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Maja Simonsen and Jodie Tyack – Banging Denmark Interview

The European premiere of Van Badham’s acclaimed black comedy Banging Denmark opens at the multi-award winning Finborough Theatre for a four-week limited season on Tuesday, 16 April 2024.

A biting and hilarious new “rom-com” by one of Australia’s leading social commentators (and former Literary Manager of the Finborough Theatre), Van Badham. Feisty feminist academic Ishtar is so broke she’s living in the photocopy room, following a hefty out-of-court settlement to a toxic male ‘troll’. All she has left is her pride.

Management consultant Jake is high on life, with a lucrative side gig as a misogynist podcaster and pick-up artist. Until his latest crush – gorgeous Danish librarian Anne – fails to fall for his usual ‘game’.

Undeterred, he makes Ishtar a cash offer she surely can’t refuse to advise him how best to infiltrate Anne’s no-nonsense feminist mind.

But for Ish to accept such a deal from Jake – of all people – she would be selling her soul. Wouldn’t she?

This explicit and badly behaved satire of modern manners sees Ish, Jake, their friends and a stranger navigate the battle-of-the-sexes (and the sexless).

No one will emerge unscathed…

Sydney Theatre Company’s acclaimed 2019 production at the Sydney Opera House Studio was shortlisted for the 2020 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting.

Ahead of the run we caught up with cast members Maja Simonsen (Anne Toft) and Jodie Tyack (Dr Denyse Kim) to learn more about the piece. 

Where did your career in acting begin?
Maja: I guess the pivotal moment for me, was when I was going to go to boarding school in Denmark and I had to choose to either continue to study dance which I originally had signed up for or change subject and study theatre. I was about 14 at the time and I ended up choosing theatre, and I absolutely loved it, which I’m really grateful for today. I’d say since then, the majority of my acting career has actually been outside Denmark. I hope one day to be able to bring it back and work on some Danish projects as well in the future. ‘Banging Denmark’ is making me feel closer to Denmark though, which is lovely and new.

Maja Simonsen in rehearsals. Photo by Rosie Woodcock and Tom Fish. 

I have no memory of this but apparently when I was around 5 I’d shout ‘Mum I’m gonna do a show!’ I’d put my sparkly sequin number on, set up the karaoke and off I went. I’d also take it upon myself to entertain the crowd on the sidelines when I got dragged to watch my brother play football. So, I’d say the seeds were planted from an early age.

How did you approach an acting career?
Jodie: Doing National Youth Theatre really opened my eyes. I remember feeling so inspired meeting so many amazing people who loved the same thing that I did. I was researching drama schools early and always knew that was what I wanted to aim for, so after my GCSE’s, I left to do a BTEC in Performing Arts at Stratford College. I then felt I needed to be in London, so at 17, I called my parents and told them I was moving there. After two years of applying for drama schools, I got waitlisted for RADA, then told ‘No’ but someone dropped out at the start of the course, and I was offered their place. I quit my job as an usher at The Lion King on the Friday and started RADA on the Monday.

You’ve acted on screen before but here are making your professional stage debut, what drew you to this project?
Maja: I’ve always dreamt of going back to the stage at some point in my career, so when I received this audition, which was also the first theatre audition I’ve ever had, I got really excited to have that opportunity. Then I read the script and I thought it was brilliant, so I was immediately sold. I think there’s so much to learn for an actor to be on stage and to experience the audiences first response to your work and I’m just really looking forward to experiencing that first hand.

Were there any people or performances that had a big impact on you?
Jodie: I was weirdly obsessed with ‘The Bill’ growing up. I learnt the NDP ‘I’m arresting you on suspicion of..’ can still recite it now! TV wise: Julia Garner’s performance in Ozark blew me away. Colman Domingo and Zendaya’s scene in the diner in Euphoria moves me every time I watch it. Stand out theatre that’s really stuck with me would be: Denise Gough in People, Places and Things and more recently I’ve loved Standing at the Sky’s Edge. 

Jodie Tyack in rehearsals. Photo by Rosie Woodcock and Tom Fish. 

What can you tell me about your character and how they fit into the piece?
Maja: I play a character called Anne Toft. Anne was born in Aarhus, Denmark which is a country that’s known for having pretty equalrights for men and women. She works as a Liberian and has a big passion for particularly old books. Jake Newhouse, played by Tom Kay, is mesmerized by Anne but none of his chat up lines seem to work on her, so he turns to the only feminist woman he knows for help. I find Anne and Jake’s interactions really interesting and fun to watch because Jake is completely thrown off by her. She holds her own space and is unapologetic, which is one of the things I love most about her. But like all humans - Anne is also flawed and not always morally correct, and without sharing too much, you’ll have to come and see it!

