Banging Denmark (PIP Theatre) – theatre review

PIP Theatre’s first offering for 2024 is the hilarious Banging Denmark, written by Van Badham and directed by Heidi Gledhill. Badham wrote the play as a way to cope with the horrendous online trolling she faced as a journalist for The Guardian. Banging Denmark was shortlisted for the 2020 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting and had its premiere in 2019 with Sydney Theatre Company.

Director Heidi Gledhill brought everything together for a night of great indie theatre. Using a traverse stage similar to a tennis match, the audience was lined up facing each other along each side of the stage. This was a clever choice by set designer Helena Trupp as the world of dating, relationships and the quest for love can certainly feel like a game.

Photos: Kris Anderson

Banging Denmark will appeal to anyone who’s ever struggled in relationships, especially a modern audience. It delivers a message about equality that doesn’t alienate, demonise or blame, and while hilariously entertaining, the advice to young men is clear: tricks and one-liners just aren’t going to cut it anymore. What we all really need, and are sorely lacking in, is real connection.

In the lead role of Ishtar “Ish” Madigan, Tegan Braithwaite was adorable. Her portrayal as a feminist writer whose life is a mess was fearless and energetic. This was no easy task given she was onstage for almost the entire play. Tegan’s singing cameo was just one of many notable highlights and it probably won’t be long before she will be gracing a much bigger stage. Rijan Laine was an excellent foil as nemesis Jake Newhouse, aka Guy DeWitt the guru podcaster. He perfectly portrayed the clueless “sexpert” misinforming a fan base of equally clueless dudes. Special mention to whoever did the “bro” character’s voiceover. Rijan’s vocal work in the podcasting scenes was impressive, as was Tommi Civili’s sound design, and it’s no surprise Rijan also works as a voice over artist.

Janaki Gerard played best friend Denyse with great ease; her friendship with Ish was very believable and their spontaneous song and dance to “Babooshka” by Kate Bush was endearing and gave their bond charm and depth. Amelia Slatter was exceptional in her PIP Theatre acting debut, hitting the right notes as the haughty librarian Anne, complete with excellent European accent. Her character was suitably intriguing and disarming, and having worked in a library for many years, I can say that her no nonsense line delivery was spot on. Heidi Gledhill’s work as Director and Intimacy Director were especially noteworthy during the slow motion, stylised hook up scene. Dudley Powell was heartfelt as the lovesick mathematician Toby, and I was rooting for him to get the girl. It would have been great to see him in an even bigger role.

The dance bows were a joy, and I would love to see more performers being allowed to have this much fun in their final moments. Shout out to choreographer Neridah Waters and all involved for this finale highlight. As a caution to anyone wearing anything fancy, don’t sit in the front row if you’re afraid of some splashback. This is an intimate theatre and the fight scene in the second act gets a bit crazy.

This was my first time to the PIP Theatre, and it was great to have the bar open one hour prior to the show. It was worth arriving early for a pre-show drink to enjoy the views and leafy decor in the multi-level, airy terrace bar. The theatre foyer was cute and contained charming accents including a piano, antique furnishings and old paperback books. I also loved the take home bookmark containing a QR code for the program. The theatre location in the trendy restaurant precinct of Milton is worth checking out beforehand too.

My husband accompanied me to this performance, and it’s worth sharing his observations as a person who spends most nights in front of the screen. He was grateful to have come along, and in his opinion, Banging Denmark is better than anything on TV at the moment. The discussion that could be sparked on the ride home with a date / partner will be far more inspiring than a night out at the latest popcorn flick.

Van Badham’s Banging Denmark proves that great art can come from something terrible. There are plenty of chances to support quality, independent theatre with the season running until 23rd March.

Banging Denmark is at PIP Theatre, 20 Park Road, Milton in Brisbane until 23 March 2024

Sarah Skubala

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