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Volume 22, Number 2/3

Fall 2010


Marvin Carlson

Contributing Editors

Christopher Balme Miriam D'Aponte Marion P. Holt Glenn Loney Daniele Vianello

Editorial Staff Sascha Just, Managing Editor

Harry Carlson Maria M. Delgado Barry Daniels Yvonne Shafer Phyllis Zatlin

Pamela Thielman, Editorial Assistant

Shafer Phyllis Zatlin Pamela Thielman, Editorial Assistant Howard Barker. Photo: Courtesy of Howard Barker. Martin E.

Howard Barker. Photo: Courtesy of Howard Barker.

Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Professor Daniel Gerould, Director of Publications Frank Hentschker, Executive Director Jan Stenzel, Director of Administration Barrie Gelles, Circulation Manager

Martin E. Segal Theatre Center-Copyright 2010 ISSN # 1050-1991


To the Reader

Like many institutions the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, which has generously supported and housed this journal from its establishment more than twenty years ago, has been forced to cut back as a result of the current financial climate. While we are attempting to adjust to a decrease in our support we will only be publishing two issues per year as we did in the early years of the journal. The current issue then is 2/3 and combines our spring and fall issues. Because this issue includes some backlog of articles, we will depart from our usual policy of emphasiz- ing festival reports in the fall issue, but are here presenting instead a more general issue, with material on theatre in London, Berlin, Vienna, Munich, and Oslo as well as interviews with Howard Barker, Jon Fosse, and Liv Ullmann. We will then devote all or most of the winter issue to festival reports. We thank you for your patience and support. We welcome, as always, interviews and reports on recent work of interest anywhere in Western Europe. Subscriptions and queries about possible contributions should be addressed to the Editor, Western European Stages, Theatre Program, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016, or

Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Journals are available online from ProQuest Information and Learning as abstracts via the ProQuest information service and the International Index to the Performing Arts.

All Journals are indexed in the MLA International Bibliography and are members of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals.


Volume 22, Number 2/3

Report from Berlin

Report from Vienna

Forum Heersum

Report from Munich

Big Questions on the London Stage


Danton's Death

Howard Barker Day

Interview with Howard Barker

Table of Contents

Vegard Vinge and Ida Müller's The Wild DuckPart 2 Director's Cut

Interview with Liv Ullman

Interview with Jon Fosse



Fall 2010

Marvin Carlson


Dan Venning


Brian Rinehart


Marvin Carlson


Joshua Abrams


Joe Heissan


Marvin Carlson


Duška Radosavljević


Duška Radosavljević


Andrew Friedman


Stan Schwartz


Stan Schwartz



Christian Friedrich Hebbel's Die Niebelungen, directed by Michael Thalheimer. Photo: Arno Declair. 4

Christian Friedrich Hebbel's Die Niebelungen, directed by Michael Thalheimer. Photo: Arno Declair.


Report from Berlin

Marvin Carlson

Since the opening of the new century, the Deutsches Theater has held the pre-eminent position among Berlin theatres, a position which has not altered with the arrival of a new director, Ulrich Khuon two years ago. The recently remodeled house, the outstanding company, and productions directed by many of the leading names in today's German theatre, make this a necessary goal for any visitor to Berlin with a strong theatre interest. The German repertory system allows such a visitor in the city for a week or two to spend almost every open evening at this theatre, as I did this spring, see- ing a different production every night and experi- encing an excellent selection of current German work. An unusually cold and wet May made the city in general rather less attractive than it normally is at this time of year, but the theatre remained, as always, varied and exciting. The season end was approaching and several major productions were been given their last performances until the fall, among them several I had previously seen, such as

the brilliant Wild Duck of Michael Thalheimer, the elegant Prince of Homburg of Andreas Kriegenburg, the Uncle Vanya of the late Jürgen Gosch, and the contemporary Mary Stuart of Stephan Kimmig, transferred here from Hamburg after its success two years ago at the Berlin Theatertreffen. Two productions were also closing that I had not seen, and since both were by directors I usu- ally enjoy, I began with those, although the critical reaction to both has been not very favorable. My first evening at the Deutsches Theater was to see the recently opened production of Hebbel's Die Nibelungen directed by Michael Thalheimer. Although Thalheimer is probably the most highly regarded of the current DT directors, this particular production has not been enthusiastically received, and I must admit that I too found it distinctly less impressive than previous works by this director I had seen, including his Faust, his Oresteia, his Rats by Hauptmann, and my own favorite, his Emilia

Faust, his Oresteia, his Rats by Hauptmann, and my own favorite, his Emilia Die Niebelungen .

Die Niebelungen. Photo: Arno Declair.


Die Niebelungen . Photo: Arno Declair. Galotti, which toured to BAM in New York. Thalheimer

Die Niebelungen. Photo: Arno Declair.

Galotti, which toured to BAM in New York. Thalheimer is particularly associated with

a process of radical cutting of classic texts, much

diminishing their richness according to his detrac- tors and revealing their essence according to his more numerous supporters. In this respect Die Nibelungen was atypical, running more than three hours with an intermission instead of the more cus- tomary intermissionless hour or two. In other respects, however, the production was unmistakably

in the Thalheimer style, far too much so in the opin-

ion of many. First of all there was the simple but monu- mental setting by Thalheimer's usual designer Olaf Altmann. In these settings the actors often appear trapped or overwhelmed by vast inhuman blocks of material, through which they must find a precarious way. In this production a small forestage extends out beyond the fire-curtain, which at the opening of each act is lowered to within a few feet of the floor, leaving a small opening through which the compa- ny crawls in order to line up, seated, across the stage, to present the opening scene directly facing the audience. When the curtain rises, it reveals a massive platform sloping upstage toward a dark background. In the course of the evening, the front of this platform often rises, as if a giant book, lying

on its side, were opening toward the audience. Characters can then perform either in the space thus opened below or (more frequently) on the space above, although usually only on its front edge, since the higher it rises, the less visible they become to the auditorium. Some of the most effective scenes use this division to isolate a character below, as when Kriemhild (Maren Eggert) remains alone there in a pool of light while Siegfried (Peter Molzen) is killed out of sight at the back of the platform above. His blood-soaked body is then dragged to the front of the upper platform and into view of the audience, and the platform slowly lowers, closing down on Kriemhild below, who stoops and moves steadily forward until she joins the corpse of her lover down- stage center, with his murderers, all now revealed, looking on. Bert Wrede, another regular Thalheimer collaborator, provides a subtle but powerful musical score that underlines the action with muffled drum- beats and occasional sharp bursts of discordant sound.

Visually and musically, the production compares favorably with other Thalheimer works, but it is in the overall concept that problems arise. The story is of course the one made familiar by Wagner's Ring, though in Hebbel played out on a much more domestic level, focusing upon


Siegfried's wooing of Brunhild for Gunther, the rev- elation of this deception by Siegfried's wife Kriemhild, the killing of Siegfried by Gunther and his cohorts Hagen and Volker, and, years later, the revenge upon them by Kriemhild and her subse- quent husband Etzel. There is a distinct primitivism in Hebbel which this production emphasizes, not only in the crude physicality (often in the later part of the evening the stage is literally awash in blood), but in the primitive costumes designed by Katrin Lea Tag for many of the characters, especially the heavy furs worn by Gunther (Ingo Hülsmann) whose appear- ance, slouching, and roaring caused several review- ers to describe him as a Neanderthal. The blood- drenched stage inevitably recalled Thalheimer's recent and much praised Oresteia, a production pro- viding similar gore and an equally unredemptive view of the human condition (neither production offered any hope for a cessation of the unremitting violence). The Nibelungen, however, often seemed little more than an extension (at twice the length) and rather crude repetition of the devices of the pre- vious, more powerful work. When late in the play the murderers Gunther, Hagen (Sven Lehmann), and Volker (Felix Goesser), strip down to their

underpants and cavort for an extended period, laughing hysterically, under a torrential rain of blood upstage, the evening threatens to descend into a kind of grotesque self-parody. Even at its most self-indulgent, however, the production is often redeemed by the work of the Deutsches Theater ensemble, surely one of the best today in Germany. While Ingo Hülsmann's rants become rather tiring, the always impressive Sven Lehmann is continually effective as a quieter and more troubling villain. Maren Eggert presents a moving and nuanced Kriemhild. Her high emotion- al confrontation with Natali Seelig, who as Brunhild is seen for much too little of the production, pro- vides one of the clear high points of the production. Anything that this outstanding company does is well worth seeing, but they have clearly been much bet- ter served by Thalheimer in other productions. Brecht's Saint Joan of the Stockyards was theatrically more innovative but still somewhat dis- appointing. There is, not surprisingly in view of the current global economic crisis, a great interest on the German stage in works with economic themes and especially those produced during the last great international economic downturn, during the 1930s, which had such devastating results especially in

the 1930s, which had such devastating results especially in Bertolt Brecht's Die heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe,

Bertolt Brecht's Die heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe, directed by Nicolas Stemann. Photo: Arno Declair.


Germany. So, two works from 1929 led off this year's Theatertreffen and Brecht's 1930 parable of rampant capitalism opened in December of 2009 at the Deutsches Theater. Nicolas Stemann, known for his cool postmodern interpretations of classic texts, may not be the best director for such a project at this point in time, however, and his detached, ironic, and highly technological rendering of Brecht's play aroused little critical enthusiasm. Stemann has reduced the major speaking roles to five, three men and two women, with a twenty-three member chorus. At the opening, four of these five are seated downstage before a white curtain in elegant, glittering costumes like the hosts on a rather tacky TV game show. All are holding scripts of Brecht's play which they arise to read, stage directions and all, into a downstage micro- phone. The sole woman, Katharina Marie Schubert, reads Joan, but the three men (Andreas Döhler, Felix Goeser, and Matthias Neukirch) dispute the role of Mauler, and continue to do so throughout the evening. Although this clear separation of actor and role seems strongly influenced by the Brechtian concept of alienation, it in fact in considerable measure undercuts the dynamic of the play. When Joan is challenged to identify the real Mauler, in Brecht's variation of the famous scene in Schiller, she delivers Brecht's line about the one with the bloodiest face, but there is clearly no distinction to be made. Brecht's Mauler, a ruthless exploiter with a sentimental edge, has disappeared, to be replaced by a more modern image of corporate power, an anonymous group any of whom might emerge to claim credit for positive results and each of whom can blame the others when things go badly. The fifth individual, Frau Luckerniddle, beautifully performed by Margit Bendokat, one of the pillars of the company, comes from a different dramatic world altogether, and one much closer to the Brecht tradition. She first appears as one of the three Maulers, still enacting Brecht's text, puts on a wig and takes her role in the scene where she appears, asking for her husband killed in a factory accident. As he begins the scene, Bendokat sudden- ly shuffles on stage, as if summoned up like one of Pirandello's six characters, to expose the foolish artificiality of the dramatic world the onstage actors have so far created. In baggy trousers, a ragged sports jacket, and bearing two huge plastic commer- cial bags, she is the image of the modern urban dis- possessed, and throughout the rest of the play she serves as a strong counterpoint to the glittering tech-

nological world of the main actors, far more so than the rather ineffectual chorus, who from time to time express collective dissatisfaction from far upstage or hidden behind projected images of mass crowds. Stemann's production makes impressive use of the considerable resources of the Deutsches Theater stage. The huge turntable spins about, car- rying with it bits of scenery, banks of lights, live TV operators, posed scenes of homeless people huddled over open fires, and large illuminated symbols—a red star, a dollar sign, a cross. Snow falls from above. Scale model buildings of a combined Berlin/Chicago are projected onto huge screens along with protesting crowds, piles of meat and the inevitable ribbons of stock market quotes and other figures and statistics. Only once does one of these innumerable images strike a moving note, when Joan calls the attention of the three quarreling Maulers to a large upstage projection which reads:

"925 people have died of hunger since the beginning of this performance." As they watch in silence, the number slowly increases: "926, 927, 928," and so on. It is a stunning moment, like the entrance of Frau Luckerniddle, but is similarly soon swept away by a rush of other material. In the end this seems to be the message, if any, of the production. Neither Joan nor Luckerniddle, with quite different trajectories, are able to overcome the Mauler machine. Luckerniddle's failure is the more traditional. In vain she unfurls the red banner and tries to rally the crowds, only to fall defeated upstage in a rattle of machine gun fire. Joan instead pursues the path of accommodation and is gradually co-opted, resum- ing her glittering opening costume and joining the three Maulers in a final sparkling production num- ber, backed by the malleable chorus: "Sing a hosan- na to wealth and power." The lights fade, leaving Joan in a single spotlight at the downstage micro- phone, where she closes this dark vision of the mod- ern corporate world with a single syllable: "Huch," a sigh of relief close to the English "whew." The Kammerspiele, the smaller experi- mental stage of the Deutsches Theater, provided as great a variety of offerings as the main theatre and several among these were among the theater's most popular. I managed to get tickets to two which often sold out the small house, Kriegenburg's Hamlet, cre- ated with students of the leading Ernst Busch drama school, and Jorinde Dröse's restaging of the Tom Waits's/Robert Wilson's Woyzeck. I also attended a disturbing but fascinating work now in its third year


that I had not yet seen, Elfriede Jelinek's Über Tiere (About Animals). The "animals" in question are young Austrian women, so referred to in the found text that is the basis, like much of the Nobel-prize- winning author's work, of a series of poetic, amus- ing, and sometimes shocking and disturbing varia- tions.

This found text was the recorded telephone conversations between patrons of a prominent pros- titution ring recently exposed in Vienna and the middlemen in charge of arranging the sexual encounters. As is so often the case in such scandals, public interest was heightened by the social and financial prominence of some of the patrons involved, by the sordidness and crass materialism of the negotiations, by the interest in unusual sexual practices, and by the involvement among the "ani- mals" of children and captive young women. All of this might have resulted in the hands of another playwright or another director (here Nicolas Stemann, the frequent interpreter of Jelenik's dramas) in a lurid Genet-style exhibition of contemporary decadence, but the production moves in a different, and more complex direction. True, it opens with a sequence of scenes close to the origi-

nal material, with Sebastian Rudolph and three women (Nora von Waldstätten, Almut Zilcher, and Regine Zimmermann) seated at separate tables with microphones and bottles of water, carrying on the disturbing conversations about the marketing of

desire chronicled in the recordings. Very soon, how- ever, the tone becomes more complex, when the other male performer, the leading Deutsches Theater actor Ingo Hülsmann, in drag costume and presenting a character more like Charley's Aunt than

a figure in a performance dealing with a serious

social problem, engages Rudolph in a wide-ranging discussion of the complex dynamics of sex, love, and desire. In the middle part of the production, comic tinged reportage gives way to a theatricalized infer- no, when dark red curtains pull aside to reveal a

caged young actress screaming in a SM-inspired inferno. This extreme image is however undercut with a variety of conflicting views of sexual prac-

tice. Projected on the wall behind, and from time to time on a lowered curtain, is a clichéd super-8 film

of two hippie lovers locked in an embrace that end-

lessly promises but never quite results in a passion-

ate kiss, while Barbara Steisand's "Evergreen" pro-

kiss, while Barbara Steisand's "Evergreen" pro- Elfriede Jelinek's Űber Tiere , directed by Nicolas

Elfriede Jelinek's Űber Tiere, directed by Nicolas Stemann. Photo: Iko Freese.


