by Ella Navarro, photos by Morten Fauerby
Forget you are the audience. Forget you are going to enter the premises of a typical theatre. You are about to be submerged into the world of one of the most famous fairy tale writers of all time, at a big dinner table where all the characters of his stories show up to celebrate. You will be just another guest at the party.
Fairy tales without an expiration date
A play that began in 2005 as a commemoration to 200 years Hans Christian Andersen’s stories is today still a party to celebrate his wonderful fairy tales. Stories that are known worldwide and that we have been hearing since we were children – stories such as ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘Thumbelina’ and ‘The Princess and the Pea’ – even if we didn’t know they were from Andersen himself at the time.
Bodil Alling, both actor and producer of the play, told us a little about how the show’s creation. It has been touring successfully since 2005 in Denmark and around the world – even in cities in Taiwan, where they perform along ‘a shadow translator’.
“We dug into his fairy tales and looked into the point of each story. We created the play in order for you to recognise which fairy tale is being represented, even if nothing is being said. It is a piece of art in the table,” Alling explained.
The whole play is an art installation connected to Andersen’s figure and stories. The scenery itself was built first and then the play was written, mostly by Alling herself, but also with a lot of use of improvisation. “The audience feels clever when they are able to see which fairy tale it is.”
Whether you know the fairy tales of Andersen or not, Hans Christian, You Must be an Angel is accessible to everyone. It not only provokes the spectator to go home and start reading the fairy tales from scratch, but also to re-read the ones they know, since the play provides them with a new meaning to discover.
“The most wonderful part of the play is that afterwards you want to go home and read the fairy tales. You suddenly see that these fairy tales are not only stories for children, but are deep, with so many levels of comprehension. And the performance allows you to see this,” contends Alling.
There’s always time to become a swan
“It is necessary for a human being to be seen – as well as seen through – and be loved in spite of everything.”
Hans Christian Andersen saw this. He was indeed a lonely character throughout his childhood and adolescence, a sort of black sheep. In his fairy tale ‘The Ugly Duckling’, he reflects his life story in a profound way. How a lonely boy transformed into a famous writer remains alive through his stories, even 200 years after his death.
“He got his glory in a later age, still being a little bit awkward, but a really interesting person,” explains Alling. “Therefore, the name of the play is based on the idea that he is famous and still alive all over the world, and how he ended up becoming this beautiful swan, like the ugly duckling in the story.”
A reunion to revive the best
Andersen’s stories are very special fairy tales. Stories you can read to a child of five years or an adult of 60, with different ages finding different levels of understanding. Hans Christian, You Must be an Angel reunites Andersen’s fairy tales for us to enjoy this important part of the Danish culture, but also to enter into Andersen’s world.
“I will never stop figuring out his fairy tales. They are really moving, and that is what we want to transmit in the play. Wherever you go with this play, you can feel the magic,” Alling concluded.
So, if you ask me, you better not pass on this one-time opportunity to feel the magic of Hans Christian Andersen at your fingertips. It will certainly put you in the Christmas spell.
You can watch the trailer here:
Hans Christian, You Must be an Angel has two performances on December 19 at 11:00 and 19:00. For tickets, visit the website. Teatret Gruppe 38 is located in Mejlgade 55B, Aarhus.
Upcoming performances at Teatret Gruppe 38:
Ressacs – January 27-28, 20:00
The Evil – February 6, 19:00