Theater Review: Hans Christian, You Must Be an Angel @ Teatret Gruppe 38

By Lasse Hansen, photos by Morten Fauerby

Hans Christian, You Must Be an Angel plays with the audience’s expectations. We all know of Hans Christian Andersen and remember his famous characters, including The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina and The Princess and the Pea. But Aarhus Theatre Gruppe 38’s adaption provides a unique entrance into the universe of Andersen’s classic fairytales, evoking joy in children and nostalgia in adults.

The audience is warmly welcomed into the theatre hall by two cheerful servants dressed in white, waving with their tea towels, asking us to join them. The viewers are clearly surprised by the lack of seats and stage. Instead they stand on all sides of a long dinner table, decorated with curious objects like a magic clock, an old fashioned weight and 17 chairs. Who are they for?

An interactive experience
The audience contemplates the long table in the dim lights. It is Andersen’s birthday, but, “who will join him at the table?,” people seem to whisper. The servants are about to explain when a door creaks open and the heavy sound of boots interrupts as they step across the hollow wooden floor. The eyes in the crowd look around at each other in suspense at the unhurried entrance. Who is there?

Dinner is served (photo by Morten Fauerby).

Dinner is served (photo: Morten Fauerby)

The servants are in for a busy evening indeed, serving a fanciful gallery of well-known figures, each with their own distinctive demands.

Theatre-goers are not merely spectators of this play. They are encouraged to move around and remain active throughout. It is different, engaging and, perfect for children, with its colourful soundtrack and lights, and its fast-paced story which is rich in humour and Andersen’s kind wisdom.

Two actors, lots of characters
The play features a dozen characters, but only two actors. And therein lays the magic of the conception, for Andersen was a storyteller of the most splendid imagination. All the features in the play – the inventive props and special effects – work to support our imaginations the way children love, and the way adults too often forget to do. Imagination is at the heart of this multi-sensory show. It’s like opening a collection of Andersen’s fairytales and stepping into the pages to hear and see the characters. And yet… have room enough to dream.

Who was the boot wearing guest at the dinner? The servants receive him nervously. “Death” exclaims one of them; “He always shows up,” adds the other, “but often too soon.”

A space to let free your imagination (photo by Morten Fauerby)

A space to set your imagination free (photo: Morten Fauerby)

No need to be an expert on Andersen
Hans Christian, You Must Be an Angel is usually performed in Danish (Du Må Være en Engel, Hans Christian), with two shows performed in English at Aarhus’ Teatret Gruppe 38 on December 19. You don’t have to reread all of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales to enjoy this show, but after you’ve seen it, you’ll probably want to.

Hans Christian, You Must be an Angel had two performances in English on December 19 at 11:00 and 19:00. Teatret Gruppe 38 is located in Mejlgade 55B, Aarhus. For more information about the theatre, visit their website, and for an interview/preview of the play follow this link.

Teatret Gruppe 38’s next English performance, on February 6 at 19:00, will be The Evil. Find out more here.

The ticket admission for shows at Gruppe 38 is only 60 DKK for students and 125 DKK for adults. That’s cheaper than a cinema ticket!

Leave a Reply