Georg Bűchner's Woyzeck , directed by Jorinde Dröse based on Robert Wilson's staging. Photo: Arno

Georg Bűchner's Woyzeck, directed by Jorinde Dröse based on Robert Wilson's staging. Photo: Arno Declair.

vides an appropriate musical background. On the stage itself, the actors create images that never explicitly represent actual sexual activity, yet con- tinually refer obliquely to it in comic, ironic, and occasionally quite moving ways. Perhaps most graphic is a repeated sequence in which the two male actors fill their mouths with water, stand on either side of an actress and bounce rapidly up and down with her, a movement ending in an exuberant simultaneous expulsion of the water from their mouths. A subtler repeated sequence is offered by the actress Almut Zilcher, whose commentary on her career as a would-be beauty queen and actual call girl is echoed by a projection of her own lips which follows her about on the stage floor. From time to time she steps into the lips and is apparently swallowed, only to reappear later and continue, giv- ing a surprising new meaning to the phrase often repeated in her lines and in the originating text, "coming in the mouth." A very different perspective on the subject is offered by the magisterial Margit Bendokat who first appears here, as she does in Saint Joan, to lift the performance to a new level, both in terms of subject and of stage power. In both works she brings

a new depth of feeling and authenticity, supported by the weight of her long career on the Berlin stage. Here, she appears as an aging woman still devoted to the passion of love, which she sees as one of the highest expressions of human feeling, almost a reli- gion. In vain the men attempt to cover her presence in the depth of a large upstage bed. She repeatedly re-emerges and continues her championship of her own erotic vision, so different from either the com- mercialized dealings of the sex industry or the sen- timentalized media presentations of film and popu- lar song. All, however, contribute significantly to the complex meditation on contemporary sexuality created out of the scandalous source material by Jelinek, Stemann, and the gifted actors of the Deutsches Theater. I cannot remember previously seeing another director's restaging of a Robert Wilson pro- duction and so attended with much anticipation the new version of his much-praised Woyzeck created at the Kammerspiele by Jorinde Dröse, especially since this is currently the most popular offering of that theatre. In its original version, which I saw at the Berliner Ensemble, the staging was unmistak- ably Wilson—backdrops awash in color, pinpoint


control of lighting, jagged, expressionistic move- ments, and fragmenting of the visual field, and an overall impression of grotesque dark comedy, a tonality reinforced by the jauntingly grim music of Tom Waits. Of all this, only the Waits music and a touch of Wilsonian grotesque in the costumes and bearing of the Captain and the Doctor remain of the Wilson conception. Director Dröse has wisely and successfully reconceived the material in a form much more suited to the smaller and much more modestly equipped Kammerspiele. Most fundamentally, this production, while visually striking, does not rely primarily upon visu- al effects as Wilson so often does, but much more on physical movement. Here the three dimensional stage (designed, along with the costumes by Susanne Schuboth) dominates the production the way lighting does for Wilson. There is no Wilsonian cyclorama; the stage is open to the back and side walls. In the center of the perform- ance area there is a small raised circular platform with side and back banks sweeping up from it, so that the audience seems to be look- ing at a small version of a form suggesting a classic Greek theatre, seen from the stage, with the circle as a small orchestra. A kind of thrust extends out from the circle into the first two rows of the actu- al auditorium and areas on either side of this thrust provide a kind of forestage in front of the Greek half-circle. At the rear of the stage, partly hidden by the raised Greek- style slope, is the seven member orchestra. This complex and flexible space, which changes little in the course of the evening, allows director Dröse to achieve an impressive variety of stage compo- sitions, rather conventional ones on the forestage and more unusual ones on the various slopes and lev- els, and occasionally even out into the audience. Perhaps most strik- ing is the repeated motif of Woyzeck (Moritz Grove) running full tilt in a circle around the slop- ing upstage area, a move motivat- ing the advice for him to slow

down from the Captain (Matthias Neukirch) in their first scene. The Captain and the Doctor (Helmut Mooshammer) are both familiar figures at the Deutsches Theater and both have an excellent gift for grotesque comedy, here well employed. In cos- tume (also designed by Schuboth), gesture, and bod- ily movement they, along with the long-haired and top-hatted Announcer (Markus Graf) come closest to the distorted style of the original Wilson produc- tion. Woyzeck, Marie (Maran Eggert), Andres (John Anders), and Margreth (Pia Luise Händler) are pre- sented much more realistically, with a real human warmth. The Drum Major is presented by Christoph Franken in a rather unconventional, but highly effective manner. Normally this character is shown as a somewhat pompous, even arrogant figure, endowed with a tall and attractive physique that allows him to assume a power over the opposite sex. Franken is rather short and stocky, looking a bit of a

a power over the opposite sex. Franken is rather short and stocky, looking a bit of

Woyzeck. Photo: Arno Declair.


Shakespeare's Hamlet , directed by Andreas Kriegenburg. Photo: Arno Declair. bumpkin, but he nevertheless maintains

Shakespeare's Hamlet, directed by Andreas Kriegenburg. Photo: Arno Declair.

bumpkin, but he nevertheless maintains the tradi- tional self assurance, even if it has little basis in reality. He is all glitter and show. He wears a tinsel boutonniere and often tosses sparkling confetti into the air to herald his entrance, He also has a special relationship with the orchestra, and cues them to provide appropriate music when he needs it. The contrast between his unprepossessing physical appearance and his effect on Marie is both amusing and pitiful. The twelve Tom Waits songs presented (in English) in the course of the evening obviously do much to establish the tone, one of dark cynicism shot through with flashes of humanity. The titles of two key songs establish clearly enough the world of the play "Everything Goes to Hell" and "God's Away on Business." The latter is delivered almost as a statement of philosophy by the materialist doctor as he pops his signature peas both at other members of the company and even at the audience. Framed by these two dark statements is one of the shows clos- est things to a love song, as Woyzeck expresses his attraction to Marie on the still rather hard-edged

"Coney Island Baby." The production's signature tune, however, is presented by the sinister Announcer both at the opening and the close, "Misery is the River of the World," which contains the thought so grimly repeated in the original play:

"You can drive out nature with a pitchfork, but it always comes roaring back again." Finally, the lively and imaginative inter- pretation by Kriegenburg of Hamlet, also at the Kammerspiele, proved one of the highlights of my Berlin visit, made all the most pleasant by the fact that the audience was composed almost entirely of young and extremely enthusiastic theatre-goers. This may have been in part due to the extensive involvement in the production of students from Germany's most prestigious center for actor train- ing, the Ernst Busch school in Berlin (all the roles except Gertrude, the Ghost, and Polonius were stu- dents), but in addition the interpretation was clearly pitched to engage a youthful audience. The play was interpreted as a clown show, with all the characters in exaggerated clown makeup and broad physical action, not infrequently suggesting circus routines,


commonly employed. Key to the reception were two particularly exaggerated clown figures (Aenne Schwarz and Marco Portmann, Henning Bosse and Sergej Lubic), somewhat reminiscent of the singers in Peter Brook's Marat/Sade, who normally inhabit- ed small boxes downstage left and right, heralded scene openings and closings as well as important moments with the striking of small tap-bells, and provided not only an introduction to scenes, but often a running commentary on the action, almost entirely in highly colloquial English, such as "Now it's going to get much more spooky," or "this bit always makes me cry." Eventually these two figures enter the action, now speaking German, as a grotesquely comic Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. As such they echo another clown pair, the two gravediggers, who first appear as a comic team to introduce the action as the guards on the ramparts. Throughout the pro- duction they function as general utility men, provid- ing and removing props and most importantly, rear-

ranging the basic elements of the setting. This set, designed by Julia Kurzweg, is composed entirely of open wooden crates, most of them cubes about three feet on each side, but with a few fastened together to form larger units. At the opening these completely cover the stage. The actors emerge from and disap- pear into them and move about the stage either by stepping from box to box or, much more precari- ously, balancing on their upper edges. This results in more than a few comic falls, even from Ophelia (Maria Wardzinska), in full ballet costume along with her clown makeup, who for the most part shows an appropriate balletic poise. The Ghost (Markwart Müller-Elmau) spends much of the evening tromping about from box to box upstage until he is called upon to don his obviously fake cardboard cuirass and helmet to appear to his son. As the production continues, the gravedigger utility men use these boxes to construct a makeshift stage for the play and a large cross for the prayer scene, then remove most of them for the climactic grave

and a large cross for the prayer scene, then remove most of them for the climactic

Hamlet. Photo: Arno Declair.


scene and duel. An irreverent but highly theatrical approach has characterized all of the evening, but the production departs most fully from convention in its extended closing sequence, beginning with Ophelia's mad scene. Hamlet (Thomas Halle) has never gone to England (none of the actors ever real- ly leave the stage, even Laertes (Tom Radisch) , who journeys to France by putting up a sail on an upstage box and remaining in it until he returns to Denmark). Instead he passively watches the scene from the side, leaning on the sword with which he killed Polonius, and with cloud of black balloons hovering over his head, a mark of gloom he bears throughout the production. Ophelia gives him her farewell bouquet, interspersed with kisses, before going upstage to climb into a somewhat taller than usual box containing a tank of water, where she is discovered by the Queen (Natali Seelig). The gravediggers' scene is announced with wild enthusiasm by the chorus, who assure us that we are about to see the play's most famous and bloodiest scene. The gravediggers vainly try to live up to this introduction, providing a sequence of prat- falls, jokes in Danish, and other strained attempts at humor to which they attempt to gain a response by tossing confetti in the air and pausing (in vain) for


applause. In desperation they pull the body of Ophelia out of her box and manipulate her as a pup- pet, still without the response they are seeking. The court enters and sweeps them aside, but they are in turn pushed upstage to be replaced by two grotesque figures in crude oversized masks. These are in fact the Player (Arndt Wille) and Polonius (Michael Schweighöfer) who play out the final sequence tak- ing on the various parts by shifting masks and duel- ing with forks. The main characters themselves line up quietly across the back of the stage and as each is dispatched, the clown gravediggers throw up in front of him or her a cloud of confetti, then lead the actor off to a waiting box upstage. Not even Laertes is spared, but allowed to share Hamlet's poisoned cup. Hamlet is the last major player to go, with an usually large and elaborate display of confetti and streamers. The stage still must be cleared, however, and the efficient gravediggers do not stop their work until the puppet figures and even the two framing chorus figures are killed. After completing this wild grand guignol version of the play's "most famous scene," they finally take their own bows before an enthusiastically applauding audience. Clearly this hip and contemporary Hamlet has struck a respon- sive chord in its predominantly youthful audience.

Report from Vienna

Dan Venning

Vienna is a city devoted to its art: posters abound, both in the central city and the outskirts, advertising collections at the Leopold and Albertina, and theatrical offerings at the Burgtheater, Volkstheater, and Operas. Even Viennese television seems attuned to the city's art—an adaptation of Stephen King's Misery was about to be presented at the Volkstheater, and the film version was frequent- ly playing on a local television channel while I was there. Over eight days in early June, I was able to explore many of these artistic offerings; in addition to visiting seven museums and many tourist attrac- tions—from the Prater and Danube to Schönbrunn Palace and the nearby city Bratislava—I was able to see six theatrical productions. Five of these shows were part of Vienna's annual Festwochen and the last was a production of the Volkstheater. Unlike the Berlin Theatertreffen, which is presented less than a month before the Festwochen begins; the Vienna festival invites productions from around the world. The festival, which ran from 14 May to 20 June, included a wide variety of offer-

ings. The musical programs centered on the works of Alban Berg, and included concerts and produc- tions of Berg's operas Wozzeck and Lulu. Dance per- formances included works such as US-based chore- ographer Meg Stuart's Do Animals Cry and Alain Plaitel's Out of Context—For Pina. Several of the theatrical offerings also toured to the United States, either before or after the Festwochen: Robert Lepage's Lipsynch had been shown in New York at BAM in 2009 as part of the Next Wave Festival, Young Jean Lee's The Shipment premiered in New York at The Kitchen in 2009, and Peter Stein's I Demoni came to Governor's Island as part of the Lincoln Center Festival a month after the Festwochen. During my time in Vienna I attended pri- marily German-language productions, or at least works created by German and Austrian directors. I saw Peter Stein's production of I Demoni; Luc Bondy's production of Euripides' Helena; Hass, a work conceived and directed by the young Austrian director Volker Schmidt; Stein's production of

Austrian director Volker Schmidt; Stein's production of I Demoni , adapted from Dostoyevsky's novel The Devils

I Demoni, adapted from Dostoyevsky's novel The Devils and directed by Peter Stein. Photo: Andrea Boccalini.


Berg's Lulu; and Frank Castorf's Nach Moskau! Nach Moskau!. I also visited the Volkstheater, where I saw Hiob. Although I did not find these six productions equally to my taste, they aptly dis- played the rich variety of theatrical offerings avail- able in Vienna.

