Dario Fo

Dario Fo

A Crazy King in Denmark

Watch Nobel Prize winning playwright Dario Fo tell his version of the story of King Christian VII of Denmark and his wife Caroline Mathilde – a dramatic story of love, infidelity and madness in the 18th century, which Fo explores in his new novel.

“When I start to research a character, I want to tell his story.” It was hard for Fo to tell the whole story, when it came to that of King Christian VII and his wife Caroline Mathilde, as many facts had been censored or removed from the historical writings. This, however, only triggered his interest further: “It makes me want to know the truth, what are you hiding and why?” On his quest to uncover the truth, Fo then found new texts abroad (in England and France), which made the novel ‘There’s a Mad King in Denmark’ (2015) come together.

Fo compares the tale of King Christian VII and Caroline Mathilde to that of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’. In Fo’s version, a soon to be bride learns that her groom, the king, is in fact crazy – even though great measures have been taken to keep this a secret for her. Because of this knowledge, she sees him exactly for what he is and loves him in spite of his condition, and in spite of the fact that the main reason they’re supposed to unite is political. However, there’s an obstacle to their love: The queen mother doesn’t want the marriage to happen, as she wants her son – who is the same age as the king – to take his place.

“He studies and he befriends a German doctor, a genius. He knows everything, he teaches him and offers suggestions.” Moreover, it is also the story of how this unstable king – or perhaps more accurately his German physician Johann Friedrich Struensee (who came to have an affair with Caroline Mathilde) – did ground-breaking things for the Danish contemporary society.

Dario Fo (b. 1926) is an Italian playwright, actor, comedian, director, stage and costume designer, songwriter, painter, writer and political campaigner. Much of Fo’s dramatic work depends on improvisation and draws on e.g. the ancient Italian style of commedia dell’arte. Fo’s plays, which have been performed all over the world, are known for their social criticism, and his solo piece ‘Mistero Buffo’ (1969) (Comical Mystery) is recognised as one of the most controversial and popular spectacles in post-war European theatre, and has furthermore been denounced by the Vatican. In 1997 Fo received the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy praising him with the words: “He if anyone merits the epithet of jester in the true meaning of that word. With a blend of laughter and gravity he opens our eyes to abuses and injustices in society and also the wider historical perspective in which they can be placed.”

Dario Fo was interviewed by Christian Lund at Hotel Bella Sky in Copenhagen on 10 November 2015. The book referred to in the interview is ‘C’è un re pazzo in Danimarca’ (‘There’s a Mad King in Denmark’) (2015).

Camera: Simon Weyhe
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

  • Clemens Setz

    When and Where I Write

    Austrian writer Clemens Setz says he is “very vulnerable” in the early hours of the morning and cuts off all incoming noise from the outside world. Those are “the perfect working hours” for him. Find out why in this short video.

  • Claudio Magris

    Europe and the Open Sea

    “The Mediterranean Sea is becoming a frontier and not a liquid bridge,” says Claudio Magris, leading cultural philosopher of our time. But the sea is many things: bearer of history, great discoveries and the love for his late wife.

  • William Kentridge

    on 'The Refusal of Time'

    How can we get a hold of time with our body and mind? This question is the crux of South African artist William Kentridge’s immersive installation ’The Refusal of Time.’ Join the artist for a detailed tour of his pulsing, breathtaking work.

  • Chigozie Obioma

    Everything We Do is Preordained

    Award-winning Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma calls his debut novel ‘The Fishermen’ “an Igbo version of a tragedy.” Meet the author and hear about his modern day metaphor of “the paradox that is Nigeria.”

  • Mette Winckelmann

    Woman to Woman

    ”You must evaluate whether the system you’re part of could be effectuated differently.” Meet artist Mette Winckelmann, who believes that abstract painting communicates deeper than language, and explore her visual take on gender politics.

  • Wang Shu

    Architecture is a Job for God

    The Chinese architect Wang Shu’s buildings – a crossover between traditional Chinese culture and large-scale modern architecture – have earned him prestigious awards. “Democracy means a really diverse society,” says the architect in this inspiring interview.

  • Jonas Hassen Khemiri

    On Facing the Blank Page

    For Swedish author and playwright Jonas Hassen Khemiri facing the blank page is always “a kind of revenge.” Hear why the acclaimed author – who has been praised by Joyce Carol Oates – considers starting anew as a chance to do even better.

  • Marina Abramović

    On Giacometti

    Marina Abramović has always felt a connection to the work of artist Alberto Giacometti: “It’s like a meteorite coming out of another galaxy where all the matter inside is condensed.” Watch her engage with Giacometti’s iconic sculptures.

  • Margrethe Odgaard

    Colour Diary of New York

    Becoming more aware of your surroundings can “open a new dimension inside as well as outside yourself.” Meet award-winning Danish designer Margrethe Odgaard who has trained herself to register the world through colours.

  • Adam Caruso

    Novelty is nonsense

    "The European city is one of the great human inventions!” Adam Caruso advocates building with a deep sense of history and tradition. Meet the architect behind the award-winning Tate Britain conversion and numerous Gagosian galleries.

  • Thomas Hirschhorn

    A World of Collage

    Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn juxtaposes pixelated images from the media. His works are not about technology, says the artist: “I try to give form to what I can’t accept: that someone else can decide for me what I should do, see or think.”

  • Jonathan Safran Foer

    On Donald Trump

    Jonathan Safran Foer, star of American literature, offers interesting views on America’s new president and the consequences Trump will have on American culture. "The place for literature may be even more important than before," he says.