Did you know that in Denmark there are specific words for maternal and paternal grandparents? Maternal grandparents are “Mom-mom” and “Mon-dad” and paternal ones “Dad-mom” and “Dad-dad”. I learned this from watching Sofie Hagen (who is a Danish comedian) at the Bedlam Theatre, Edinburgh.
Other things she taught me: most the other Nordic countries, almost without exception, hate Sweden. They just simply do. And that it’s always a bit awkward going through an elderly Dane’s personal effects when they die because there’s a fair-to-middling chance that there might be a load of old Nazi regalia up in the attic.
I presume all this is true. She could have been making it all up. I don’t even have any real evidence that Sofie Hagen is actually Danish. Her English is suspiciously good. It’s very easy to be carried along by Hagen’s storytelling as she has such a captivating, warm and impish gift for telling a tale.
Which is just as well as the personal story that ‘Dead Baby Frog’ addresses is as dark as anything from the depths of a Scandinavian fairy tale. When Hagen was a small child she and her mother, then pregnant with her second daughter, were forced to move to the remote Danish community of Skamstrup (literally “Shame Town”) to live with her “Mom-Mom” and Step-grandfather. The step-grandfather was a narcissistic fantasist who emotionally abused Hagen throughout most of her childhood and left her with anger and anxiety issues to this day.
As you can imagine this material could be quite harrowing (indeed Hagen provides “trigger warnings” in the literature for this show for anyone who may have suffered similar experiences) but she recounts her story with humour and defiance, skewering her step-grandfather’s pretensions and championing the women in her life, her mother and elderly “Mom-mom”.
It would be simplistic and misleading to say that the story ends with her finding complete closure. Nothing so neat. The anger still burns in Hagen, visible behind her eyes at times, but in “Dead Baby Frog” she demonstrates that she isn’t running from her past. Instead it drives her onward.
Sofie Hagen will be appearing at Bedlam Theatre, Edinburgh (Venue 49) at 2pm until Monday 28th August.
She will also be at the Swindon Art Centre on Sunday 15th October at 7.30pm.