I Demoni The first show I attended, on my second day in Vienna, was an eleven-and-a-half hour per- formance, staged in Italian with German supertitles:

Peter Stein's I Demoni, which Stein adapted from Dostoyevsky's novel (sometimes translated as The Demons or The Devils, but more frequently as The Possessed). This epic performance based on a liter- ary text is in keeping with Stein's aesthetic: his 2000 production of the complete Faust ran around twen- ty-four hours, and in 2007 he produced Schiller's complete Wallenstein trilogy, which lasted eleven hours; Stein is known, in contrast to many of today's German directors, for possessing a reverence for the original text that leads him to produce such monu- mental theatrical events. The performance included six breaks: four fifteen-minute intermissions and two hour-long meal breaks—so audience members never had to sit for longer than an hour and a half; during the second of these, dinner was provided. I Demoni was first presented at Stein's mansion in Umbria in 2009; its 2010 world tour included per- formances at festivals in Milan, Vienna, Amsterdam, Naples, Ravenna, Athens, and New York. At the Vienna Festwochen, it was presented in Halle E in the MuseumsQuartier, a massive audito- rium for performances in the heart of the cultural complex that also houses Vienna's Leopold Museum and Museum Moderner Kunst (MoMuK). Because of the nature of this show, it is worthwhile to begin with a rather extended plot syn- opsis. Set in a provincial Russian town around 1870, the story I Demoni is expansive, and includes a broad range of characters. The most central charac- ters are the widow Varvara Petrovna Stavrogina, her companion the widower Stepan Tofimovich Verkovensky, and their sons (from their earlier mar- riages), Nikolai Vsevolodovich Stavrogin and Pyotr Stepanovich Verkhovensky. At the opening of the play, Varvara, played by Stein's wife Maddalena Crippa, holds her own in discussions of history, lit- erature, and philosophy with Stepan, who used to be a professor and the family tutor. Stepan (played by Elia Schilton) is an idealist—a liberal and early socialist, he hosts an intellectual circle in Varvara's


household, where the members toast the "Grand Idea" of a liberal future. Stepan and Varvara are also clearly in love, like an old married couple of retired academics—but the widow refuses to acknowledge Stepan's romantic attentions. Varvara's and Stepan's household—and the entire town—is disrupted by the return of their sons from abroad. Varvara's son, Nikolai, is an intensely charismatic man (skillfully played by Ivan Alovisio) who no sooner returns than he engages in a brawl with one of Stepan's circle, gets challenged to a duel, and passes out, drunk. Varvara wants to marry Nikolai to the rich and beautiful Liza, the daughter of a friend. Varvara's solution is to tell Stepan to marry Darya. Stepan is crushed by this, since he thinks of Darya as a child and loves Varvara, but she threatens to throw him out if he doesn't accept. Another complication is that Liza is herself in love with the Swiss officer Mavriky. Stepan writes to his son Pyotr to try to escape the marriage, but Pyotr's return is equally disruptive to this society. While Stepan is a liberal intellectual, Pyotr is a revolution- ary firebrand (played with zeal by Alessandro Averone), who betrays his father to Varvara, and at first refuses to even speak to Stepan. Stepan's impending marriage to Darya is indeed disrupted, and the old tutor is forced to leave the house of the woman he loves. Varvara offers Stepan an annuity, but he refuses it. Pyotr's break with his father is over differences in political philosophy; he despises Stepan's "pompous words and confused ideas." Pyotr isn't just rejecting his father, but the entire old, intellectual idea of what Russia is and was. As the play progresses, we meet more of the community: Kirillov, a nihilist who extols sui- cide as the supreme proof of man's freedom; Shatov, a liberal student and former serf; the new town Governor, von Lembke, and his wife Julya, who begins an affair with Pyotr; Lebjakin, the alcoholic brother of Stavrogin's secret wife Marya; and oth- ers. Stavrogin fights his duel and wins; instead of shooting his opponent, Gaganov, Stavrogin fires into the air. Gaganov demands that the duel be repeated twice, and each time, Gaganov misses and Stavrogin refuses to shoot at his enemy. Stavrogin shows honor here, but while drunk, pays a former convict to murder his disabled wife Marya and her brother. Meanwhile, Pyotr founds an organization of students and revolutionaries. Pyotr's unruly "Group" cannot even agree on goals or a name, and Shatov, who had joined, soon leaves the Group. Pyotr accus- es the Group of being essentially a literary circle

like Stepan's, and demands that, to prove their revo- lutionary spirit, they murder Shatov. Pyotr desper- ately wants Stavrogin to join his Group, but Nikolai, who is blessed with charisma, prowess—whether in a fistfight or a duel—and the quality of leadership, lacks any real ideology or purpose in life, and isn't interested. The reasons for Stavrogin's dissoluteness are revealed when he confesses his sins to the priest Tikhon (played by Stein): Stavrogin admits that he had sinned constantly, simply to prove that he could, his greatest crime being the seduction of an extremely young girl who subsequently committed suicide. This confession was staged in a striking fashion: first Stavrogin gave a letter with his con- fession to Tikhon in an alcove in the far upstage left corner of the stage, and as Tikhon read silently, Stavrogin came far downstage and spoke the con- fession directly to the audience. This scene thus

became a moment of intense communion between Stavrogin and the audience. The final parts of the play show the unrav- eling of this small society. Cholera is ravaging the countryside, and the closing of a local factory leads to riots; von Lembke orders the police to suppress troublemakers. Attempting to alleviate the situation, the Governor throws a house party, where Stepan gives a lecture about learning and the arts. Liza, despite her love for Mavriky, leaves the party to sleep with Stavrogin. During the end of the party, and while Liza and Nikolai are together, a fire breaks out in town. After the fire, a group of ruffi- ans murder Mavriky and Liza, calling her "Stavrogin's whore." Shatov reunites with his (pre- viously unmentioned) wife, and then is promptly murdered by Pyotr and his Group. Pyotr convinces Kirillov to take the blame for the murder, and then

convinces Kirillov to take the blame for the murder, and then Peter Stein's I Demoni .

Peter Stein's I Demoni. Photo: Tommaso Le Pera.


kill himself. Varvara finds Stepan in the ruins of the city, and takes him in, and the two finally declare their mutual love as Stepan dies. As he is dying, the pair quotes from the Gospel of Luke, and cannot stop philosophizing—finally agreeing on their mutual faith in God. As their scene plays out down- stage, Stavrogin appears in a pool of light upstage, places a gun to his temple, and shoots himself. Other stage versions of Dostoyevsky's novel exist—the most notable is by Camus—but Stein chose to create his own. This was probably because the other versions eliminate more of the plot to focus on certain aspects of the story, usually Nikolai Stavrogin and his personal demons. Stein, on the other hand, seemed to be trying to do with Dostoyevsky what Chekhov did in shorter, more discrete plays: give a snapshot of life in Russia at the end of the nineteenth century. Like Stoppard's trilogy The Coast of Utopia, the play is wide-rang- ing in its discussions of philosophy and literature, including liberalism (Stepan), anarchy (Pyotr), and nihilism (Kirillov). The actors were universally terrific. Alovisio was supremely energetic and charismatic; it was clear why his Nikolai Stavrogin was desired by all the women, and why Pyotr so desperately wanted Nikolai to join the Group. Schilton and Crippa were especially affecting as Stepan and Varvara; their scenes were charged with love, and helped to anchor the emotional world of the play. As Pyotr, Averone effectively portrayed the most dan- gerous sort of man: one who is filled with revolu- tionary fervor, but essentially without any guiding ideology or sense of morality. The supporting cast was equally talented, and all were supported by Ferdinand Wögerbauer's stage design and Anna Maria Heinreich's costumes. Wögerbauer's set was sparse, consisting of white walls, a black curtain in back, and a few sofas, chairs, desks, or platforms as needed. Locations and situations were suggested instead of represented: during the scene of Stavrogin's duel, the floor of the stage was strewn with leaves to suggest a forest, and after the fire, the stage was covered with overturned chairs. This bare set allowed the audience to focus more clearly on the actors. Heinreich's costumes effectively differ- entiated the characters; her opulent dresses and rid- ing gear for Irene Vechio as Liza were particularly effective in highlighting the young heiress' wealth and beauty. The only two design misfires were a fog-and-lighting effect employed during the fire and Lize and Mavriky's murder that made these dramat-

ic scenes verge on the ridiculous, and the makeup for Pia Lanciotti as Marya Lebjadkina, which made Stavrogin's mad and handicapped wife look almost like a circus clown. While the performances were universally strong and it was a rare treat to experience such an expansive theatrical event, it seems to me that The Demons was not an ideal theatrical performance. Simply put, Chekhov's plays, taking at most a third the length of time as Stein's production, present an equally detailed image of the characters and philos- ophy of late-nineteenth century Russia. Stein's pro- duction felt more like an experiment than a play— can a massive novel be staged, in nearly its entirety? My impression was reinforced by the fact that Stein introduced the play, and, after each interval, every new act, with a brief talk. During these talks, he held in his right hand a well-read copy of Dostoyevsky's novel, emphasizing his source material so emphati- cally that it was almost comic. Part of Stein's project is clearly to allow the audience to spend a full day not just at, but with the theatre. Towards this end, Stein came out to join the audience during each interval (he signed my pro- gram and posed for a picture with me, and also told me during this time that he felt the play worked bet- ter when staged in nontheatrical spaces, like a bas- ketball court where it had been presented in Italy). According to an interview with Stein in the pro- gram, the dinner break was intended to include "spectators and actors eating together [so that] a real theatrical community is created where actors and spectators can make conversation, share the moment, get to know each other during a whole the- atrical day." Unfortunately, other than Stein coming out during the breaks, this didn't seem to be the case:

I did not see any actors eating with the audience during dinner. Dostoyevsky's novel obviously can be staged—especially with the talents of such skilled actors—but whether it should be is another ques- tion. The production was a success, and at least to some degree I felt Stein effectively did create a day "with" the theatre for his audience. But the perform- ance also felt like it came from a novel, not a play- text; it did not feel designed for the theatre as much as for a reader's imagination. I left wondering if Stein's monumental productions that came from the- atrical texts (like Wallenstein or Faust) were more effective.


Euripides' Helena , directed by Luc Bondy at the Burgtheater, Wien. Photo: Ruth Walz. Helena

Euripides' Helena, directed by Luc Bondy at the Burgtheater, Wien. Photo: Ruth Walz.

Helena The second show I saw as part of the Festwochen was Helena, translated from Euripides by Peter Handke, and directed by Luc Bondy, who was also serving as Intendant for the Festwochen. Helena was a local production that will also be part of the 2010/11 season repertoire at Vienna's Burgtheater, Vienna's former imperial court theatre (which features four tiers of seats, and where the grand staircases are famously decorated with friezes by Klimt). Euripides' play is a reimagining of the myth of Helen of Troy: what if Helen was not Paris' mistress, nor even adulterous at all, but instead a faithful woman who remained deeply in love with Menelaus? In Euripides' version, Helen never absconded with Paris to Troy; she was transported to Egypt where she remained a captive of the amorous King Theoklymenos, who desperately wanted her to marry him. The Helen at Troy was in fact a phantom spirit created by the gods. After the Trojan War, Helen learns that Menelaus has landed in Egypt, and the two reunite and plan to escape. In order to leave, Helen, with the help of the King's sis- ter Theonoe, convinces Theoklymenos that Menelaus is in fact a messenger bearing news of the

death of Menelaus. Helen promises to marry Theoklymenos after she and the "messenger" sail out to sea to perform funerary rites for Menelaus. Theoklymenos agrees, and Helen and Menelaus sail away together. Theoklymenos is enraged and plans to kill his sister, but Castor and Pollux arrive as the twin dei ex machina and prevent him from carrying out this murder. Bondy's production remained faithful to Euripides' story, but did so within the framework of postmodern design including a set that seemed to come out of a dreamscape. The curtain was open when we took our seats, displaying Karl-Ernst Herrmann's extravagant stage. The set was excep- tionally deep, and the stage was divided vertically by a shallow trough. Stage left was painted yellow to look like sand, with piles of dirt upstage and downstage, and the front of a small boat protruding from left-center, as if it had run aground in the sand. Stage right, in contrast, looked institutional: the floor here consisted of gray wooden boards, and nine sets of desks and chairs were positioned from the upstage wall to the front of the stage. At center- right was a tall, vertical pillar filled with ancient- looking books; a small wooden ladder allowed access to the books. Downstage center was a square


Euripdies' Helena . Photo: Ruth Walz pit filled with six tiers of steps. As the

Euripdies' Helena. Photo: Ruth Walz

pit filled with six tiers of steps. As the play opens, Helen appears. Played by the beautiful and powerfully emotional Birgit Minichmayr, she is clearly naked under a slight yet elegant white dress (one of Milena Canonero's many gorgeous costumes), which constantly threatens to reveal too much, and also highlights Minichmayr's red hair. Minichmayr's Helen is a woman who could indeed have launched a thousand ships. Helen climbs the ladder, takes down a map from the book- case, and begins telling the story of her birth, the judgment of Paris, and her kidnapping and trans- portation to Egypt. When she tells the story of her conception (Zeus' disguise as a swan and rape of Leda), she bangs one fist into her other palm, as if to say, "oh well, yes, that happened." As she tells her story, the seats at the desks are taken by a chorus of schoolgirls, some in black, and some in white, all reading books. It is clear that they are reading her history—and the false history that includes her infidelity with Paris. Minichmayr portrays Helen as a powerful woman, extraordinari- ly angry not only at the way she is objectified by both gods and men, but also at the way she is being betrayed by history. The girls in turn ridicule and

console Helen throughout the play; some behave innocently, others lasciviously. They envy her, but also pity her, want to be her, to be with her, and to punish her. In other words, for these girls, Helen is the ultimate "It-girl." When Menelaus (Ernst Stötzner) arrives, he brings with him his false "phantom" Helen (also played by Minichmayr), who doesn't speak. Menelaus delivers a monologue on the Trojan War and his travels, while his false Helen, the silent opposite of the outspoken protagonist, listens and leaves. Menelaus meets the real Helen, and after realizing he has been deceived by a phantom, the two reunite in an emotional scene; they seal their plan to escape by gently touching hands in a gesture that is more familiar than a handshake, but more tentative and distant than an embrace. After meeting with Theone, who is played by Andrea Clausen as a bald-headed, tattooed, pain-stricken woman who has lost the use of her legs and must drag herself around the stage, the reunited couple rehearse their plan for Theoklymenos, interrupting each other with deep kisses. Menelaus lies in the downstage pit, while Helen leaves to change into robes of mourn- ing.


Theoklymenos, played like a very danger- ous beast of prey by the energetic Johann Adam

Oest, enters, all in black, sporting dark sunglasses, sharp mutton chops, and facial tattoos. He paws at the terrified chorus girls, and reveals a weapons closet hidden stage left, filled with many types of guns. Laughing, he plays Russian Roulette twice with a revolver. Helen arrives, and when Theoklymenos hears that Menelaus is "dead," he offers his sympathy and then immediately proposes. To get what she wants, her escape with Menelaus, Helen has to essentially seduce Theoklymenos. This

is the central scene, because Helen must profess—in

front of the disguised Menelaus—her love for Theoklymenos and the end of her love for her "dead" husband. In other words, she must perform the role of the false woman that she is believed by the world to be. This performance must be good enough to fool Theoklymenos, and throughout this performance, Minichmayr's Helen is painfully aware of how this performance must appear to Menelaus. In order to assuage his fears, she kisses him passionately each time Theoklymenos isn't looking.

Finally, Theoklymenos allows Helen to leave. A silhouette of a sail appears on the upstage wall, and slowly fades away. Theoklymenos realizes

he's been fooled, and prepares to kill his sister with

a switchblade. Castor and Pollux, the dei ex machi-

na, are staged as two giant orbs that fall from the fly space, crashing through the floorboards and flashing with lights as their monologue resolving the action

is played over the speaker system, in a jarring, echo-

ing fashion. Theoklymenos, not sure which orb to address, apologizes, and, in a moment of unexpect- ed kindness, picks up his sister and puts her in a chair. The chorus returns, and they begin to read silently. In the final moment, the phantom Helen runs on. The suggestion is obvious: she is exactly the sort of woman Theoklymenos in fact desires, and the only kind of woman such a violent man could possibly deserve: one who is passive, silent, confused, and promiscuous. Bondy's staging of Helena was a visually striking and emotionally fulfilling performance. Although clearly Minichmayr's play, the perform- ance became markedly more engaging after Oest entered the stage as Theoklymenos; however, this is partially due to the text, not Bondy's production, since the King of Egypt provides the majority of the conflict in the play. The central scene between Helen, Menelaus, and Theoklymenos was electrify-

ing. Herrmann's set aptly reinforced Bondy's stag- ing: this was a play about the way stories are told, and how narratives, and the ways they are con- structed, can have a direct effect on human lives. Yet despite the fact that I found the performance thor- oughly satisfying, during the extended, almost oper-

atic curtain-call there were a very few loud boos that could be heard throughout the auditorium, especial-

ly as Bondy took his bow. In fact, costume designer

Canonero unfortunately tripped and fell during the curtain call, suggesting that Hermann's set may in fact have been a bit too complex, and that perhaps similar effects could have been achieved more sim- ply.

