Monday, August 29, 2016

H. C. Andersen Festivals 2016

As I was born in Odense - the same city as the fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen - and have lived here most of my life, I attend the H. C. Andersen Festivals that take place here each year and I have done so since their beginning in 2013.
The festivals are funded mostly by private businesses and they have some recurring problems, mainly regarding access for people with disabilities and then the public transportation, which is lousy with hardly any busses in and out of the city centre and events ending after the busses have stopped running at night. Each year the organisers have been confronted with these problems, but nothing has been done to solve them, so the festivals this year still suffered from them.
When that is said, I have to point out that the H. C. Andersen Festivals (I have no idea why it is “festivals” and not “festival”!) boasted 400 events this year from August 21st to August 28th, 2016. The events covered everything from concerts, stand-up comedy shows, art exhibitions, light shows, theatre and dance performances to singalongs, happenings, talks, lectures and much, much more including the chance to test your drawing skills against professional artists from the Japanese animation film studio Studio Ghibli! Several of the events were for children only, some for young adults and grown-ups and others for the entire family. Like previous years, many of the events were rather expensive, though, like £30 for a comedy day or a concert and £22 for a seat at a theatre performance, but others were free and those were the ones I preferred. The events that I review here were all free of charge.
As I’m still recovering from having had knee surgery three times within three years, I was only able to go to one event a day – or a couple if they were situated close to each other, so on the first day, a Monday, I went to see a few exhibitions in the city centre during daytime. I had to walk quite a bit from the nearest bus stop to the Amphi Square by Brandt’s Cultural Centre where I was to see what was called a “Harvest Party at Brandt’s”. Although I arrived two hours after the official opening hour, the organisers hadn’t finished decorating the square, so all that was visible was a few scarecrows and bales of hay. There was a little pen too with the cutest little mini pigs that you could kiss and cuddle. They were just amazing, but there was no harvest party in sight anywhere.
Two out of five stars: ** (one for each pig)
Not far from Brandt’s, the art street is located. Each year this street is furnished with a carpet and cushions on wooden pallets and then you are supposed to be able to enjoy art exhibitions in the street. But again: none of the stands were ready, so I ended up visiting one gallery only, Gallerie Rasmus, that displayed paintings and sculptures by the usual suspects, among them Narcis Gironell.
One out of five stars: *
My last stop was the art building “Filosoffen” that housed three different exhibitions whereof the open art exhibition with more than seventy selected works by different artists was the most interesting. The real highlight was, however, the artificial wood that had been constructed outside the building. When you went into it, you were surrounded by trees, paper lanterns and the sound of a nightingale singing. Fantastic!
Three out of five stars: ***
Tuesday I had to rest a bit, so I didn’t get to any of the events until in the evening, where I had to walk a bit again from the bus stop to the Amphi Square by Brandt’s. At the Amphi Stage more than a hundred young musicians and actors from the local HF Flow college performed their show “The Master of Poetry”. It was very good, but I had to leave early as my bus left at 7.30 p.m. – and there are no busses within my walking distance after this hour to my part of town (which is in the city centre!).
Three out of five stars: ***
Wednesday I relaxed again until 9.30 p.m. where I was able to take a bus two stops from my home to the police station and then walk the rest of the way to the town square where the main attraction of the H. C. Andersen Festivals took place. Each year “We Create Magic” make a new spectacular 3D light show on the fa├žade of Odense town hall and this year it told the animated story of “The Little Mermaid”. As usually it was breathtakingly beautiful and furthermore in 4D as it included fireworks and other pyrotechnics as well as real live dancers and acrobats. The entire show lasted twenty minutes and I was lucky to be able to sit down on one of the sculptures on the square as the show is otherwise not suited for physically disabled people as it is standing room only. The show hadn’t been coordinated with the public transportation either, so it ended five minutes after the entire public bus fleet had left the terminal and as there was a 65 minutes wait for the next busses, I had to walk home. On crutches. It took me half an hours and luckily I was in the company of my sister as I wouldn’t have dared to walk home alone otherwise. Although I live in the city centre, the street that leads from the town hall to my home is fairly dark and dangerous and many people have been assaulted and mugged there, both during day and during night, myself included as I was severely beaten up by a mugger five years ago in that street. We made it home alright this time, and all in all the light show was the highlight of the entire festival.
Five out of five stars: *****
Thursday I had planned to see a crossover food market with restaurants, music and entertainment as well as a Hans Christian Andersen video fairy tale in the street Noerregade, so I took the bus to the station and walked the rest of the way. When I reached the street, nothing was there, though, nothing at all! What a disappointment.
Zero out of five stars:
In order not to have come all the way to town in vain I had to walk twenty minutes on crutches to another street, Vintapperstraede, where The Sandman had put up five hundred umbrellas to guarantee everyone pleasant dreams. Some of the umbrellas were used as a screen onto which a magic video animation was projected. It was very enchanting indeed.
Four out of five stars: ****
The last event I attended was the theatre project “Grin, Gys og Guns” by the theatre company “Det Skraa Teater” that took place at Brandt’s Museum Friday afternoon. Roughly translated the title of the project means something like “Fun, Fright and Firearms” and that was exactly what we got. Actor Henrik Blauner Clausen rounded up the audience in Brandt’s lobby and then we all had to walk to the second floor, me on crutches. Here we were herded into the permanent exhibition of the museum and seated on some boxes after which Henrik Blauner Clausen began his one man show aided by electronic musician Henrik Pahlke Moeller who created the electronic sound effects. Within fifty minutes Clausen retold three of Hans Christian Andersen’s most beloved fairy tales, but in modern updated version. “The Ugly Duckling” became a kind of “Into the Wild” story, “The Little Match Girl” reminded me of “The Grudge” and “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” of “Rambo” but with Justin Bieber as the ultimate villain. It was all a bit sophomoric, a bit cringe-worthy and not REALLY funny, but maybe we were just the wrong age audience. We were about twenty people between twenty to sixty, I guess, and a teen audience would probably have been better. Especially as there was a lot of audience participation where you had to bully, flirt with and shoot at the actor and he seemed to realise this problem so he singled out the four youngest of the audience to interact with him. He was a fairly good storyteller, though, although the stories were a bit long-winded and the frame story about the three paintings quite unnecessary. Furthermore, we were blindfolded during the entire second “little match girl” horror story, which seemed a very lazy and easy way out. Anyway, the two Henriks worked quite hard, especially the actor, and that has to be acknowledged. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos and I had to wait forty minutes (and walk ten) to catch my bus home.
Three out of five stars: ***
Although there were still more festival to attend during the weekend, my knee had given up, so I didn’t get to see anything else. Despite the problems regarding public transportation and accessibility for disabled people, the H. C. Andersen Festivals are still worth a visit. Many of the events are in Danish, but you don’t have to be a Dane to enjoy the concerts or the art exhibitions or the different light shows. Besides, several foreign artists participate in the festivals, not only Studio Ghibli, but also musicians, performers and storytellers from places like Africa, America, China, Cuba, Egypt, England and the rest of Europe among them Nikki Hill, Dominique Kelly and Richard Bona. So there is no excuse not to attend the H. C. Andersen Festivals, and hopefully I’ll see you here next year.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Odense Flower Festival 2016

