Can the troll be tamed? The troll being a fierce female CEO with a vicious punch on her – the tamer being the wastrel Peter, who is short of penge and so accepts some dough from his friend to get Katrine into bed so that said friend can try and seduce Katrine’s younger sister Bianca.
Wait, that story sounds awfully familiar. Kan Trolden Tæmmes is based on our own Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew in which overprotective father Baptista forbids his bimbo younger daughter to marry until his harridan of an elder one Katarina is married off first. This sucks for the younger’s – Bianca – many suitors, and so Hortensio, the craftiest one among them, slips his rogue friend Petruchio a silver handshake to woo Kate, there by freeing up Bianca to be pounced on. As in any of the Bard’s comedies there is plenty of dressing up, discussing of gender roles and bawdy sjov og ballade (fun and games).
Whether intentional or not Kim Bjarke’s Kan Troldem Tæmmes keeps that true spirit of Shakespeare well and truly present, while also being “Danish comedy in full force”, as it has been described by Swedish magazine Det Händer. Danish comedy? Yes, the Danes also enjoy a giggle in between all the crime and killing!
Lars Mikkelsen as Bad Boy Peter and Ditte Hansen as extreme Independent Woman Katrine are fantasic. Both in their own right and together and every bit as fiery, tempestuous and electric as that institution Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who played exactly those parts in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1967 film adaptation. Such a great pairing – think Pippa Haywood as Joanna Clore from Green Wing meets Mark Rylance as Johnny Rooster from the play Jerusalem – one envisages Mikkelsen and Hansen as a perfect Benedict and Beatrice from one of Shakespeare’s other much loved comedies, Much Ado About Nothing.
The two Mikkelsen brothers are virtual opposites in character and acting. While Mads – the more famous and lusted after – has played the more tempered and stoic characters, Lars has a history of taking on the more, well, “Petruchio-esque” and passion-requiring roles: major Troels Hartmann in the Killing’s first season and now this role as Peter, marking him out as a superb stage actor (a worthy reason to make the trip to Denmark for)… and the sexier of the brothers for certain.
The play is brilliantly choreographed – particularly Barbie-doll Bianca (Anne Sofie Espersen) and Lucenzio’s (Kenneth M Christensen) perfectly executed aerobic-cum-porno workout sequence! – and thankfully shies away from laying on the slapstick too thick. A rotating stage uses the Nørrebro Teater’s space cleverly: we hop back and forth between Denmark and the decrepit hotel abroad in the sweltering heat that Peter has whisked Katrine away to for one very sweet and sour honeymoon.
Performed in Danish, it took me a few warm-up scenes to get used to understanding the action spoken in a different tongue. Exactly like it takes a few warm-up scenes to atune one’s ear to the Old English when watching Shakespeare in its original form. True, I could understand about half of the dialogue and probably missed out on a couple of cultural “in jokes”. But to not watch a play just because of this would do a massive disservice to all the non-verbal elements that make a great a play: the actors, the atmosphere, the cast’s chemistry, the set, the story, the tempo, the design. Kan Trolden Tæmmes manages to deliver on all these fronts and be an ideal way to warm up for a couple of hours on a cold night in Copenhagen.