Hass Hass (Hate), an environmental play staged

at the old gas works in the northeastern outskirts of

Vienna, conceived and directed by Volker Schmidt,

a young Austrian actor and director, was the

strongest piece of theatre I saw during my week in Vienna, and one of the most affecting works of the- atre I saw this entire year. The performance truly began when the audience boarded busses in down- town Vienna. The busses drove through the central city, directly past the Burgtheater where I had seen Helena the night before—as if to say "this isn't where our show is being presented." They then drove us over the Danube, and into an industrial dis- trict. While on the busses, we were divided into three groups, to be separated when we reached the performance site. As we approached the gas works, the busses stopped and were boarded by masked young men, telling us to put away our cell phones, put our hands forward, and listen. They told us how they were oppressed by police, and as the busses pulled into the gas works, we were greeted by the sight of youths rioting against the police. After the riot, an

actor stepped forward to tell a pseudo-joke: "This is a play about a man falling from a tall building. As

he falls, he keeps saying, 'So far, so good. So far, so

good.' But it's not about how you fall, it's about how you land." We were then met by the three central char-

acters, Karim (Karim Cherif), Daniil (Daniel Wagner), and David (David Wurawa), who each took one of the groups on a "tour" of the neighbor- hood (each group got to go on all three tours, and thus to meet all three central characters). Daniil, stocky and fun loving, was Russian, and gave his introduction in Russian as a stagehand translated.


Hass , conceived and directed by Volker Schmidt. Photo: Theresa Rauter. Karim, who was North

Hass, conceived and directed by Volker Schmidt. Photo: Theresa Rauter.

Karim, who was North African, French, and Serbian, an angry man who lived with his mother and younger sister, spoke in French and German. David was from Zimbabwe and spoke English; a former drug dealer who had opened his own gym, his German was less strong than that of the other characters, and thus throughout the play he was often silent, watching the action but saying little. These tours revealed that the derelict buildings of the gas works stood in for the derelict buildings of a housing project, and that the rioting we had seen at the opening had left a friend of the trio in the hospi- tal, Karim in possession of a lost police firearm, and David's gym destroyed. After these three separate tours, all three groups came together at the rubble-filled building that represented David's destroyed gym; we watched the remainder of the play together. This consisted of a day in the life of these three young men and their neighborhood. Like the introductory tours, the rest of the play was staged as a procession as we followed the actors from one area of the gas works to another. We saw them visit friends, get turned away by police as they tried to visit their hos- pitalized friend, or get accosted by news agents in a fancy car who were trying to make a story out of the poverty of the projects and the aftermath of the riots.

The trio seemed to be looking for a purpose, but finding none: Karim wanted to use his gun to shoot a policeman in revenge for his friend while David argued about the futility of violence and Daniil mediated between the two. In the play's most upbeat moment, the actors and audience entered a building which had been transformed into a dance club: audience mem- bers were given free beers or bottles of water as the actors began dancing. A break-dancing contest began, accompanied by loud rap music, but was interrupted by the entrance of the police. But instead of arresting or beating up the youth, one of the policemen joined in, competing with (and besting) one of the break-dancers. This temporary détente was ended when a shot rang out: the police sprang into action, breaking up the event. Although it was unclear where the shot had come from, Karim found himself face to face with a policeman; Karim drew his gun. David and Daniil barely managed to pull Karim away, and the trio escaped into a bathroom. Their argument there was interrupted by the loud flush of a toilet, and an older man in a three-piece suit appeared, having heard the trio discuss Karim's near murder of a policeman. Instead of taking action, the old man told a story; the trio and audi- ence hoped that he might be a sort of "deus ex toi-


let," but instead his story, about a dead friend of his, was worthless. Karim, David, and Daniil were left on their own. The trio then went to visit a friend, Asterix, who was high on cocaine, sporting nunchucks, and then David and Daniil were detained and beaten up by some policemen—luckily Karim, who had the illegal gun, managed to escape. Daniil and David went to a late-night show at a fancy gallery, where they were kicked out after Daniil failed miserably at impressing a girl. The three hotwired a car and lis- tened to music, which was interrupted as the radio tells them of the death of their hospitalized friend. This was staged in a spot where the audience was looking past the trio towards the beautiful hills of the Vienna Woods, symbolic of the sublime beauty from which these young men constantly found themselves barred. The sun, setting over the hills, stood in for the sun rising in the morning as the men's day was almost over. Just as they prepared to go home, a group of skinheads attacked, and the trio got the upper hand. Karim pulled out his gun, and finally even David urged him on to violence: he argued that if Karim truly wanted to shoot someone, surely a racist skinhead deserved it. But despite all his rage

and his earlier speeches, Karim was unable to pull the trigger, and let the skinhead run away. He gave his gun to David, and the trio prepared to separate. At this last moment, a policeman appeared and grabbed Karim, then, obviously accidentally, shot him in the back. David returned and leveled the gun at the policeman, who pointed his back. Yet neither shot, and both slowly lowered their guns as the ensemble arrived to deliver the epilogue: "This is a story about a society that is falling. And it says to itself, 'So far, so good…'" Each of the eighteen actors in the ensemble repeated the words "so far, so good" in a different language. Schmidt's play, which is rather closely adapted from Matthieu Kassovitz's 1995 French black-and-white film La Haine (Hate), was most striking because the theatrical scenes succeeded at representing—or ghosting—real locations or events. Through an act of surrogating, these derelict buildings stood in for real or imagined neighbor- hoods that most visitors to Vienna (including myself) avoid and never see, or perhaps ignore when they do pass through them. Imagination made the spaces more vivid, made empty and graffiti-cov- ered buildings seem like the paradigm for decrepit housing complexes, or an actual sunset feel like a

for decrepit housing complexes, or an actual sunset feel like a Hass by Volker Schmidt. Photo:

Hass by Volker Schmidt. Photo: Theresa Rauter.


sunrise after a long night. The work also succeeded because all three of the central actors were very strong, especially the young Cherif, who was a member of the Vienna Burgtheater ensemble from 2005 through 2009, and whose rage fueled the unre- lenting energy of Hass. One crucial difference between Kassovitz's French film and Schmidt's Austrian play (other than the obvious differences of artistic medium between environmental theatre and film) was the multilin- gual aspect of Schmidt's play. While Kassovitz's film emphasizes multiculturality through the out- sider status of the central characters (in the film they are named Vinz, Hubert, and Saïd, and are a Jew, a black man, and an Arab), all three are French-born and speak French throughout. Schmidt's play is about the outsider status of immigrants, about those whom globalization does not only exclude, but also pushes down whenever they gain a foothold in a new country; at least a dozen languages were spo- ken throughout the performance. The play is partic- ularly trenchant in Austria, with its strict immigra- tion policy.

The one major weakness of the show, which is also a weakness in the source material is that while Hass purports to deal with an angry and excluded underclass of youth, it in fact really deals only with masculine youth. The company of eight- een actors included only three women, and made me wonder how deeply Schmidt had thought about the ways these social problems affect women in lower- class neighborhoods. I was riveted by the produc- tion, finding it both moving and socially incisive, but left thinking that it might have been a stronger adaptation had Schmidt decided to make one of the central characters female. This would have been a striking departure from his source material, but he had already revealed his ability to make such changes by broadening his scope from the residents of the slums of one city to the global underclass of immigrants in any city.

Lulu The fourth production I attended at the Festwochen was Alban Berg's opera Lulu, which was staged at the Theater an der Wien. Berg did not

, which was staged at the Theater an der Wien. Berg did not Alban Berg's Lulu

Alban Berg's Lulu, directed by Jean-Romain Vesperini based on Peter Stein's interpretation. Photo: Armin Bardel.


live to finish the opera, which he adapted from Wedekind's plays The Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box, and so the third act was completed by Friedrich Cerha, who was in attendance the night I went to see the performance. Peter Stein created this production of Lulu for La Scala in 2009, but was not involved with the revival, which was rehearsed by Jean- Romain Vesperini; according to a fellow audience member, Stein purportedly considered asking for his name to be removed from this revival, but decided against doing so. The opera begins with a prologue, staged in front of a curtain decorated with circus images from around the world. A lion tamer and clown introduce a set of dangerous animals: a tiger, a croc- odile, and Lulu, who is carried out like a wax stat- ue. The opera then follows the plot of Wedekind's plays relatively closely: Lulu is married to Dr. Göll, but having an affair with an artist who is painting her portrait. Göll dies of a heart attack, and Lulu marries the painter, who himself commits suicide when he discovers Lulu is having an affair with Dr. Schön. Lulu emotionally blackmails Schön into

marrying her, but has many admirers—an acrobat, a gymnast, an old man named Shigolich who may be Lulu's father, the lesbian Countess Geschwitz, and even Alwa, Schön's son. When Schön discovers Lulu's infidelity, he gives her a revolver and orders her to kill herself, but she shoots him instead. In an interlude accompanied by Berg's music, projections reveal that Lulu is arrested and convicted, but trans- ferred from prison to a hospital after purposefully contracting cholera. After escaping from prison, Lulu seduces Alwa, and, although almost betrayed by the acrobat and a Marquis, she escapes with Alwa, Shigolich, and Geschwitz to London, where she becomes a prostitute. In the final scene, she meets with three clients: a strange professor, a "Negro," and finally Jack the Ripper, who murders Lulu and Geschwitz. Stein's production was staged like we were looking at a framed work of modern art in a muse- um: the proscenium revealed small but elegantly decorated sets (designed by Wögerbauer, who also created the sets for Stein's I Demoni) dominated by the colors white, red, and black (Lulu's house even

I Demoni ) dominated by the colors white, red, and black (Lulu's house even Lulu .

Lulu. Photo: Armin Bardel.


Nach Moskau! Nach Moskau! , directed by Frank Castorf. Photo: Thomas Aurin. featured a white

Nach Moskau! Nach Moskau!, directed by Frank Castorf. Photo: Thomas Aurin.

featured a white tiger-skin ottoman). Moidele Bickel's costumes also featured the same colors, as did Lulu's portrait, which made an appearance in each act. Lulu's house, which was the setting for the entirety of act 2, was dominated by a large black and white staircase, curved at the top, slightly reminis- cent of the curved architecture of the Guggenheim Museum. Lulu herself, as played by Laura Aikin, was something like a black-haired Columbina doll—a nearly emotionless and almost childlike fig- ure, appearing unable to comprehend the way her actions wreaked havoc in the lives of everyone she touched. Yet, paradoxically, Aikin's Lulu was not innocent since she clearly understood how men per- ceived her: as a play-toy, a sexual animal. This Lulu knew exactly what men wanted from her, and was willing to exploit them in turn. Although Daniele Gatti's music direction, the orchestra, and singing were terrific (especially Aikin as Lulu, Thomas Piffka as Alwa, and Natascha Petrinsky as Geschwitz), Berg's music is simply not to my taste. I was unable to follow a sin- gle melodic line throughout the first act, and even after I learned to find them in later acts, Berg's music still seemed to be something of a traumatic cacophony, filled with randomness punctuated by

sudden sparks of horns or drums. In fact, my favorite music came in the third act, which Cerha completed after Berg's death. Additionally, the opera almost requires blackface, since the three clients in the third act are played by the same actors who portray Lulu's three husbands. The second client, the Negro, is played by the same actor who plays the painter (Roman Sadnik, in this produc- tion), and the blackface employed seemed to me to be a jarring and dated racist stereotype. Finally, Stein's concept of staging Lulu like a piece of mod- ern art on display in an ultramodern museum seemed somewhat precious, a way of trying to find a way to make the work more palatable. I left wish- ing I had seen Wedekind's plays instead.

Nach Moskau! Nach Moskau! The final show I saw at the Festwochen and during my week in Vienna was directed and conceived by Frank Castorf, who has served as Intendant of Berlin's Volksbühne since 1991 and is known for radical leftist reworkings of canonical texts that make him a controversial figure for audi- ences. Nach Moskau! Nach Moskau! (To Moscow! To Moscow!), a co-production of the Festwochen, Volksbühne, and International Chekhov Theatre


Festival, which premiered 25 May 2010 in Moscow, fell fully within Castorf's established aesthetic. Castorf's production, which was an adapta- tion and amalgamation of Chekhov's play Three Sisters and short story "Peasants," was staged in Halle E in the MuseumsQuartier, where I had seen I Demoni six days earlier. The set, designed by Bert Neumann—who also designed the costumes—con- sisted of two wooden-frame buildings; at stage left was an open deck with a few chairs and staircase leading down to the floor, while stage right was a small hovel, with a metal stove and some pallets lying on the ground. Behind these structures was a wire-frame device used for video projections and supertitles (actors spoke in both Russian and German; when they spoke in one, the other language was projected). Far upstage was a painted back- ground of a forest. The plot of Three Sisters—the story of the three Prozorov sisters Olga, Masha, and Irina, who live with their brother Andrey and the local regi- ment of soldiers in a small backwoods town, and dream of someday going back to Moscow—played out on the stage left platform. Castorf apparently had no sympathy for the Prozorovs or their dreams, staging the sisters as lazy, dilettantish, pedantic, and petty. When Natasha (Kathrin Angerer) first entered, an ingenuous country girl hoping to impress, Olga (Silvia Rieger) literally screamed at the top of her voice at the girl for wearing an out- landish green belt. Throughout the play the sisters constantly changed costumes—for example, at the beginning of the play Masha (Jeanette Spassova) was wearing a white dress; in the second act she wore a frilly pink dress with fancy high heels; in the third act she had a small black slip covered with a billowy white robe, a pearl necklace, and an expen- sive-looking gray scarf; in the fourth act she wore an Art Nouveau-inspired black dress, with little hints of gold. The other sisters changed with equal frequency. The implication was that these were women with nothing better to do than buy clothes and complain about their privileged lives. Vershinin (Milan Peschel) and Masha's affair was staged not as a romance, but as the effect of a mutual boredom; the two did not even seem terribly attracted to one another. Castorf's suggestion was that these privi- leged bourgeois women were not worthy of their dreams, and that Natasha's usurpation of their household was both inevitable and a positive out- come.