JodieI play a character called Denyse, who is good friends with Ishtar Madigan, played by Rebecca Blackstone. Ishtar is living in a photocopier room as she has nowhere to live after paying out a settlement. Denyse is a computer science academic, very driven and down to earth. She's direct, quick-witted, and a bit bolshy – I love her! There’s a curiosity and an innocence about her, combined with a real strength. She’s incredibly academic which is something, I would not describe myself as, so I’m looking forward to the challenge of finding her brain and her world which is something unfamiliar to me.

What attracted you to this project?
Jodie: I really wanted to do some theatre. I craved being back in the rehearsal room, playing and it’s an interesting concept. A pick-up artist seeking advice from a feminist academic, two polar opposite worlds coming together. I also think the topic of how we connect in a digital age really interested me. It’s sparky and the whole thing feels like a game of tennis. I also love some of Denyse’s lines - ‘I reckon I could snap you like a breadstick’ being one.

How does the play manage to combine the themes of trolling and toxic masculinity whilst making it a comedy?
Jodie: I think because it’s so fast, sparky, and chaotic before your in too deep, we’re off on another tangent. The trolling Ishtar has been through has happened and informs her frazzled state but it’s not totally consuming in the present and when brought up it is delivered in a way that’s humorous and witty. I think the play overall presents, rather than pushes. And all the characters are flawed so I’m really interested in what audiences will take from it.

Maja: It’s written so brilliantly by Australian playwright, Van Badham, with dark Aussie humour shining all the way through until the end, which puts a lighter spin on an important subject. And while feminism is important, in the end we are all human and what should win over everything else is human compassion.

Does your experience as a model help when it comes to acting?
Maja: I would say modelling has been helpful in terms of being comfortable in front of a camera for sure, but it’s very different. I’ve had to work really hard to be okay with the cameras not being at a ‘flattering’ angle and to also not look into the lens. Whoops, ha ha.

Maja Simonsen and Tom Kay in rehearsals. Photo by Rosie Woodcock and Tom Fish.

How do you deal with the reactions and interactions you get on social media especially in terms of trolling?
Maja: I’ve either been lucky enough not to have been trolled or been lucky enough not to have noticed I’m being trolled. And if I ever do come across anything I don’t like, I just block and report and move on with my day. Paying a light amount of attention to social media has always reaped rewards for me.

JodieI’ve been lucky I haven’t really experienced it, but that could be because I’m not great on it. I do go off social media for long periods of time.

If you could give one piece of advice to your character, what would you tell them?
Jodie: Don’t underestimate the guy who wants to listen to music at midnight, until you fall asleep and more importantly, who loves you, for you. 

Maja: That’s a great question. I think my advice would be to follow her gut. She’s young and has things to figure out about herself and relationships and I think she already has the answer to that somewhere within.

If you were a biscuit, which biscuit would you be and why?
Maja: This isn’t actually a biscuit, but because I’m Danish I hope you’ll let me get away with this one. I’d be a cardamom bun - beautiful, delicious, packed with flavour, and just the right amount of bitter ;)

JodieI’d be a Lotus Biscoff biscuit because I’m independent, small and just the right amount of sweet.

What keeps you inspired?
Jodie: Classes and workshops, I love learning. I still want to be expanding and growing when I’m 80. I’ve never been the best reader but recently I’ve got back into books and loved being drawn into different worlds. Music - Is a big one for me, I’ve just ventured into DJing so music really inspires me and podcasts as well.

Maja: Working with lovely, talented and kind people, such as the entire Banging Denmark team. Getting hands on good scripts/scenes. A collaboration between creatives. Making space to explore, to make mistakes, without judgement. Having sometimes a childlike approach to life also keeps me open to inspiration. I think this industry can be really hard and cutthroat sometimes, but you get these little ‘glimmer’ moments sometimes, where you just know why it’s important to keep going. Having a supportive network of friends and family is also really helpful for me to keep being inspired.

What do you hope an audience take away from seeing Banging Denmark?
Maja:  Hopefully a lot of laughs! And some thoughts on the relationship between men and women and how we can all improve.

JodieTo reflect on how we approach conversations. To not need to be right but to want to understand each other, help and learn from each other. 

Banging Denmark runs at Finborough Theatre from Tuesday 16th April until Saturday 11th May 2024. Tickets are available from

Jodie Tyack in rehearsals. Photo by Rosie Woodcock and Tom Fish.

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