The third annual H. C. Andersen Festivals
(with an s!) took place here in Odense, Denmark on 16-23 August 2015. There had
been problems the previous years with no public transportation, standing room
only and no big screens, but surely, these problems must have been solved by
Wrong. Looking through the programme, I
could see that I had to skip the events that I wanted to see the most, namely a
production of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Flying Trunk” featuring
the Italian acrobats eVènti Verticali, a music and performance show of
Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl” and a dance performance of Andersen’s
“Thumbelina”. Reason? Standing room only and no public transportation in the
city centre after dark. Oh well, I had to find something else to see then, and
Monday I went to the Art Street, but as usual,
there was not much art in the street, only the usual carpet and cushions on
wooden pallets. Eventually, I managed to find a few funny sculptures of animals
and I liked the horses the best. Like previous years, artworks by the usual
suspects such as Narcis Gironell, Quim Domene, Laurent Chabolle and Anne Brérot
could be found in Gallery Rasmus.
Two out of five stars: **
The censored art exhibition in the Art
Exhibition Building was next, but unfortunately it was as awful as usual and
this year I wasn’t even allowed to vote for the best work, as I was on crutches
due to a partial knee replacement seven weeks ago! Of the ones who were offered
a ballot paper, I saw several using the exhibited paintings as blotting pads…
Zero out of five stars:
Tuesday I didn’t see anything, as I had to
recover from the day before, but Wednesday I went to see “a whimsical
installation full of magic and your own adventure” as it said in the festival
programme. A mirror maze was supposed to be situated in the installation along
with big puppets on a string, but when I arrived (within the opening hours),
the installation – which was just a small pavilion with room for a few kids –
was closed. What a disappointment!
Zero out of five stars:
Then I went on to Brandts Square, which the
programme had promised would be turned into Aladdin’s cave with belly dancers,
genies, exotic spices and real live camels, but there was nothing of that sort.
Only a few paper lanterns and more cushions on wooden pallets. The local
symphony orchestra was just finishing a concert on the amphi stage, but I
couldn’t find a place to sit and watch it as all seats were taken and Danes
never offer their seats to anybody, no matter if you are handicapped, pregnant,
old or whatever. Furthermore, the busses by Brandts had been cancelled, not
only after dark, but during daytime as well, so I struggled to get home.
One out of five stars (but only because the
orchestra was good!): *
In the evening I went to see a “light and
projection show” called Birds of Passage at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum
near my home. The entrance to the museum had been turned into a kind of screen
showing a ten minutes long projection of Andersen’s paper art combined with
music and coloured lights. It was quite pretty and kind of soothing, but hardly
any people had found their way to the museum and as usual, it was difficult to
get back home as well as the busses only ran once an hour during evening.
Three out of five stars: ***
Thursday I went to “Glamour at Brandts”.
The programme had promised a red carpet event at Brandts Cultural Centre with paparazzi,
total make-overs, music, cocktail bars serving champagne, selfie opportunities
etc., but to be honest, it was hard to spot any glam at all. In the entrance
hall, there was a single DJ and an empty bar selling overpriced champagne. The
place was totally deserted, but in the next room about a hundred women were
crammed together waiting for their make-overs. One hairstylist, one make-up
artist and one fashion stylist were to help all of the women one at a time, so
not even a tenth would be able to have their make-over done, as the event lasted
three hours only. I decided that I would rather see the rest of the centre, and
who needs a make-over anyway?
I went upstairs to the exhibition “Danish
Fashion Now” where in one room clothes by Danish designers were on display and
in the other you could see dresses made for the rich and famous, for instance Denmark’s
Crown Princess Mary. Some of the dresses were lined up on each side of a red
carpet, so there WAS one, but not the way that the programme had described it.
On the second floor, I saw the exhibition “Selfie” where you could see selfies
used as art, but there were no selfie-points or selfie opportunities for the
guests, which I thought would have been fun.
It is safe to say that the glamour event
was a big flop, but luckily the centre’s permanent art collection with a large
number of classic and modern works by both Danish and international artist was
open. I especially fell in love with Eva Koch’s 3D mapping on the plaster cast
of the classic statue Hera.
The “Glamour on Brandts” event I can only
give two out of five stars: **
The permanent art exhibition I’ll give four
out of five stars: ****
The main attraction of the H. C. Andersen
Festivals each year is the big 3D light show on Odense town hall façade by “We
Create Magic”. It is so popular that more shows had been added this year, but
alas it is still standing room only and with no public transportation nearby,
so I thought I wouldn’t be able to see it. On the other hand, reviewing the
festivals without mentioning the light show is like going to a Muse concert and
only write about the warm up bands. Saturday night my daughter and I therefore
took a chance, caught a bus an hour prior to the show, walked the last bit and
were able to sit on the huge sculpture “Oceania” by Svend Wiig Hansen on the
town square! There were thousands of people standing up around us, so we
weren’t able to see the beginning of the show, which was a ten minutes dance
show by The Royal Danish Ballet School on a runway in front of the town hall.
The following ten minutes were what we had come to see anyway and this year we
saw the animated stories of “The Princess and the Pea” and “The Emperor’s New
Clothes” projected onto the façade. It was truly magic, much better than “Clumsy
Hans” last year, although not as good as the show in 2013 with “Thumbelina”,
“The Steadfast Tin Soldier” and others. The evening ended with a sing-along and
then we CRAWLED all the way back home and I haven’t been able to walk since!
Four out of five stars: ****
There were more than 500 events at the
festival this year, so of course the above is not representative of the entire
festival, but it is clear that it suffered from a number of (recurrent)
problems, the gravest being:
Several of the events didn’t
match the description in the programme or had been cancelled and this year most
of the really interesting ones weren’t even free anymore, so you had to pay fairly
steep entrance fees.
The festival wasn’t
handicap-friendly with standing room only or many stairs to and from events, so
people using wheel chairs, canes, crutches etc. were prevented from
participating in most of them.
The public transportation was
crap!!! There was no transportation in or out of the city centre, the few
busses on the ring around city were scarce and therefore crowded and many
events ended after the busses had stopped running at night.
I hope that the private businesses that
have funded this festival along with the town and the region intend to do
something about these problems, as they tarnish what would otherwise be a great
festival. At least I think it is sad if the festival is going to be solely for
the young, rich and healthy in the future.