Chekhov's short story "Peasants" deals


with a community of former serfs in a small town in the backwaters of Russia. Nikolai Chikildeyev, a waiter in a Moscow hotel, becomes ill and loses his job, and must move with his wife Olga and daugh- ter Sasha back to his native town of Zhukovo, where the family moves in with Nikolai's impoverished parents, Nikolai's alcoholic brother Kiryak and his wife Marya, who Kiryak routinely beats, and Nikolai's promiscuous sister-in-law Fyokla. During the course of their time there, a fire breaks out destroying much of the town, Fyokla is raped by a group of ruffians and sent home naked, the family's only valuable possession, a samovar, is taken by a local inspector in lieu of taxes they can't pay, and Nikolai dies after being treated by a quack doctor. Olga and Sasha leave to return to Moscow and find Olga's sister Klavdia Abramovna, who is a prosti- tute. To survive their journey, they turn to begging. In Nach Moskau! Nach Moskau!, Castorf imagined that the town in which the Prozorovs and Chikildeyevs lived was one and the same. At first glance, the two stories seem diametrically opposite:

one deals with wealth, love, and philosophy, the other with poverty, lust, violence, and sordidness. Yet the two plots both include a fire in town, and both also include characters who passionately desire to return to Moscow. Castorf reinforced these con- nections by double-casting most of the roles: Maria Kwiatkowsky, who played Irina in Three Sisters, played Sasha in "Peasants"; Angerer (Natasha in Three Sisters) was both Fyokla and Klavdia in "Peasants;" Lars Rudolph, who played Tuzenbach in Sisters, played Nikolai in "Peasants," and Trystan Pütter (Andrey in Sisters) played Kiryak. The actions carried out by these characters paralleled but was in stark contrast to that in Three Sisters: their part of the play took place primarily in the small hovel stage right, as opposed to the expansive space used for Three Sisters. While the costumes for Three Sisters were period and often ornate, those used in "Peasants" were contemporary (tank tops, tee shirts, miniskirts, hooded sweaters), worn, dirty, and dam- aged; several characters in "Peasants" sported visi- ble tattoos. Although the two plots were parallel, for the most part the characters operated in entirely sep- arate worlds. Nach Moskau! Nach Moskau! was less an amalgamation of these two works by Chekhov than a juxtaposition—the plot of Three Sisters would be entirely interrupted for scenes from "Peasants." The one exception came after the fire: in Chekhov's short story, two wealthy young women

come to the poor district to watch the fire get put out. They do not help, but afterwards give a coin to the young Sasha. In Castorf's production, these women were Masha and Olga Prozorov, visiting the fire-stricken slums in their fancy clothes. Many aspects of Castorf's production were simply bizarre or off-putting. While Neumann's cos- tumes for the sisters and peasants were excellent, he inexplicably costumed the soldiers Vershinin, Solyony, Tuzenbakh, Fedotik, and Doctor Chebutykin identically, making them hard to tell apart. For some inexplicable reason, Masha's hus- band, Kulygin, played by Sir Henry (who also designed the production's music), spoke in English throughout the play, in a robotic monotone. At one point, Irina, played by the immensely physically tal- ented Kwiatkowsky, began jerking her body around like a zombie. The live-feed camera was often inter- esting—such as when it captured, in close-up, Andrey's face during a sexual encounter with Natasha—but in general, it felt derivative of The Wooster Group, which I feel did a more satisfying cyborg version of Three Sisters with its Brace Up!, last staged in 2003. Occasionally, bizarre choices

worked: the musical choices, such as frequent refrains from the Scissor Sisters' "Return to Oz" were striking and effectively reinforced the action on stage. In general, the sections adapted from "Peasants" were clearer and more engaging, despite the fact that this section did not come from a text originally designed for the stage. Perhaps this was because Castorf had slightly more sympathy for the poor characters than for the spoiled and boring Prozorovs. Much of the audience seemed as unhap- py with the play as I was: there was a constant trick- le of audience members leaving the theatre through- out the production, and after the intermission, the audience was a shell of what it had been before. In a post-show discussion, Castorf called Nach Moskau! Nach Moskau! a democratic show, protesting against totalitarianism. He argued that the frequent Nemirovich-Danchenko and Stanislavski- influenced productions of Chekhov's plays—which are, in Castorf's mind, also Stalinist versions, since Stalin was a supporter of Socialist Realism and Stanislavski—get Chekhov entirely wrong. Castorf argued that the plays must be presented as come- dies, and also claimed, citing Heiner Müller and

be presented as come- dies, and also claimed, citing Heiner Müller and Nach Moskau! Nach Moskau!

Nach Moskau! Nach Moskau! Photo: Thomas Aurin.


Chekhov in one breath, that he is intensely devoted to the text. Yet, these statements were not borne out by his production. Castorf seemed to view the char- acters of "Peasants" and Three Sisters with almost equal disdain, suggesting that people who do not change the world for the better are animals or zom- bies, no matter with what resources they are born. If this was intended to be a comedy, it was a very bit- ter one indeed. Moreover, it struck me as ironic for a high-concept director to argue against totalitarian- ism, since Castorf's own productions that are so intent on destabilizing the original texts are, in their own way, creations of an artistic authoritarianism. In short, while I found the juxtaposition of Three Sisters and "Peasants" fascinating and illuminating, and was highly impressed by the actors and most of Neumann's design, on the whole I found Castorf's production didactic, overly long, derivative of The Wooster Group, and rather unpleasant to sit through.

Hiob Hiob (Job) was actually the second pro- duction I saw during my week in Vienna, but I dis- cuss it at the end of this report since it was not a part

of the Festwochen, but an independent production of the Volkstheater, directed by Michael Sturminger, Artistic Director of the Volkstheater. The Volkstheater frequently performs works by Austrian authors, and Hiob is an adaptation by Koen Tachelet of novel of the same name by the Jewish Austrian author Joseph Roth. Hiob is a modern take on the biblical story of Job, the man who loses his family as part of a test from God. Mendel Singer, played by Günter Franzmeier, is a Jewish teacher in a Russian shtetl. He lives relatively happily with his wife Deborah (Maria Bill), sons Jonas (Patrick O. Beck) and Schemarjah (Till Firit), and daughter Mirjam (Andrea Bröderbauer). The play opens with a small group of onstage musicians playing melancholic klezmer music, as Mendel and Deborah have a fourth child—their son Menuchim (Arne Gottschling). (All of the Singers' children were played by adult actors, not children.) Menuchim is developmentally disabled—epileptic and probably also mentally challenged. When the other children play with him, he can't even effectively move his own body, so they treat him like a living doll.

move his own body, so they treat him like a living doll. Koen Tachelet's adaptation of

Koen Tachelet's adaptation of Joseph Roth's novel Hiob, directed by Michael Sturminger. Photo: Lalo Jodlbauer.


Hiob . Photo: Lalo Jodlbauer. Mendel desperately wants to teach his youngest son the Torah,

Hiob. Photo: Lalo Jodlbauer.

Mendel desperately wants to teach his youngest son the Torah, but all Menuchim ever manages to say is "Mama."

Mendel's family slowly disintegrates. Jonah decides to go off and join the army, and Shermejah leaves to make his fortune in America. Mirjam is turning into a nymphomaniac, sleeping with many local Cossacks—while out walking one night, Mendel sees her from a distance. He and Deborah are desperately lonely, feeling they have lost their children. Suddenly, Shermejah sends a let- ter and ten dollars from America. Shermejah is now "Sam," and wants his parents to join him in New York. Yet Mendel does not want to leave the Shtetl; it is his home, even if America holds more promise for them. However, Mendel, Deborah, and Mirjam

go; they must leave behind the mentally unfit Menuchim. The first act ends as "Sam" greets his parents, saying:

"Vater, Mutter, welcome to New York!" In New York, things begin to look up. Sam has earned $15,000; they are rich compared to how they used to live. Deborah and Mirjam begin to dress more elegantly, and Mendel starts to learn English. A letter arrives from Menuchim: he appears to be recovering, can now speak, and may soon be able to come to America. Mirjam starts going out with Mac, Sam's American friend—who is not Jewish. But Mendel, no car- toonish Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, is extremely devoted to his family, glad as long as his daughter is happy and safe, whether or not her boyfriend is Jewish. Franzmeier's Singer would never renounce his children:

at times he shouts, curses, and resists the way the world and his life are changing, but he is ultimately filled with love. But then the war breaks out, it becomes impos- sible to communicate with Menuchim, and Sam and Mac both join the American army. Both of Mendel's sons die in the war, and Deborah shortly thereafter dies. Mirjam resumes her obsessively promiscuous behavior, even trying to seduce her father; Mendel is forced to commit her to a mental hospital, where she too dies. Mendel renounces God, burning his yarmuckle in a scene hauntingly lit primarily by the fire consuming the primary sign of his lost faith. Mendel's friends and the spirits of his family come to tell him to keep his faith, and remind him of the story of Job who was tested by God and lost his family, but Mendel insists he is no Job. Mendel tries to make the best of life, begins teaching again, and finally goes to a Seder, although he, unlike his companions, wears nothing


on his head. But when he goes to open the door for Elijah, Menuchim appears. Menuchim takes Mendel to an elegantly decorated apartment, all in white, and tells his father that he recovered and has become a successful orchestra conductor. Menuchim leaves for a performance, and Mendel remains in the apartment. Mendel appears to know that this beautiful, white dreamland is indeed either a fantasy or heaven, not reality, but he chooses to believe in this happy ending, whether or not it is only in his imagination. Mendel once again covers his head. Ultimately, the ending of the starkly- staged Hiob was about one man's self-fashioning. Mendel knows that he, unlike Job, will not receive a new family, that Menuchim didn't really survive the war, recover from his illness, and prosper as a musi- cian. But by believing in this obviously imagined falsehood, Mendel makes it true for himself. The play ends with what the audience sees can only be Sartre's concept of "bad faith": genuine belief in what one knows to be false. Through this production, Sturminger read- ily displayed his skills as a director. He staged the production using only seven actors: one actor played each member of Singer's family, while the

versatile Thomas Kemper played all other roles (a doctor, a rabbi, a Cossack, Mac the American, and others). Ralph Zeger's set was simplistic, consisting primarily of two moveable platforms and a back- ground of stars on a black background (which turned into flashing lights for New York in the sec- ond act), but very effective in allowing the actors to dominate the play, and providing varied and engag- ing levels throughout. Before seeing the show, I attended a talk by the production's dramaturg, Hans Mrak, who also put together a fascinating program filled with poems, writings by Roth, and photographs both from the production and from the 1930s in Russia, Austria, and New York. Mrak spent most of his talk discussing Roth's career as a writer, and how Hiob fit into this; when talking about the Volkstheater production, he also stressed the music, influenced by early twentieth century Jewish klezmer music. Yet although the text, music, and set were all a part of making the production a success, the greatest praise must go to Franzmeier, who made Mendel Singer compelling and believable as a man of absolute moral and personal integrity. Great credit must also go to Sturminger, who, through his subtle

and personal integrity. Great credit must also go to Sturminger, who, through his subtle Hiob. Photo:

Hiob. Photo: Lalo Jodlbauer.


direction, allowed Franzmeier to create such a stun- ning performance. If there was one real downside to the per- formance, it was the casting of Andrea Bröderbauer as Singer's daughter Mirjam. Bröderbauer, although a skilled young actress, unfortunately did not man- age to look Jewish in the least: she had bright red hair and Teutonic features. This is perhaps the one downside to the ensemble system of theatres such as the Volkstheater: the limited number of actors avail- able means that at times the actors in the company may not be ideal for the roles available. On the pos- itive side, the ensemble system ensures that the actors have developed a strong connection with one another, as was the case in Hiob.

Concluding Thoughts In addition to displaying the variety of the- atre available in Vienna, the six productions I attended seemed connected by a few common themes. One of the more obvious was that of stylis- tic reimagining or adaptation, taking the old and making it new. This is part and parcel of the German Regietheater (director's theatre), dominant in Germany and Austria since the second half of the twentieth century, in which directors have often rad- ically altered or adapted texts to make the work their own, instead of placing the primary authority with the author or the text itself. In Regietheater, the director claims the role of creator, devising a work of theatrical art that is distinct not only from previ- ous productions, but from the text from which he or she draws. The productions that I saw were all, to some extent, adaptations. Stein adapted Dostoyevsky's novel for I Demoni, as Tachelet and Sturminger adapted Roth's novel for the Volkstheater's Hiob. Schmidt's Hass was an adapta- tion of Kassovitz's film, and Castorf's production radically re-envisioned Chekhov's play and short story. Berg's Lulu is itself an adaptation of Wedekind's "Lulu Cycle" plays. Perhaps Helena might be called, out of these six, the production most "faithful to the original," despite its opulent and extreme set design, although here Euripides himself totally altered older Greek myths. Another through-line connecting all of these plays was the theme of human beings treated like—or turning into—animals. I Demoni depicts how easily lofty idealism can be corrupted into ani- malistic violence: both the Group's murder of Shatov and the gang of ruffians who kill Liza and Mavriky were staged like beasts of prey bringing


down unfortunate victims. In Hiob, the young men- tally ill Menuchim was literally called "ein Tier" ("an animal") by his siblings and other members of the Russian community. Helen, in Euripides' play, is a powerful woman who is mightily pissed off at being treated like a creature that can be bought, sold, or kept at the whim of gods and kings. In Stein's staging of Lulu, Lulu was explicitly com- pared to a circus animal through the prologue, in which she was described as more dangerous than the trained tiger or crocodile. Hass and Nach Moskau! Nach Moskau! both depicted the potential for bestial behavior in an ignored or oppressed underclass—in Hass there was the unchecked vio- lence of the opening riots and the mindless savagery of the skinheads, while in his adaptation of Chekhov's short story, Castorf portrayed the peas- ants as almost literally animals: growling, barking, hooting, hissing, biting. Olga and Sasha in Castorf's play drank milk from pails like cats. This common theme seemed to reflect an overarching anxiety, per- haps shared by these directors, about the role and status of human beings in society, and whether humans will continue to be differentiated from beasts or are cogs in a wheel in an increasingly eco- nomically divided world. As a final thought, I wanted to note that despite seeing many shows, I was also reminded throughout my time in Vienna of several produc- tions I had hoped to see, but could not, since my week was already packed with theatre. I unfortu- nately had to miss a production of Das weite Land (The Undiscovered Country), which was playing at the Theater in der Josefstadt; the play is by Arthur Schnitzler, one of Vienna's most notable play- wrights. The Burgtheater was also presenting Alfred de Musset's epic Lorenzaccio, directed by Stefan Bachmann and staged with only ten actors My theatre-going in Vienna was exception- ally fulfilling, even though I did not enjoy the final two productions I attended, Lulu and Nach Moskau! Nach Moskau!, as much as the earlier works. All six showed the richness of theatre available in Vienna in the spring, and I expect that many of these Festwochen shows will continue to achieve success as they continue to tour the globe.

Forum Heersum: Uli Jäckle's Landscape Theatre

Brian Rhinehart

A People's Theatre Populist approaches to theatre have deep roots in German culture, from the Volkstheater at Worms in the 1880s, to Erwin Piscator's experi- ments with political theatre in the 1920s, to Brecht's monumental achievements in the 1930s and 1940s. The motivations for such an approach are multifold, whether stemming from a desire to decentralize the- atre, to move it to the outer provinces and away from the elitist audiences of the urban centers, or from an effort to generate social change and galva- nize a population into revolutionary action, the idea of a people's theatre movement has been a popular one in Germany for the last 130 years. Advancing this tradition, and falling into the category of those theatre companies that are try- ing to decentralize, or de-urbanize theatre is the work of Uli Jäckle and his company, The Forum for Art and Culture. Founded in 1990, Jäckle promotes his company's annual productions as the "other" national theatre, and every year for the past fifteen years, they have devised and performed a show in the Lower Saxony region of Germany, near the remote village of Heersum. But, what makes this event so interesting is that the majority of the village (sometimes as many as 300 people) participates in the production every year, as actors, as set-builders, as costume assis- tants, as truck drivers—almost everyone contributes in some way. It is a "people's" theatre in the best sense of the word. Forum Heersum embraces all classes, ages, and types of people, the oldest being eighty, and the youngest being six. Forum's approach to devising plays is a collaborative dream. They choose the ground together, as a company, and then they all meet in an ancient house in Heersum: producers, composers, musicians, director, designers, and actors all come together to brainstorm for several weeks. Once a sufficient number of ideas have been generated, they are turned over to the company's resident play- wright, Carsten Schneider, who creates a baseline script, which is understood to be open to changes, adjustments, additions, and subtractions during the rehearsal process. Then the professional and many of the amateur actors from the village take that script and rehearse with it for several weeks, some- times embellishing it, sometimes deconstructing it. They take what is useful to them and discard what is

not, until they gradually have a working script, though that script continues to change even through the run of the play. The company is proud of the fact that every year they start this project with no idea how it will end.

