Entering Theatre Republic is your first steps into a fairytale. The dimly lit foyer is spotted with candles as you break off into groups for the nights performance.
A girl donned in white will take you by the hand as she takes you to tell your fortune and hands you refreshing camomile, apple and sake cocktail – her name is Gerda, the protagonist to this story, and the character that you will ‘act out’ through the nights performance.
Welcome to the Snow Queen, the highlight of Copenhagen’s Wondercool Festival. Turning Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale on its head, the Snow Queen is a dynamic interactive performance where food and art collide.
Gastronomic theatre is a new innovative style of performance by the artistic trio Dorte Holbek, Martin Tulinius and food stylist Mette Martinussen. Having completed rave performances in Reykjavik, Iceland and with Danish brewery Carlsberg, the trio bought their performance style to the Wondercool Festival – part of February’s month long cultural event.
From the moment you enter the theatre and Gerda takes your hand you are whisked into the fairytale as you follow Gerda’s journey to find friend, Kai, who has been kidnapped by the Ice Queen.
The story centres around the struggle between good and evil, as experienced by Gerda and Kai, and the evenings experience takes you through each of the seven ‘stories’ that make up the tale.
As a young boy, Kai sings sweetly in the troll rooms mirror hall before the evil Snow Queen blows in, infecting him with the jagged mirror pieces and turning him from a happy boy into a cold person Gerda does not know; but he is her friend, her best friend, and she is prepared to do anything to save Kai from being lost forever in the cold place of the North.
A bus carries us to our next stop, a beautiful garden tended to by the Flower Woman (pictured above). Hiding her roses beneath the earth she tried to make Gerda forget about Kai, but Gerda’s tears make the roses grow and they tell her that Kai is not dead, as her village believed, but alive.
Finishing our first meals, a tartare of minced carrot with tangy herbs, horseradish and sunflower or salad of winter cabbage, verbena and roquefort, the Sorceress pulled out a wheel of fate, except it was really a flower of fate, as the flower would guide us on our next journey.
Sent towards Lapland we encounter a Finnish woman who seems possessed in a trance and covered in furs as she bounces between the walls she is contained in, in the cellar of the building.
As she tells her story, and we eat crispy cod skin, she says that the secret of Gerda’s unique power to save Kai is in her sweet and innocent child’s heart.
Continuing on our journey our Flower of Fate is used to lead us on individual journeys. Mine takes me into a blue room where I’m read a Danish fairytale that will help me find my way to Kai, as I’m presented a pint sized cod roe, cauliflower and dried egg yolk taco pulled from within the book of fairytales.
As we make our way onwards we pass the Crow who challenges our sense of perception by making us walk through a room that felt like it was shrinking and us growing, before entering a room where a man writhed in bed trying to fight the nightmares.
Leaving the place of nightmares we are captured, rather dramatically, by a band of thieves (pictured above). As the robbers hiss and jeer at us, making us laugh, scaring us and also leaving you wondering what’s going to happen next, we are fed a lavish meal of game – think dried hare, bone marrow, wild boar and ox tail.
Creating and serving the food is half the performance as the robbers dance, sing and create music before us and pouring wine from huge seemingly never ending wine bottles.
While they hiss and snarl at us, our captives do tell us that Kai was last seen at the Snow Queen’s palace nearly frozen to death. After more singing, dancing and drumming they finally fall asleep and we’re able to sneak past them to continue our journey.
Finding a half frozen Kai in the palace, Gerda’s warm heart and love for Kai overcomes the Snow Queen’s evil mirror pieces as an elaborate dance shows the Queen’s power fading as good triumphs over evil.
Of course this means a celebration is in order as we are presented with a tray of snowy treats – cold sheep’s milk soufflé with crystallised white chocolate, marinated pear, Tonga and sugar coated almonds – a finale to the night.
It’s unlike any dinner & theatre experience I’ve experienced as you are truly immersed into the story, living the experience – good, bad and sometimes a little hair raising when a thief snarls down your neck.
The food was amazing and so unlike anything I’ve experienced to date. I was a little nervous when first served the salad of winter cabbage in the garden, but the sauce of verbena and roquefort added this tangy flavour, and even the following crispy cod skin wasn’t horrible, though it does sound weird.
The banquet at the thieves house is where the food really shines as some of your food is cooked before your eyes, sauces served on a giant bone, and the ways they choose to cook the game leaves it succulent and delicious.
The Snow Queen may even make you reconsider the purpose of fairytales. Hans Christian Andersen was ridiculed by many in his day for being granted a small allowance from the government to write yet only producing “children’s stories” instead of real books. As you delve deeper into his stories, particularly the sophisticated layers of the Snow Queen, you have to admire the way he wrote his stories and how applicable they are for both young and old a like.
The menu for the performance included;
- Cold camomile, apple and sake cocktails
- Tartare of minced carrot with tangy herbs, horseradish and sunflower -or- salad of winter cabbage, verbena and roquefort
- Crispy cod skins and anchovy
- Cod roe, cauliflower and dried egg yolk
- Bread croutons, hare sauce and cherry vinegar
- Dried hare
- Filo sack with marinated leg of hare and dried fruit
- Marrow bone and crispy celery
- Salad of raw beetroot with burnt cheese
- Chard and winter spinach
- Wild boar with charred garlic
- Potato, oxtail, lemon grass and roe
- Puree of olives, milk ice cream, lemon caramel and liquorice
- Cold sheep’s milk soufflé with crystallised white chocolate, marinated pear, Tonga and sugar coated almonds.
- Too many glasses of wine to count!
Now it’s over to you:
Have you experienced Gastronomic Theatre?
What do you think of this style of dinner theatre experience?
Would you attend a gastronomic theatre evening?
The Snow Queen
The Snow Queen runs from February 6 to March 8, 2014 at the theater Republique, part of Copenhagen’s Wondercool Festival.
Price: 1300.00 DKK – 1400.00 DKK (AU$265-285)
My trip to Copenhagen was arranged by Visit Denmark for the Wondercool Festival.
All thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.