I love summer theater…whether full productions, concerts or anything else, I love the informality of seeing world-class companies in their summer homes. We try to attend a lot, but I never learned about the summer home of the Det Kongelige Teater in Dyrehaven, at the outdoor theater called Ulvedalen. This summer, all hands are on deck for a pretty spectacular production of King Arthur, which runs until July 2nd. I know that this is short notice for the blog (this wasn’t even on my ultimate summer list but should be!) but since I only learned about it myself, I think it’s safe to say some other expats and English speakers might not know how this all works. We didn’t know much what to expect other than the production being outdoors, and the little we could get through the google translate (this is such a local thing, that they don’t even translate this portion of the Royal Theater’s website). Still, since it’s been running this season, they say they’ve sold 90,000 tickets, which given the size of Denmark, pretty much means, everyone is coming to see it! Here are a few good things to know:
1. Don’t stop at the website
The production only runs through the end of this weekend (July 2nd) and the website indicates that most tickets are sold, but don’t be afraid to call or try your luck on the spot. We ended up getting tickets last minute day of, and while I couldn’t see much from the “choose your own seats” option online, we ended up with great seats in the “best available” option. Also, while again, most looked sold out, there was one entire section that was half empty as a continuous block, so if you want to see this, you can always try to call. I believe there is also a box office at Ulvedalsvej – worst case, if not tickets are available, you’ll get a lovely walk through the deer park on a summer evening.
2. Don’t be afraid of the “cheap seats”
Well, not exactly cheap as nothing here is. But I did notice some rows in the back that had lots of availability. Because of the way the theater is structured, and the way that the action plays out across the field, having seen it, I would say you could sit just about anywhere with good views. And if you’re way up there (which isn’t all that way up there since this isn’t a huge stadium or anything) just bring binoculars to see the actors close up from time to time since the costumes and make-up are extremely well done.
3. Remember children are half price…
It’s one of the wonderful things about theater in Denmark (in Vienna too, actually…no such luck in the US in most places…) but children’s tickets are half price. So that makes a pretty material difference – especially as this is billed as a family production.
4. …So take the kids
Again, this is a family production. Well…I don’t know if “family production” is entirely the right phrase. Remember, this is King Arthur and his compadres circa the middle ages, so there is some burning at the stake towards the end, and some gremlin like creatures that could be the stuff of a bad dream or too… And, of course because it’s Denmark, all the characters shout out “m…..f…..” at some point in the night (the only English that you’ll hear)… But if you can get past that, there are also teams of dirt bikes and jousting and fireworks and a Kentucky Derby’s worth of horses in the production. Side note: with live animals come live snafus. Like Lancelot’s horse running away a half an hour into the production. The horse would then periodically run through the set while galloping around the park, making a reoccurring off script appearance. Even the actors had a hard time containing their laughter because the whole thing was a bit ridiculous. Horseless, Lancelot would then pretend to ride a horse the rest of the production (nice improv, Lancelot!). There didn’t seem to be much urgency in the finding the horse, though I did see a few of the staff reluctantly wander off to look for it, returning without much luck. I mean, does it get better than that? We had originally planned on leaving after the first half (after all, since it starts at 8:30, this pushes bed time, big time), but my five year old wasn’t having it. “Leaving early is for babies, mommy!”, she retorted. So we stayed and were glad we did – if your wee ones get tired, you can get the gist from the first half and go home without guilt, but if you can make it the full night, there is still lots of excitement in the second half that’s worth staying for. And for the record, you don’t need wee ones to enjoy it – plenty for adults too.
5. Don’t be afraid to attend if you don’t speak Danish
I don’t speak a word of Danish and I still got a lot out of the production. My daughter on the other hand, does, and as mentioned above, she thought it was just hilarious and magical and a general laugh riot. All that to say that if you’re coming in without much of the language, spoken word theater can be a bit off-putting. But there’s so much going on between the music and the gags and some of the acrobatics, that there’s plenty to keep you visually occupied. The whole thing is a bit like Cirque du Soleil meets Jesus Christ Superstar meets a Tuesday night dinner at Medieval Times, all taking place in the woods…The acting is quite exaggerated intentionally, so even if you don’t understand the words, you’ll get the gist of the story (especially if you do a quick refresher of King Arthur and his merry band with a synopsis before the show, which I should have done but only did after.). The costumes are particularly fun, the music a nice touch, and when you can’t understand the dialogue anyway, it frees you up to focus on the details – there really is a lot going on at times across the field.
6. Bring a poncho, a blanket, and provisions
Since we are in Denmark, it probably means that a/ it might rain, b/ it might get cold and c/ you might get hungry or thirsty and you’ll find the options limited. Or most likely, d/ all of the above. The show goes on rain or shine and officially, you’re not allowed to have umbrellas (though I saw plenty), so a poncho/rain coat combo are good – we had three rain showers during ours. Although it’s been been warm recently, the temperature does drop once the sun is down so having a blanket and sweater help. As for provisions, well, a good DIY picnic, especially featuring alcohol, never hurt anyone around here, and this is no exception. I didn’t get organized to pack a picnic and we were fine – there are little snacks for sale at the break tent but it is limited and lines are really long – but I did see others doing it up with a little advance planning, and if I had to do it again, I would jazz up our provisions a bit.
7. Consider sitting on the edges
If you do have choices for seats and if you are in any way claustrophobic or like easy access in and out of seats, consider sitting on the edges of rows on the aisles. The rows in these risers are quite close together and if there is inclement weather, people are wearing a lot of gear and have their picnics and don’t keep the aisles free of their things. If that makes you nervous, avoid the middle of rows.
8. Budget time for the walk
It’s not super apparent where the Ulvedalen theater is right off the bat. In some descriptions it looks like it’s part of Bakken, which isn’t entirely true, although if you drive, you will most likely have to park there. From your car in the Bakken parking to the theater, it’s about a 20 minute walk through the amusement park and the woods if you really book it – so if you don’t want to run the last 5 minutes like we did, budget half an hour to make the trek with no pressure. You can also bike up directly to the theater. If you’re walking from train, budget roughly the same amount of time. Look for people in blue jackets at key points in the park to help guide people over, though mostly they spout out helpful advice like “you should walk faster…” and “we will start the show without you” (which I have to confess were effective motivators).
9. Make a little time for a stroll through Bakken
Even though the theater isn’t in Bakken, you do walk through it most likely. I wished we had left a little more time on the front end to get a snack and such, but we ended up tossing back an ice cream cone for dinner while jogging at a light pace to make it in time. The park is mostly closed after the show, but we still had time to do a quick round of duck fishing for a prized bow and arrow before we left. Even as it’s closing though, the lights and structures are sweet and give you a bit of youthful nostalgia without the crowds. Take it all in as one of the joys of a summer night.
All photos by Det Kongelige Teater