The Landscape Heersum productions incorporate the land itself into each play. Because of its communal and site-specific approach to creation and performance, Jäckle calls this type of theatre "Landscape Theatre." The location is chosen first, and then the play is written and developed for that place specifi- cally, incorporating regional folklore, local current events, and popular themes into the narrative. Forum tries very hard to make each location instru- mental to the action of the play. 2009's Heinde Park, for example, was set in a local waste processing facility. The play, a satire of German eco-politics, follows hapless Dieter Kasupka and his long suffer- ing wife on a journey to claim his inheritance, a rat- infested hotel called "Heinde Park," located "im Arsch der Welt," the ass of the world. The garbage dump backdrop served as the perfect representation of the ass of the world, while at the same time it was instrumental to the plot of the play—Dieter goes there in the first scene to throw his trash and old belongings away. The fact that he doesn't recycle is what fuels this satire about consumer waste and dis- posability.

Trekking Theatre Jäckle seeks to break down the barriers between performance and spectator in various ways. He frequently has the actors move through and speak directly to the audience. He also gives the audience the freedom to walk around during the per- formances, to get as close to or as far from the action as they wish, rather than stuffing them into the pre-assigned seats of traditional theatre. Thus the audience gets to choose how, where, and from what distance they will experience the show. Some have termed these Forum shows "Trekking Theatre," because the audience walks from playing area to playing area during the course of a produc- tion. In the case of Heinde Park, the audience tra- versed over three kilometers of terrain, beginning in a waste processing plant and then moving around, atop, and to the other side of a huge garbage moun-


Uli Jäckle's Heinde Park . Photo: Courtesy of The Forum for Art and Culture. tain.

Uli Jäckle's Heinde Park. Photo: Courtesy of The Forum for Art and Culture.

tain. According to Jäckle the walk must neither be too short or too long—too long and people become tired, too short and they are unable to experience the relaxed atmosphere of people undergoing a theatri- cal experience together. To keep things lively and entertaining on the walk, several live bands play along the way—one group of musicians (costumed as garbage flies) was made up of children, ages seven to eleven. Jäckle also believes strongly in controlling the size of the audience, keeping it under 500 in order to preserve the delicately balanced interaction between performer and spectator. He insists on not using microphones or any type of sound amplification equipment unless it's absolute- ly necessary, the central aim being to "provide warmth and nearness between the performers and the audience." He also proclaims his productions to be independent of the weather. On the day of the premiere the weather was far from clement. It was windy, cold, and rainy, and the crowd was huddled together to stay dry and warm, while the actors, many of them volunteers from the village, many of them children, stood out in a torrent of rain and per- formed as if the conditions were ideal. His approach to working with non-actors is singular; Jäckle

believes that it doesn't make sense to try and turn amateur actors into professionals, but it does make sense to take what makes each individual special and unique and utilize those attributes to the maxi- mum theatrical effect. According to Jäckle the ama- teur actors from Heersum have boundless enthusi- asm, dedication, and energy, so trying to control the process in a micro-managing way is to work from a place of fear and insecurity; therefore, he mixes the amateur cast with the professionals to give them a point of orientation, to help them to take risks, and to give them a model for success. And then he just lets them be themselves and have fun.

The Plays Forum plays subvert any expectation of linearity or cohesion with loosely connected sub- plots, fragmented characterizations, songs, dances, and outrageous visual spectacles. In Heinde Park, for example, there were giant earthmovers, cranes, and dump-trucks chasing actors through a garbage dump. The texts are full of puns, rhymes, and vari- ous plays on words, and the tone is whimsical, play- ful, and humorous. In addition, there is always a musical element. Many of the songs are original and


written by composer Jochen Hesch, whose group of musicians travels from Berlin every year to partici- pate in the production. In addition to using original music, Jäckle and his collaborators liberally sprin- kle popular American and German songs into the show, some retaining the original lyrics, and some whose lyrics have been transformed to fit the cir- cumstances of the dramatic moment. For instance, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," by Joan Baez, and Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man," are used in their entirety, with the original words, but Peter Fox's song, "Haus am See" ("House by the Lake") is transformed almost completely. For exam- ple, the lyrics of the song's chorus And the moon shines bright on my house by the lake Orange tree leaves are on the way I have twenty children, my wife is beautiful All come over, I need never go out, (Fox) are changed to:

And the moon shines bright on the garbage in the lake. Sheets of toilet paper lying on the road.

I have twenty children, my wife is beautiful. All come over, I need to go out before. Jäckle takes a populist approach to theatre and has no reservations about utilizing spectacle to purely entertain an audience. He prefers that the props and set pieces of Forum productions be as big and awe- inspiring as possible, sometimes shockingly so. Heinde Park's visuals included a huge rocket ship made of wood and canvas (that actually lifted off a launch pad), cranes, earthmovers, and seemingly out of control dump trucks, all of which were designed to thrill and amuse the audience.

Dieter Kasupke The Kasupke family are the frequent pro- tagonists of Forum productions. The plots of these plays are fairly predictable, and they almost all uti- lize the classic device of the "journey," in which a hero embarks on an epic journey, encounters various trials and tribulations that test his body and spirit. Finally, after a great struggle, he pushes through these obstacles and achieves his goal. Typically, along the way he experiences a significant and sat- isfying moral progression. But Forum productions

and sat- isfying moral progression. But Forum productions Uli Jäckle's Heinde Park . Photo: Courtesy of

Uli Jäckle's Heinde Park. Photo: Courtesy of The Forum for Art and Culture.


Uli Jäckle's Heinde Park . Photo: Courtesy of The Forum for Art and Culture. turn

Uli Jäckle's Heinde Park. Photo: Courtesy of The Forum for Art and Culture.

turn this mythic hero convention on its ear, sup- planting the exalted and noble heroes of antiquity with the bumbling, hapless Dieter Kasupke and his family of clownish misfits. The Kasupkes first appeared in Forum's early productions (staged in a beer hall) as a family living in the small village of Heersum, who yearned to go to the big city of Hildesheim (thirty-two kilometers away), but who somehow always missed the bus. They appeared again as central characters in Forum's 2005 produc- tion of Der Sympate, in which Dieter Kasupke tries to drive his Ford Granada to Italy, but gets lost. The family ends up in Heersum and soon gets in trouble with the German mafia. After a series of misunder- standings are corrected, all ends happily. Their next appearance was in 2007's production, Die Runkelritter, in which Dieter mis-programs his car's navigation device, and it magically places them in the eleventh century, where he has to battle a knight in a jousting competition. After much struggle with the navigation device, the family manages to return to their own time, and again it's a happy ending. Heinde Park also utilizes this epic-journey model, with Dieter chasing his inheritance all the way to the "ass of the world." Finally, his childhood bed, which he had thrown away at the beginning of the play,

shows him a vision of the consequences of his flip- pantly wasteful, environmentally irresponsible lifestyle. With this new understanding, he agrees to change his ways and become a better, more respon- sible person.

Station 1: The Waste Processing Plant Heinde Park takes place over three kilo- meters and a series of eight "stations," to which the audience walks in sequence. At the first station everyone in the audience is given an orange and yel- low safety vest, of the kind that is worn by the employees of the waste plant. The vests serve both a practical and a theatrical purpose; they're practical in that they keep the audience visible and thus safe from the rumbling trucks and equipment, but they also serve to ensure an interactive environment between the audience and the performance. As a theatrical device distributing the vests makes the audience a "part of the action," they bind individu- als together within the communal experience of the show, connecting them in a way that conventional theatre does not. After donning their safety vests, the audience walks up an incline, into an elevated waste processing facility. Along the way they pass a large open door and are privy to the spectacle of a


giant earthmover destroying automobiles. Once the audience has settled in and gotten comfortable on portable chairs in the parking lot of the building, the play begins. A group of environmental activists enter, all of them chained to a large prop anchor (to protest against environmental atrocities such as seal and whale killing), and they are quickly chased off by an employee of the waste plant. Evel Knievel then roars up in a red, white, and blue car, takes out a bullhorn, and establishes himself as the narrator. He begins to tell the story of the Kasupke family, who arrive soon after, pulling an old trailer full of their garbage. As part of their grand "cleaning day," Dieter begins to throw away all of his old, unwant- ed possessions: a broken hair dryer, barbells, and a weight bench, a love letter he once wrote to his wife Rita, and various other items. His son throws away his Luke Skywalker action figure, and his two daughters dispose of a book of fairytales. While Dieter is squabbling with Grandpa Kasupke, Rita is convinced by one of the waste employees to recycle the family car for money. Afterward, from within the compact wreckage, Dieter finds a letter saying that he has inherited a hotel in the "ass of the

world." He determines to go there and claim his inheritance. Meanwhile Dieter's twin daughters and son have been accidentally carried off by one of the bulldozers at the waste plant. Rita and Dieter pur- posefully abandon Grandpa and take off in a garbage truck to find the children and the hotel. Grandpa asks Evel Knievel for a ride, and they roar off in search of the family. The audience then leaves Station One, and on its way to Station Two passes the great doors to the waste processing facility. Again they witness the giant plows and cranes destroying cars.

Station Two: The Blue Angel Abduction The somewhat complicated sub-plot is introduced at Station Two, and it is here, among the giant containers that the audience meets many of its characters, including Heinde Park's central antago- nist, "Yellow Sack," who kidnaps one of the "Blue Angel" children from their mother. The Yellow Sack is, in German waste management parlance, a type of general garbage bag used throughout the country, into which many people erroneously put recyclable materials, making it less than eco-friendly, and a

materials, making it less than eco-friendly, and a Uli Jäckle's Heinde Park . Photo: Courtesy of

Uli Jäckle's Heinde Park. Photo: Courtesy of The Forum for Art and Culture.


Uli Jäckle's Heinde Park . Photo: Courtesy of The Forum for Art and Culture. Blue

Uli Jäckle's Heinde Park. Photo: Courtesy of The Forum for Art and Culture.

Blue Angel is a symbol put on products to indicate that they are made with progressive, energy-saving technology. After Yellow Sack has taken one of the tiny Blue Angels, the fairytale characters (from the book thrown away by Kasupke's son) creep out of one of the containers and discuss their plight with the Blue Angels. They agree to help each other find what is dear to them—the Blue Angels want to find their little one, and the fairytale characters want to find the Kasupkes. Both groups then exit up the hill toward the garbage dump. The audience follows. On the way to the next station the Blowfly Band plays for the audience by the side of the road.

Station Three: The Throwaway Society This satirical sub-plot is developed further at Station Three, where the audience watches a meeting of the wasteful, pollution-prone "Throwaway Society." The president of the Throwaway Society forms an alliance with Yellow Sack, and they make plans to shoot the world's garbage to the moon, then sing a song about garbage and their hatred of recycling. They are then met by Dieter's son Kevin's discarded Luke Skywalker doll, who joins in the song and afterward volunteers to pilot the mission to the moon. They leave and the audience again follows. On the way to the next sta- tion, the audience is approached by the eco-activists of Station One, who attempt to persuade them to


join their movement. As the audience passes them on the way to Station Four, the eco-activists begin singing and marching off in another direction.

Station Four 4: Rocket to the Moon Seated on a hill about 200 meters away

from the performance, the audience looks down on

a large collection of garbage containers surrounding

a rocket-ship. During the devising process, it was discovered that the containers, when struck, gave off a deep booming sound, so the company created

a drum-song, played by the Garbage Society at the

beginning of the scene. The effect is a totally sur- prising and unique theatrical experience. The char- acters are too far away to hear any dialogue, so their lines are spoken, as if relayed to the audience, by two actors in rabbit costumes, who are perched on the side of the hill, speaking through megaphones. Dieter and Rita arrive in their garbage truck and are witness to the launch of The Throwaway Society's first garbage rocket to the moon. At the last minute they realize that their children are aboard the rocket and react with trepidation. The eco-activists assault, but are quickly packed into vans and removed from the scene by The Throwaway Society. The audience then climbs to the top of the hill.

Station Five: Therapy Session Station Five is again staged on the side of

the hill, but the audience is much closer to the action, ten meters or so. The audience watches a therapy session for the domestic waste that Dieter has thrown away. The everyday objects are played by actors dressed in exaggerated and whimsical cos- tumes: a toilet-flushed hamster, a hairdryer, a tire, a dresser, a lamp, and an old Teddy Bear are all gath- ered around a Dieter look-alike dummy. They kick and yell at the dummy, as instructed by a radio ther- apist costumed as a huge radio. Grandpa Kasupke enters and tells the domestic waste how to exact their revenge on Dieter. He tells them that they must find his childhood bed, where he is vulnerable and compelled to say only the truth. The domestic waste exits to find Dieter's child-bed, and the audience fol- lows.

Station Six: Heinde Park The audience walks to the top of the hill and finds the hotel, Heinde Park. Soon after the audience arrives, so do Rita and Dieter. They find it to be infested with rats, so they call on the Cleaners. The Cleaners (people from the village costumed as detergents, brooms, mops, and so on), after singing

a medley of cleaning product jingles, clear out all the rats and present Rita and Dieter with a huge bill. Soon after the Cleaners exit, the eco-activists enter, and Dieter gives them all jobs at the hotel. Rita, is disgusted by the situation, and after learning of the fairytale characters' plan from Grandpa, leaves Heinde Park (after singing "Stand By Your Man") in search of Dieter's child-bed. When Dieter realizes that she has left him, he goes wild with grief and Evel Knievel has to knock him unconscious to keep him from hurting himself. The rats see this as their opportunity and re-invade the hotel, chasing the eco-activists away. The audience moves on to the exposed top of the hill.

Station Seven: The Moon Station Seven is set on the moon. The audi- ence sees huge digging machines, bulldozers, and cranes, ostensibly used to process the great amounts of waste being shipped there from the Earth. All the machines are operated by Werner von Braun. They chase Dieter's children across the moon until the Luke Skywalker doll intervenes and saves them. Under the control of von Braun, the Little Princess

them. Under the control of von Braun, the Little Princess Heinde Park . Photo: Courtesy of

Heinde Park. Photo: Courtesy of The Forum for Art and Culture.


takes Skywalker and the Kasupke children prisoner


Break Station The audience is then taken to a refreshment area, where they can purchase food and drink. After twenty minutes the show begins again, as Yellow Sack and the President of The Throwaway Society—standing on a balcony above the crowd— plot to take over the world. The audience then leaves for the final station.

