"Britain creates so many opportunities for theatre-makers that are hard to find elsewhere."
Camilla Gürtler, Theatre Director.
Camilla Gürtler – Sharing the stage between Britain and Denmark
Camilla is a director originally from Denmark, now living in London. She trained on the Young Directors' Programme with StoneCrabs Theatre Company and is currently finishing her MA in Directing at Drama Centre London.
What made you want to study in the UK as a Dane?
I was drawn to the UK’s creative diversity, which is especially present in London. I loved English as a language and was fascinated by the cultural mix, history and the adventure of living abroad in the UK. The theatre of Shakespeare, and the work of other major British playwrights, was also a draw. Giving myself a fresh start as an artist was equally important and being accepted at a drama school in London provided me with the opportunity to explore a variety of genres that I hadn’t previously come across. While training at Drama Centre I began exploring what I really wanted to do as a director and discovered a strong interest in political, international work. Ironically, my experience in London made me want to explore Scandinavian theatre even more; I wanted to go back to my roots and merge what I’d learnt in both the UK and in Denmark.
How did the British theatre scene change your perspective on theatre as an art form?
I’d describe studying theatre in the UK as like looking at into a kaleidoscope. There’s a huge amount of variety, and room for every genre. The development of new writing is probably what has struck me the most: the UK stimulates an energetic culture of young creatives and writers. As a student, I realised forms and genres are there to be experimented with. In one theatre it’s possible for an audience to discover physical theatre to spoken word, and everything in between.
Tell us about your new play
Kinder K is a play by the Norwegian playwright Kristofer Grønskag. He’s a writer whose work I hugely admire. I found the script on a placement with Boundless Theatre last year, and then decided to work on it for my 3rd year production at Drama Centre.
The play considers the use of gene technologies, and asks what makes a life worth living. Two stories drive the piece. The first is set in Nazi Germany and traces the story of a German couple who write to Hitler and ask him to kill their disabled new-born son, Gerhard. Gerhard would be the first victim of Action T4, the killing of thousands of disabled children. The second story is set in 2017. A young pregnant couple realise they’re going to have a disabled child. They have to decide whether they should or should not keep it.
Ultimately, the play asks if we should decide whether a human being should be made normal or perfect. Considering the rapid development in gene technologies today, it asks its audience to start thinking about what compassion really means.
What do you think the UK can learn from Denmark with regards to theatre and performance, and vice versa?
I admire the openness in Danish theatre, in which a sort of unspoken ‘contract’ exists between the creators and the audience. There, theatre feels like a safe space in which to test boundaries and voice potent points of view on the society in which we live. What strikes me most about Scandinavian theatre is its ability to be immensely direct and experimental. Denmark also has a strong visual tradition and an embedded sense of stagecraft when it comes to the way in which actors and directors create performances.
On the other hand, Britain’s theatre scene has taught me to understand the importance of text and textual analysis. The actor’s craft is also an important focus, and I think the UK is very good at creating the kind of ‘actor’s theatre’ that it is perhaps traditionally associated with. Despite cuts in funding, there is no doubt that Britain creates so many opportunities for theatre-makers that are hard to find elsewhere.
I’d say that when the theatre traditions in the UK and Denmark are combined, the results can be exhilarating. The Danish visual experimentation, political directness and acting style crossed with the British tradition of story-telling and movement – For me, it draws out something very deep in the play and our experience of it.