This year the annual Odense Flower Festival took place on August 18-21, 2016 and as promised last year, I boycotted it once again as for the seventh year in a row it had abandoned the original flower art and sculptures concept and replaced it with displays made by nursing schools selling their flowers.
I couldn’t quite help seeing some of the displays, though, as they were all over town, so one afternoon when I was on my way home from rehabilitation training (I’ve had knee surgery three times in the past three years!) I took some photos of a few of the displays. The theme of the festival this year was “Circus and Entertainment” so everywhere you’d see clowns, ballerinas and acrobats – some real, performing entertainers, others cardboard cut-outs or dolls.
Because of the circus theme, many of the concerts that usual take place during the festival evenings to draw an audience had been cancelled and replaced with performances by clowns, balloon artists and children dancing and doing acrobatics during day. I don’t know if this was a good idea, but I sure missed having a good night out in connection with the festival.
Oh, well. I hope you’ll still enjoy the few photos I took of the highlights of the flower festival displays – and let’s hope that the festival as such is going to be better next year.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two” was originally a two part theatre play staged at the Palace Theatre in London, to which only a few (rich) and lucky people have been able to get tickets. The rest of us have had to make do with the special rehearsal edition script that was published as a 343 page book by Little, Brown Book Group.
The play is written by playwright Jack Thorne based on an original story by Harry Potter-author J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and the theatre director John Tiffany. It picks up where the seventh Harry Potter book “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” left off on King’s Cross Station in London, Platform 9 ¾, as Harry Potter and his wife Ginny are sending off their second son Albus Severus to Hogwarts in September 2017. So it’s actually science fiction…

