Q&A: Playwright Van Badham

Date posted: 6 Sep 2018Author: STC Production: Banging Denmark

Van Badham

Playwright, novelist, activist, academic, Guardian columnist and self professed internet junkie, Van Badham is a thoroughly entertaining and unsilenceable voice in Australian culture.

Unflinching in her determination to dismantle the patriarchy with bravery, insight and humour, her theatre work has been realised in over one hundred international and home-grown productions, appearing as part of extensive tours or events like the Edinburgh Festival, New York Summer Play Festival and the Royal Court Theatre.

Here she discusses her script Banging Denmark, developed as part of STC’s Rough Drafts programme and premiering this season under the direction of STC resident Jess Arthur.


What kind of night can audiences expect at Banging Denmark?

Expect a jolly shameless good time. Banging Denmark is a comedy about five people making desperate - and desperately bad - decisions about their sexual lives. The whole thing’s a dirty ploy to make an audience laugh out loud as a crescendo of emotional wreckage results.

What issues does it explore?

Banging Denmark enters the realm of a notorious professional male pick-up artist whose gamified seduction strategies fall apart when he finds himself gripped by authentic desire. In desperation, he seeks the aid of his feminist nemesis - a woman whose life has been laid waste by a sexist harassment campaign. Total and complete disaster ensues.

I spend way, way too much time on the internet, and have developed regrettable nuance in my understanding of the currents and communities modern misogyny. So, in a way, the play’s some kind of a love letter from me to every anonymous jerk, douchebag, dickhead and dumbass who’s ever given me or other feminists any shit on the internet.

The cast on board is fabulous – Amber McMahon, Michelle Lim Davidson, Megan Wilding to name a few – are you excited for their take on your work?

The attached cast - and the crew - are babes of legendary ferocity and I am beyond thrilled to working with them. Michelle and Amber were involved in the development of the script and I may have made a very audible squeal of joy when the director confirmed they were available.

It’s particularly exciting to offer young female artists an opportunity to let loose on a comedy that mocks and satirises theatrical stereotypes of what women are and who they can be - the cliches of confected “womanhood” that dominate the rom-com genre are up for a very fancy shredding with this team. I say this as much for director Jess Arthur and dramaturg Polly Rowe - also fiercely funny young women, and up for some raucous rambunctiousness.

How did you find the process of Rough Drafts? Why are programmes like this important?

Rough Draft is a great initiative. I’m counting my blessings that STC found five precious days for me in its script development schedule last year. Programmes that give writers space, time, actors and crew to work through some new drafts, get feedback and make changes vastly improve the quality of the script, as well as foster detailed artistic relationships amongst a creative team that can last far beyond one script or one show. Even just the obligation of fronting up before the actors every morning for a week concentrates and calibrates your dramatic imagination.

I had a moment of clarity about this last year during my week at the STC. I was thinking over the day’s insights when back home, in the bath - and two thoughts struck me. Firstly, I realised that the solution to a frustrating dramatic muddle was not to rewrite the scene, but to write a completely new scene. Secondly, I appreciated that were it not for the fact that I had a whole team waiting for me to front with rewrites in the morning, I’d have lacked an imperative to leap out of the water, throw myself into a towel and do the rewrite while the solution was fresh and clear. Which I did, damp arse and all.


Banging Denmark, 26 Jul - 24 Aug 2019, The Studio, Sydney Opera House.

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Patrick Jhanur and Amber McMahon in Banging Denmark