In Focus: The Danish Play

The opening image is one that stays with you even after you've left the show. A painting on the set evaporates as if by magic. Behind the painting stands a woman naked, clutching a typewriter in a bathtub. It's an indelible one. One that also sets the tone for the night. One that starts a powerful and illustrious journey that is The Danish Play.

The newest production from Nightwood Theatre presents the true story of Agnete Ottosen, a Danish poet and resistance fighter during the Second World War. Her story is a one of a difficult journey. A woman trying to make a difference in a time when women weren't expected to and humanity was not allowed to.

The play comes from playwright Sonja Mills whose connection to the story is very personal.

"I had always known about my great-aunt Agnete's work with the Danish resistance during the occupation of WWII. When you have parents that grew up in Europe during the war you tend to hear stories. It was when I heard about what happened to Agnete AFTER the war that I knew I had a play to write."

The play was written a few years ago and is in its third incarnation.

"This show is about the human cost of war. It's not about war, it's about what war does to people. We thought it was a timely show in 2002, just as George W. was poised to declare war on the world. Now, in 2007, with every soul on this earth in pain, the messages of The Danish Play resonate even louder."

This resonance is clear and the story a powerful one. One that crosses the borders of female independence, perseverance, suffering and, ultimately, redemption.

All the artists involved use their talents to great use. Though the play runs longer two hours, it moves much quicker as we are whisked through the various time periods before, during and after Agnes's struggle and death. It is during the period of the aftermath of the war that we really find out what suffering truly is.

Mills post script is simple. "That there is no glory in war. There is nothing but waste." Though true of its message the statement could not be further from the truth in relation to the time spent watching it. A real pleasure in pain.

The Danish Play - Presented by Nightwood Theatre. Runs to March 17 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.

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