn't respond to any of his usual seduction techniques, he turns to Ish to coach him in feminist-friendly flirtation, and he's willing to drop a pretty penny for her help.

Banging Denmark is labelled as a 'black comedy' and while it did have some funny moments, I wouldn't call it a comedy. The performance goes for around two hours with no interval. Take this as a bladder warning, people! Normally I wouldn't agree with not giving your audience a break, but the flow of the production would have been lost if an interval had been put in, and I'd also be hard-pressed to even suggest where one would go.

I was 'lucky' enough to overhear a front-of-house person mention to another audience member that there was some strong language at the start of the show, but even that didn't prepare me for the onslaught of the use of the F word in the first five minutes. Without a warning in the venue, or at least in the programme, you can very quickly turn off your audience if they know nothing about the show, like me, before coming to watch.

The character of Jake is everything you'd expect to see in a pickup artist - chauvinistic, arrogant, the kind of guy you'd regret waking up next to and probably want to slap on your way out the door. Ryan did a very good job bringing those aspects of Jake's character out, but I found the character's softening at the end harder to believe. Grace's Ishtar was fascinating to watch - the internal conflict of wanting to stay well away from someone like Jake but needed the money he's offering after recent events was easy to see and very believable, well done. Credit also to Natalia Myslinska as Ish's former student now friend Denyse and Luke Osborne as Toby - Denyse's best friend-turned-boyfriend. Injeong did a good job as Anne - mostly unemotional with a big switch flip when her character meets Ish but without a distinctive Scandinavian accent, I found it hard to believe the character was Danish. 

The stage, designed by Melissa Merchant and Jarrod Buttery, is set up to represent three different locations, and while the parts to the left and right of the stage worked very well for their intended situations. Unfortunately, the choice of furniture used in the centre of the stage wasn’t as effective in conveying the type of space it was supposed to be. The idea of the three distinctive sections worked very well, maybe with a deeper stage that middle section may have worked better.

Good job to all involved - and always nice to see an Australian play staged in Perth.

Ryan Emery (Jake Newhouse) and Grace Edwards (Ishtar Madigan)

Reviewer Note: Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.


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