Station Eight: Dieter's Transformation At the final station, the Blowfly Band entertains while the audience enters and takes their seats. All the characters are now present: the Kasupkes, the Blue Angels, The Throwaway Society, Yellow Sack, Evel Knievel, the discarded domestic waste, and the fairytale characters. Dieter has been invited onto a television show to tell his success story, but it's a trap. The television studio is fake, and once Dieter sits down for his interview, the domestic waste spring their trap, bringing on his childhood bed and forcing him to lie on it. As he does so he sees visions of how selfish and irrespon- sible he has been with both his family and his waste. Dieter describes these visions in vivid detail to those

gathered around him and then denounces Yellow Sack and the Throwaway Society. He ends the play by pronouncing that everyone and everything is important and should be treated with respect, and by swearing to give every person and every piece of garbage a true and useful place in his life. Thus, Forum uses humor, spectacle and a well-chosen site to address an issue that confronts the lives of every- one in the community, that of consumer waste and individual responsibility. Their productions are an inspiring vision of how a theatre company and a community can collaborate to create productions that are affordable, accessible, and meaningful to all. Forum's intent is not merely to produce a com- mercial product, one prepared by a group of theatre professionals for passive consumption by an experi- entially disengaged audience, but, on the contrary, their goal is to create a dramatic art form that direct- ly involves the community in the creative process, from the first idea to the last performance. The peo- ple of Heersum, Germany can truly say that each year's production is their own, from start to finish.

year's production is their own, from start to finish. Heinde Park . Photo: Courtesy of The

Heinde Park. Photo: Courtesy of The Forum for Art and Culture.


Report from Munich

Marvin Carlson

In Munich for the final week of the 2009- 2010 season (July 19-25) at the state theatre, the Residenz, I was nevertheless able to see a wide selection of offerings from the current repertoire, thanks to the German custom of mounting a differ- ent production each evening. I began with a well- known but still infrequently produced classic of the German Expressionist theatre, Georg Kaiser's From Morn to Midnight, directed by Tina Lanik. Lanik has been a house director at the Residenz since 2002, although she has also mounted works at the Berlin Deutsches Theater, the Vienna Burgtheater, and elsewhere. For the Kaiser she and designer Stefan Hageneier have created a striking, highly stylized, almost cartoonish set using for the most part simple geometric forms in bold red with black and white accents. Always present is a large Brechtian upstage sign composed of bold letters that are sometimes illuminated, sometimes backlit, sometimes toned with different colored light, "GELD VERSCHLECHTERT DEN WERT" (Money corrupts value). The pudgy, mustached Lambert Hamel is a perfect visual representative of

the doomed cashier of the play, who steals money to help an attractive woman (Juliane Köhler) who comes to his bank in the opening scene, is rebuffed by her and then enters into a wild day of dissipation leading to his final encounter at midnight with the police and with death. The visual style is firmly established in the opening sequence, showing the main hall in a small bank. Three windows are open in a blank orange-red wall above which appears the "GELD"-sign. The cashier occupies the center, engaged in apparently endless repetitive stamping, sorting, and stacking of papers. Three chairs to one side are for waiting clients, who are shown in by a grotesque porter (Dennis Herrmann) whose various limbs seem to be continually moving in different directions. The lady is among the various clients served, but the most striking is a slight female figure whose lower face is covered by a scarf above which appear a pair of heavily made-up eyes. Only near the end of the scene does she remove the scarf to reveal her entire face, a heavily made-up death mask. This death fig- ure (Anne Schäfer) will appear in each of the

death fig- ure (Anne Schäfer) will appear in each of the Georg Kaiser's From Morn to

Georg Kaiser's From Morn to Midnight, directed by Tina Lanik. Photo: Courtesy of the Residenztheater.


scenes, so that the cashier is literally accompanied by death throughout his journey, beginning as a maid, and moving through a member of the cashier's family to become at the end a Salvation Army girl. Probably the most elaborate and visually impressive scene is the fifth, when the cashier attends a bicycle race and uses this as one of the occasions to throw away part of the money he has stolen. Against the usual red, white, and black back-

ground, a set of identical bicycle riders, their hel- mets, machines, and tight-fitting body suits all in glowing green, take up their positions downstage and ride rapidly in place as the cashier and judge watch from above. Two other particularly impres- sive scenes are those that follow. The next shows the cashier seated alone in an expensive restaurant, served by the angular Denni Herrman and sampling

a series of grotesque women, somewhat in the man-

ner of the Tales of Hoffman, from display cases in an upstage line. The final Salvation Army scene pro- vides a very amusing parody of modern testimonial stagings, from reforming alcoholics to religious revival meetings, with a small boy in the back- ground lifted from time to time from the ground by

a mass of white balloons, each one bearing the word

"soul," and requiring someone to pull him back to earth. At the end of this scene the disillusioned cashier throws his money about and as the Salvation Army members scramble for it, he retires upstage where, in a small pool of light, he shoots himself. The policeman who finds the body rifles through it and pockets the last bits of cash to provide the pro- duction's final image. The next evening the Residenz presented Molnár's Liliom, best known to English-speaking audiences as the basis for the musical Carousel. The director, Florian Boech, who has been a house direc- tor at this theatre since 2001, updated the action from turn of the nineteenth century Budapest to a contemporary night club, where Lilliom (Michael von Au, who also joined the permanent Residenz company in 2001) plays not a carousel barker but the lead singer of the club, who in the course of the action has the opportunity to show off his vocal skill with four or five numbers. The carousel is visually invoked by placing the action on a turntable—sur- rounded by three basically neutral walls with arched openings and sketchy, clearly painted scenes behind—which during the night club scenes rises about a foot to reveal a series of lights that blink on

about a foot to reveal a series of lights that blink on From Morn to Midnight

From Morn to Midnight. Photo: Courtesy of the Residenztheater.


Ferenc Molnár's Liliom , directed by Florian Boech. Photo: Courtesy of the Residenztheater. and off

Ferenc Molnár's Liliom, directed by Florian Boech. Photo: Courtesy of the Residenztheater.

and off around its perimeter. The setting and serv- iceable but not particularly striking costumes are by Dorothee Curio. Aside from the visual updating, Boesch did not make a really innovative adjustment to the play, and it seemed as a result a bit flat and predictable, except for the dynamic presence of von Au and the warmly sympathetic Julie of Anne Schäfer, playing a very different sort of role from her death maiden of the night before. The final scenes after Liliom's death, which move into the realm of Expressionism, seemed to me particularly thin. The set was con- verted into heaven by lowering a rather flimsy and tacky red gauze curtain to partly cover the walls, along with a spinning disco style light globe in the center. Perhaps the idea was to suggest a rather tacky heaven, but the effect was still a pretty thin one. At the end, the carousel night club returned with dancing couples circling the stage. Berlin director Michael Thalheimer has had a very significant effect on the German direct- ing of the new century, and his influence could be seen, to a greater or lesser extent, in several of these current Munich productions. Thalheimer's is a dis- tinctly minimalist style, praised by his supporters as revealing the core of a play and condemned by his detractors as removing essential elements. In any

case, he and others have set the current widespread German style of presenting even large and sprawl- ing five-act classic dramas in one and a half to two hours without an intermission. Strikingly, four of the five productions I attended in Munich, all works of the classic European repertoire, had been cut to fit this pattern. The result was much more effective with Gerhart Hauptmann's Rose Bernd, the next play I

saw, a classic of the German naturalistic theatre that

I last saw in Berlin some twenty-five years ago

where it ran a solid four hours or more, as was com- mon in the German theatre in those days. This stag- ing, by Enrico Lübbe, clocks in at a mere ninety minutes. This is Lübbe's first production in Munich,

most of his work during the past decade having been

in Leipzig, where he was house director. Not only in

the severe cutting of the text, but in the minimalist setting and acting the director, at least in this pro-

duction, faithfully follows the Thalheimer model. The striking setting, by Hugo Gretler, consists essentially of a large earth colored platform, tilted toward the audience and open on three sides to blank walls. Its only decoration throughout the evening is a group of perhaps thirty aluminum milk buckets collected in a seemingly random group far upstage to the left. In the striking beginning of the


Gerhart Hauptmann's Rose Bernd , directed by Enrico Lűbbe. Photo: Courtesy of the Residenztheater. production

Gerhart Hauptmann's Rose Bernd, directed by Enrico Lűbbe. Photo: Courtesy of the Residenztheater.

production (in a sequence repeated near the end), a female scream echoes across the empty stage and the prone body of Rose (Lucy Wirth) pushes through the buckets from some upstage void. As she does so, several of them tip over, releasing a dark oily liquid, which surrounds her body and soils her crude flower-print dress as she slides downstage with the flowing tide. The simple, strongly presentational style heavily emphasizes the isolation and self-centered- ness of the individual characters in Hauptmann's stark Silesian peasant tragedy. Rose, unwed and pregnant with the child of Flamm, a married neigh- bor, is the projected object of desire of almost all the other characters in the drama, not only farmer Flamm (Dirk Ossig) but as a replacement for her dead children by the grieving Frau Flamm (Juliane Köhler) and as a sexual object by the Dionysian rogue Steckmann (Marcus Calvin, complete with bunches of ripe grapes as aides to seduction), and the awkward bookbinder Keil (Thomas Gräßle) who loses an eye to Steckmann's violence in one of the play's most shocking physical moments. After the brief opening sequence Rose stands in a pool of light downstage left and the remaining characters appear in a frozen line silhouetted upstage against

the wall of rough stone that serves as a backdrop, rather suggesting the figures in a medieval dance of death. Above them on the wall is carved in Gothic letters the text "Tue Recht und scheue niemand," (Do the right thing and fear no one), an expression of the rigid morality of the peasant village which haunts and at last destroys Rose. I was also struck at seeing two Residenz productions in three nights with this sort of Brechtian legend dominating the evening's offering. One by one the other characters come downstage from the line, beginning with Rose's father (Ulrich Beseler). Frequently they take up a position downstage opposite that of Rose and like her primarily address the audience. What seems in the description flat and artificial take on, as Thalheimer discovered, a considerable intensity, especially if the actors are capable of generating this without the normal interplay. Moreover, the scenes are varied with more intimate encounters between Rose and Frau Flamm, more erotic encounters between Rose and Streckmann, and more violent encounters between Streckmann and Keil. When Rose announces, near the end of the play, that she has killed her baby girl to spare her from the sort of existence Rose herself has led, the production comes full circle. Again rose screams and collapses


in the despoiling muck on the stage floor, this time rising with a darker stain around her genitals, as if she has in fact aborted her destroyed child. The production I enjoyed the most this week was a most original reading of Much Ado About Nothing by Jan Philipp Gloger, a new direc- tor who received his degree as recently as 2007. Gloger takes as the key to his interpretation the fact that Messina is located in Sicily, indeed is some- times called the "gateway to Sicily." This informa- tion is projected onto a blank wall center stage at the opening. Then the wall turns to reveal on its far side four hooded, black-suited Mafioso, holding pistols aloft at the ready. As they remove their hoods they are revealed as the arriving guests, Don Pedro (Stefan Wilkening), now a "don" of a very different sort, Don John (Frank Siebenschuh), Claudio (Andreas Christ), and Benedict (Shenja Lacher). They move around the turntable as it rotates again and brings them into a welcoming party in Messina. One of the pleasures of a repertory house is to see something of the range of abilities of particular actors, and it was a delight to see Lucy Wirth, so heavy, dark, and doomed the previous evening as Rose Bernd, here appear as a charmingly bouncy and empty-headed Hero, quite unable to hide her fascination with the macho moves of the sleek- haired Claudio, in his black leather jacket with its flashy scarlet lining. The action, cut down to a speedy two hours without intermission, moves along rapidly, aided by

the simple but efficient design of Franziska Bornkamm, which consists simply of a high wall splitting the turntable into two equal parts and often moving quickly around to cut back and forth between parallel scenes. The wall is blank, but as the evening goes on it is gradually covered by graf- fiti the characters scrawl on it (all in Italian, of course), and occasionally by other material as well—the wedding cake thrown in fury against it by this disillusioned Claudio, or the blood of Borachio (Thomas Gräßle) when he is shot (multiple times) first by Don Pedro, then by the furious Claudio. His treacherous plot, by the way, is discovered by his own loose tongue, Shakespeare's Dogberry and Verges having been excised from this stripped-down version. In one of the production's most striking mixtures of mood, Hero discovers his bloody corpse and with much effort pushes it into a slumped posi- tion against the wall, smearing herself with blood in the process. She then dips a rag in the blood and scrawls in large letters on the wall VENDETTA, with an arrow pointing down to the body. Never has Shakespeare been more Sicilian. Balancing such grim or at best ambivalent moments, however, is a great deal of effective comedy. Stephanie Leue is a winningly hoydenish Beatrice, and although she rather overshadows Lacher as Benedict, he blos- soms as a comic figure when he decides to dress up in foppish suit and perfume as the dedicated suitor, much to the delight of his macho friends. At the end Don John is announced as having gone off into the

At the end Don John is announced as having gone off into the Shakespeare's Much Ado

Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Jan Philipp Gloger. Photo: Courtesy of the Residenztheater.