Anyway, a lot of diehard Harry Potter fans have waited patiently for a new story about Harry and the rest of us have been mildly interested as well, but I’m sad to say that in my opinion the play is not worth the wait. Maybe it is a good play to watch on stage – at least there are several scenes with special effects that I can’t figure out how they’d do on stage! – but it is a rather lousy read. In fact, the story is extremely predictable, it has massive plot-holes and most of the characters are boring, annoying and one-dimensional.


The story takes place in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 as well as in 1994, 1995 and 1981 and in three different dimensions. It’s not as interesting as you’d expect, though, as most of the story takes place in 2020 and the other dimensions are only used to revisit The Triwizard Tournament in 1994 and 1995 again and again. Yawn.
It is as if the authors can’t really let go of the old Harry Potter universe, but they can’t use it for anything new either, so we just go back and forth, back and forth. It is of course very repetitious and you can’t help thinking that this story is an easy way to cash in, because people will for sure watch the play and buy the book because it is Harry Potter, but it does absolutely nothing for the original story, so why do we have to go back?

If “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” does anything to the original Harry Potter universe, it is to drag it down. Because now we know that Harry Potter grows up to become a jerk with an almost invisible wife (Ginny), a stupid son (Albus), and a joke of a friend (Ron) who has absolutely nothing in common with his one-dimensional Minister For Magic-wife (Hermione).
They have all turned into very boring grown-ups and extremely poor parents, especially Harry, but it just doesn’t ring true that he wouldn’t be able to understand his troubled son Albus, who has so much in common with himself, whereas he is fine with his oldest son James who is a bit of a bully like Harry’s dad. In fact, I don’t buy the whole father/son-story, especially as Harry’s poor parental skills are explained by him lacking a father himself, but he had excellent father figures, hadn’t he? In Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Albus Dumbledore just to mention a few.
In any case, Draco, who had Lucius Malfoy and Voldemort as his father figures, has turned out to be a much better and more empathic father than Harry and his son Scorpio is the only nice, believable character in the entire play. Scorpio and Albus even have a nice little bromance going to the extent that Scorpio probably has a bromance crush on Albus, although they are both into girls: Scorpio being into Ron and Hermione’s daughter Rose and Albus being into the much older Delphi.
As for Delphi, she so obviously isn’t who she pretends to be and I guess Albus is the only one not realising. At least the readers are well aware of it and everything that happens after she is introduced in act one, scene six is predictable beyond belief. Not only is it obvious who and what Delphi is, it is also obvious what is going to happen when Albus steals a Time-Turner, as we all know that if you change the slightest bit in the past, it is going to affect the present in ways beyond your control.
It doesn’t explain, however, how Albus and Scorpio gets from 1995 to 1981 in the fourth and final act. The Time-Turned has just been destroyed in the maze during The Triwizard Tournament in 1995, so how they (and Delphi) end up in 1981 on Halloween is beyond me.

Anyway, because of all this going back and forth in time, we get to meet some old characters, some in the past and some in the presents, like Dumbledore, McGonagall and Snape, but others we are not allowed to meet. Personally I would have LOVED to see the 2020 versions of the rest of the core of Dumbledore’s Army, that is Luna, Neville and George, but no. George and Neville are mentioned several times in the story, but that’s it. If they have become as boring and one-dimensional as the rest of the main characters, it may be for the best, though.

Finally, I’m wondering what’s the deal with the logo/cover of The Cursed Child? Why is Albus (or whoever it is) sitting in a round nest with black wings behind it? Maybe you get to see why on stage, but it certainly isn’t explained in the printed play and the only explanation I can think of is that he is sitting in an Augurey nest. The Augurey is described in the book “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” as the Irish Phoenix, but it doesn’t quite add up, because aren’t their nests tear-shaped and if it is an Augurey nest, shouldn’t the child be Delphi, then?

I don’t get it and I don’t quite get “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”. To me it did nothing good to the Harry Potter universe, on the contrary, and it smells a bit like a money maker and nothing else. Because of that I can only give it two out of five stars; one for Scorpio and one for Snape: **


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