Banging Denmark

Van Badham
MESH Theatre Company in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre
Finborough Theatre, London

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Tom-Kay as Jake and Rebecca Blackstone as Ishtar Credit: Ali-Wright
Maja Simonsen as Anne and Rebecca Blackstone as Ishtar Credit: Ali-Wright
Jodie Tyack as Denyse and James Jip as Toby Credit: Ali-Wright
Jodie Tyack as Denyse and Tom-Kay as Jake Credit: Ali-Wright

It’s quite a while since London theatre has performed the once-popular genre of bedroom farce with its improbable plots, its supposedly funny awkward sexual situations and its casual sexist politics. But with a mischievous wink at any feminist who might accidentally stumble into the Finborough Theatre, Van Badham’s Banging Denmark gives us a far-fetched, light sex comedy with a 21st-century flavour.

Jake (Tom Kay), using the online alias of Dewitt, promotes men’s bad behaviour towards women. We hear him praising the manhood of a bloke boasting he slept with a woman and made her cry. Unfortunately, Jake has a problem. He fancies the librarian Anne (Maja Simonsen) who doesn’t warm to his silly chat-up line.

Rather than try again with something more conventional or talk it over with his online crowd of male supremacists, he has an unexpected and unlikely solution. He will consult with the feminist Ishtar Madigan (Rebecca Blackstone) who has just had to pay him a vast sum of money in a defamation claim made in the name of Dewitt.

It has plunged Ishtar into such poverty, she now stays full-time in a photocopying cupboard where her friend Denyse (Jodie Tyack) helped by Toby (James Jip) brings her boxes of food and wet wipes to clean up. We are not told why no one in the building ever uses the photocopier.

Her situation makes Jake’s offer of £1,000 for advice and £50,000 to get him a date with Anne quite tempting. And after all, she is only a pop caricature of a feminist who tells her friend that Jake wants her to “get him a chick” (he doesn’t use the word chick), calls herself a “mockery with tits”. But then feminism is a wide church.

This being a sex romp, there are lots of jokes, every character gets to have a sexual encounter, at least one rushes out of a home in embarrassment covered in just a towel, lots of alcohol is drunk and the show gets a happy ending.

The cast gives a fluent, watchable hundred-minute performance. Although the plot is barely plausible, and much of the dialogue is unlikely, the cartoon characters are treated sympathetically.

There is no exploration of the issues signalled in the play, from the male culture that celebrates the abuse of women to the harassment of those courageous women who try to make a stand against that abuse on social media.

In recent years, a woman has on average been killed by a man every three days in the UK and the 2022 British Crime Survey estimated that 1.7 million women suffered domestic abuse during that year.

Surely theatre should tell their stories, not use them as lightly sketched props to give a very old-fashioned bedroom farce a modern facelift.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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