By Van Badham. Director Madeleine Withington. New Theatre, Newtown, NSW. 20 – 30 September, 2023
Reviewed : 24 September, 2023
New Theatre spices up Sydney Fringe with Van Badham’s feisty feminist comedy Banging Denmark.
Misogyny, sexism, flirtation and seduction trip over each other wildly as Madeleine Withington’s young cast takes the stage with a blast of explosive energy. This play must be fast. Badham’s satirical words would lose their impetus and the characters their untamed power if the pace were anything but frenetic.
Withington ensures that by filling the theatre with loud music that sets the tempo – before Matt Abotomey, as wealthy ego-driven pick-up artist Jake Newhouse writhes suggestively as he gives advice on seduction to less successful male predators on his internet advice line. Management consultant by day, Jake has no delusions about his own ability to charm …
Until he happens upon Danish librarian Anne (Emelia Corlett) – who coolly and emphatically knocks him back. In ego-affected agitation he turns for advice about a less seductive approach to famed feminist academic Ish Madigan (Sarah Greenwood) who herself has been left destitute after a defamation case and is living secretly in her office.
Ish is still steaming mad about the case – and men in general – and she’s not about to bow to his charms even when he offers her $50,000 – and a $1000 retainer. Enter her super -intelligent friend Dr Denyse Kim (Kandice Joy) who talks her through the situation. If anyone can really just ‘talk’ to Ish! – because Ish thinks and moves at a racing pace and keeping up with her ideas and reactions are almost impossible!
Greenwood hits that ‘racing pace’ and sustains it in a brilliant performance that is exuberant, quirky and unremittingly funny. Under Withington’s tight direction, the Ish Madigan she portrays is a dynamo, motivated, defensive, cynical, sarcastic and in control …
Until she too meets Anne, who turns out to be one of her greatest admirers. Their one-night stand complicates things – as does Denyse’s fling with Jake that upsets her gentle best friend Toby (Gerry Mullaly) who is really desperately in love with her.
Badham throws love and lust and sexual controversy together in this sardonic rom-com that Withington directs with a pace that matches Badham’s short, spikey sentences and stinging satire.
Withington’s cast plays that satire with energy, vitality – and intelligence. All five hit the challenge of Badham’s fast exchanges and strong characters that they make bitingly, hilariously real.
What a shame it plays for such a short season!