Much Ado About Nothing. Photo: Courtesy of the Residenztheater. hills to gather supporters and plan

Much Ado About Nothing. Photo: Courtesy of the Residenztheater.

hills to gather supporters and plan new villainy, and Don Pedro and his followers, snap out and hold aloft their pistols to take up the challenge. The table revolves a final time to reveal Don John with a small band of black-clad followers raising their guns in similar challenge. The blood feud will clear- ly continue. The final production of the week and of the season was Schiller's popular Maria Stuart, directed by Amélie Niermeyer. Niermeyer has been since 2006 director of the Düsseldorf Schauspielhaus, but her connections with the Munich theatre go back more than twenty years, and her first important suc- cesses as a director were there in the early 1990s. It has become common on the contemporary German stage to present Schiller's play set in the present or near future, with Elizabeth's advisors the familiar contemporary bureaucrats of international politics. Niermeyer and her costume designer (Stefanie Seitz) push this approach even further, dressing both queens in attractive but casual contemporary cos- tume and showing them both young, sexually attrac- tive, and much aware of their sexuality. Elizabeth (Juliane Köhler) is particularly surprising in her relaxed physicality, seemingly undisturbed when subordinates, even Davison, sit in her presence, and engaging in casual, even distinctly erotic contact not only with Leicester (Thomas Loibl) and Mortimer

(Marc-Alexander Solf) but even with the normally stiff and no-nonsense Burleigh (Rainer Beck). The normal contrast between the cold and calculating Elizabeth and the warm and vital Mary (Anna Schudt), central to the dynamic of the original play, is thus largely lost, to be replaced by a struggle for power and romantic victory between two rather sim- ilar erotically charged young women. The setting, by Alexander Müller-Elmau, is also distinctly modern, though abstract, essential- ly two towering walls converging at the rear, with large industrial-style lamps hanging above. Regularly during the evening large video projec- tions appear on these walls, almost always showing actors who are just off stage, either having just left the stage or preparing to enter it. The exact purpose of these images, although they make up an impor- tant part of the visual effect of the production, is not particularly clear. They are not, like the off-stage images in several recent works by Flemish director Ivo van Hove, scenes of the actors relaxing offstage in dressing or green rooms, but are confined to the oddly liminal wings. The actors normally simply walk through the space on their way on or off stage, or briefly pause there, either preparing to enter or relaxing after an exit. No actual part of the action takes place there, nor does any clearly counterpoint the action. After a time one learns simply to ignore


Friedrich Schiller's Maria Stuart , directed by Amélie Niermeyer. Photo: Courtesy of the Residenztheater. these

Friedrich Schiller's Maria Stuart, directed by Amélie Niermeyer. Photo: Courtesy of the Residenztheater.

these images and concentrate on the onstage action. The other most distinctive feature of the production is that some characters rarely leave the stage at all, but remain quietly seated in one of sev- eral groups of chairs scattered about the performing area while other actors are performing. Sometimes they follow the action while at others they seem indifferent to it, even sitting quietly facing upstage. There is no clear pattern as to which actors so remain on stage and which leave, although the minor characters, like Hanna (Jennifer Minetti) and Davison (Marcus Calvin) seem rather more likely to remain than major ones. Nevertheless Elizabeth remains on stage for most of the final act, apparent- ly watching, but not reacting to, the final moments of her rival. Certainly her influence is clear in all these scenes, but her physical presence seems more distracting than useful. Perhaps the most unconventional of these onstage presences is an organist, who during most of the play sits at a small downstage right organ pro- viding occasional musical accents for certain moments or scenes. The other actors are from time to time aware of his presence or at least that of his instrument since Mortimer, Burleigh, and others briefly appropriate the organ to make what they consider to be appropriate musical accents. It was

rather a shock when the hitherto unidentified organ- ist (Gerd Anthoff) abruptly entered the play as Mary's friend the priest Melvil, in the closing scenes. As with a number of the directorial choices, this seemed a striking but not at all coherent effect. I could not help but wonder whether we were to assume Melvil had been "in character" all evening, simply onstage like several others awaiting his scene, or whether we were to take this as some important shift in the conventions of the production. Although these rather odd aspects of the production were not I felt helpful to a deeper or richer experience of the play, they did not seriously disrupt the effect of the strong acting, especially of the leading characters, the two queens, Köhler and Anna Schudt, Leicester, Mortimer, and Burleigh. Ulrich Beseler, though one of the leading actors of the Residenz, was rather subdued and not entirely effective as the wise Shrewsbury, but Oliver Nägele as Paulet, Jennifer Minetti as Hanna, and Marcu Calvin as Davison offered very effective support in their roles. On the whole it was an effective evening, but the credit most go primarily to the players, who achieved their success despite a highly unconven- tional and largely unconvincing production approach.


Maria Stuart . Photo: Courtesy of the Residenztheater. 48

Maria Stuart. Photo: Courtesy of the Residenztheater.


Big Questions on London Stages

Joshua Abrams

Although I suggested in these pages a year ago that the financial crisis was seeming to cast a long shadow over the British stage and as I write this the state of the British government is uncertain, there have so far been very few ramifications on the theatrical season. I wrote elsewhere recently (see PAJ 95) of a rise in "state of the nation" drama, but the only other noticeable change has been an increase in the length of theatre—while in recent memory, the ninety-minute, no-interval-evening had seemed prevalent, over the past six months to a year, more and more the standard has seemed to return to the two-and-a-half to three-hour performance, with at least one intermission. Perhaps this is a desire to "give you your money's worth," or perhaps it evinces a need for prolonged escapism—the sus- pension of disbelief providing a longer holiday from daily reality. The performances I discuss here are a brief snapshot of the 2010 London season, and in a scene that continues to be so vital and vibrant as London, there is no clear overall sense of shape to the mix of performances. I focus instead on several major spaces, looking at the mix of performances they have staged this spring.

The Young Vic One of the most vital and exciting per- formance spaces in London continues to be the Young Vic, under the stewardship of Artistic Director David Lan. They continue for the third year their partnership with the English National Opera ; this has been an incredible run (the previous years' stagings included Daniel Kramer's production of Punch and Judy, Diane Paulus's Lost Highway, and Katie Mitchell's After Dido) and 2010-11 will see exciting Australian director Benedict Andrews directing Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria). This year, Fiona Shaw, who made her operatic directing debut for the ENO with Riders to the Sea in 2009, staged Hans Werner Henze's 1961 work, Elegy for Young Lovers in the Young Vic's main house. One of a few London acknowledgments of Henze's eightieth birthday, Elegy is a beautiful, if rather cluttered, chamber opera that tells the story of a poet, Gregor Mittenhofer, whose writings vampir- ically borrow from those around him. The first of those subjects is Hilda Mack (here sung with fine coloratura by soprano Jennifer Rhys-Davies), a sixty-year old widow in the Alpine inn where the


story transpires. Having come on her honeymoon, her husband set off on a hike up the nearby Hammerhorn, never to be seen again; she has faith- fully waited for his return and Mittenhofer returns to the inn repeatedly to copy down her hallucinations and turn them into poetry. The evening opens with a beautifully staged reminiscence of the Macks' jour- ney to the inn forty years prior, with the younger Hilda entering in a fabulous period-inspired dress architecturally boned up the back of the skirt, while her older doppelganger crosses the stage on the rope alpine bridge that flies overhead amid blue and sil- ver swirling projections crisscrossing the stage. Mittenhofer is surrounded by a support staff who cater to his quirks as assiduously as any C- list celebrity's hangers-on today, in particular the Countess Carolina, who serves as his private secre- tary (Lucy Schaufer) and his physician, Dr. Wilhelm Reischmann (William Robery Allenby). Both are in fine voice here, as well as being fine actors, a cru- cial issue in such a small space. The second of Mittenhofer's sources, to whom he turns after the discovery of Mack's husband, frozen in the glacier, brings an end to her waiting and to her hallucinato- ry imaginings, is the sudden love between Reischmann's son Toni (Robert Murray) and Mittehnhoffer's mistress Elisabeth (Kate Valentine). Mittenhofer, seemingly giving of himself to honor young love, sends the two off into the mountains to collect some Edelweiss (as an American, one won- ders if there's a swipe at Rodgers and Hammerstein's use of this motif two years earlier) when a sudden blizzard traps them on the mountain. When local guide Josef Mauer (a non-singing role played by Stephen Kennedy) stops by the inn to ask if anyone is on the mountain, Mittenhofer pauses a moment before saying no. The tragedy of their death pro- vides both the most beautiful moment of the opera, as the two lovers, huddling together on a precari- ously angled mountain shelf, imagine their lives together fifty years into a future they will never have, and the titular work, an elegy which Mittenhofer delivers before a projection of a grand opera house in celebration of his own birthday. Tom Pye has designed a set that truly evokes the Alpine location, playing on the clutter of Henze's music and the book by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman. The bridge overhead leads to a raised platform for the twenty-three member orches-

tra, which includes mandolin and flexatone. The main stage platform splits and cracks ominously, crevasses yawning as the evening unfolds. A large screen upstage holds video artist Lynette Wallworth's evocative video designs and larger than life images of the characters at different times throughout the evening, notably Mittenhofer's final birthday performance and the frozen, glacially entombed body of Herr Mack. Various appropriate furniture fills the stage at different times, including a dining room set, garden bench, animal skulls, a bearskin rug (worn by Mittenhofer at one point), and a bathtub, but the key piece is a large double- eagle capped grandfather clock carved from ice that melts throughout the first two acts and that Mittenhofer shatters across the stage (and the first row of the audience as well) at the end of the second act. Shaw's direction is strong and detailed, playing up the comedy throughout (notable especially in the first act), and the music (conducted by Stephen Blunier) certainly leads the evening at a steady pace. Impressively within the small space, the powerful lyrics of Auden and Kallman, with their complex internal rhyme scheme are well enunciated by the

strong cast, led by noted Gilbert and Sullivan bari- tone Steven Page as Mittenhofer. The opera is per- haps a bit long at nearly three and a quarter hours, but an excellent chance to see this rarely performed mid-century work. Although not presented in any of the Young Vic's publicity material as paired with their earlier spring production in a mini-Austrian season, one wonders whether the choice to do Schnitzler's Sweet Nothings (David Harrower's new adaptation of Liebelei) in the same season as Elegy was intend- ed as a conscious pairing. Directed here with cold clarity by Luc Bondy, the production is strong and bears a striking resemblance in plot to the much- fêted recent British film An Education, but the play itself seems a period piece with little contemporary relevance. The first act takes place on a slowly revolving elegantly glossed red and black raised cir- cular stage, an art deco "loft" apartment, with a bar down a small flight of steps, a chaise longue and two tall windows that purport to look out over cen- tral Vienna. Two young wealthy men, Theodore (the dashing Jack Laskey) and Fritz (the more subdued and romantic Tom Hughes) wait for their evening's

and romantic Tom Hughes) wait for their evening's Hans Werner Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers ,

Hans Werner Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers, directed by Fiona Shaw. Photo: Catherine Ashmore.


Arthur Schnitzler's Sweet Nothings , directed by Luc Bondy. Photo: Ruth Walz. dalliances—the good-time girl

Arthur Schnitzler's Sweet Nothings, directed by Luc Bondy. Photo: Ruth Walz.

dalliances—the good-time girl Mitzi (Natalie Dormer) and das süβe Mädel Christine (Kate Burdette). The evening devolves in drunken revelry, the boys' homoerotic banter paving the way for the beginnings of an orgy that is rather abruptly ended by the entrance of what appears to be a melodrama villain, but turns out to be the husband of another woman with whom Fritz is having an affair. The second act takes place in the same space, now pure white and converted into the bedroom/sitting room of the youthful and somewhat naive Christine as we watch her receive a series of visitors, from her nosy neighbor and well-meaning father to her dream- lover Fritz and ultimately Theodore, there to tell her that Fritz was killed in a duel over the married woman and she was not even invited to the funeral. Bondy's direction is clinically precise and the four youthful leads are attractive and capable performers, although the two standout turns in the evening are by Hayley Carmichael as Christine's upright and disapproving gossipy neighbor and by David Sibley as Christine's well-meaning violinist father. These characters tempt us to think that there is more to this play than the sexual play of the four leads. Harrower's adaptation is provocative, although oddly anachronistic, nowhere more notice- ably than in Theodore's description of his relations with women as "wham, bam, thank you ma'am." The class-based interplay between the wealthy men

and working-class women is fraught with hedonistic restlessness and a desire for escape from the reali- ties of life, regardless of where one finds oneself in the structures of fin-de-siècle Vienna. Yet pointedly, no one succeeds in this, the play frustrating all these dreams. The stage's revolve seems perhaps a nod to Schnitzler's more famous La Ronde, the merry-go- round of life and love here perhaps more stultifying and hard-edged. The final production I wish to discuss from the Young Vic's spring season is a remounting of their 2009 production of Kursk, the dramatic retelling of the 2000 Russian submarine disaster. The piece was written by Bryony Lavery and ably produced by Sound and Fury, a collaborative theatre company directed by Mark and Tom Espiner and Dan Jones. This production, in the smaller Maria theatre, might best be described as immersive (or rather submersive). The audience enters from above, circling the theatre on a metal walkway and then clambers down a metal staircase to enter the quarters of a convincing military submarine. The piece is described as promenade theatre, although audience members must choose between standing above on the catwalk and looking down into the act- ing space or standing on the stage floor, inside the "submarine" itself, which at least on the day I saw it, was so cramped (not uncomfortably) as to discour- age much movement by the audience members.


Given the stakes of the actual story, the production is remarkably non-dramatic; our focus for the majority of the performance is on the relationships between the five actors who (along with sound and light board operators cleverly seated at control desks within the space) make up the crew of Royal Navy submariners on exercise in the North Atlantic tracking Russian war-gaming. These are remarkably human relationships and go a long way towards connecting us to their counterparts on board the Kursk, from new father Mike (Tom Espiner) whose daughter's crib death forms one of the key plots as the captain (Laurence Mitchell) decides not to tell him when it happens since he wouldn't be able to get off the ship to the older coxswain and distance- learning poetry student Donnie (Ian Ashpitel) to the set of Matrioshka dolls—nicknamed Ivan, Ivan, Ivan, Ivan, Ivan, Ivan, Ivan, and little Igor—who have stowed away 'as spies' but later stand in for the lost crew of the Kursk. The play is remarkable for its pressure cooker atmosphere and the realistic feel of the sub- marine; by the time of the explosion on the Kursk towards the end of the play, we sympathize with the potentially trapped crewmembers of the "enemy" vessel. When we are plunged into darkness as we hear the Kursk breaking apart and sound effects of

rushing water begin to flood the space, I for a moment feared that with a quick costume change, we were about to find ourselves aboard the doomed Russian sub, but the company has cleverly avoided this gimmickry. Merely finding ourselves inside the British submarine for its voyages is theatrical coup enough, as this filmic space to which we are accus- tomed is incredibly powerfully turned into 'site-spe- cific' theatre, but one hopes that an enterprising fes- tival programmer will pair this with the Wooster Group's recent remounting of North Atlantic.

The National Theatre When not directing for the ENO, Fiona Shaw is lighting up the stage as Lady Gay Spanker in the National Theatre's current production of Dion Boucicault's London Assurance. Directed with verve and humor by National Theatre Director Nicholas Hytner, Boucicault's first work appears positioned (as it is in time as well) directly between late Restoration Comedy and Wilde's social come- dies. The stars of the show are unquestionably Shaw as the horse-riding, fox-hunting country–dwelling Spanker and a nearly unrecognizable Simon Russell Beale as aging London fop Sir Harcourt Courtly. Beale is in fine high camp form here as the fish out of water when transported from his elegant

fine high camp form here as the fish out of water when transported from his elegant

Sweet Nothings. Photo: Ruth Walz.


Bryony Lavery's Kursk , produced and directed by Sound and Fury. Photo: Keith Pattison. Belgravia

Bryony Lavery's Kursk, produced and directed by Sound and Fury. Photo: Keith Pattison.

Belgravia home (Mark Thompson's set is as stun- ning in its detail and clearly spared little expense) to the Gloucestershire home of the 18-year old Grace to whom he is promised, by a cruel bequest on the part of her father. Michelle Terry, who has made quite a name for herself on stage recently—largely at the National and RSC—is delightful as the young and practical Grace who falls in love with Courtly's son Charles (Paul Ready), while he is 'disguised' as Augustus Hamilton. Richard Briers, too, is excellent as Adolphus Spanker, Lady Gay's much put-upon husband and Nick Sampson's portrayal of Cool (Courtly's valet) is exquisite. Indeed, though, a spe- cial note of praise must be given to the remote-con- trolled rat that scuttles onto the stage twice during the evening, startling both Courtly and much of the audience. This type of production is perhaps the per- fect opportunity for the National Theatre—it is a large play that unquestionably works today, yet not one for which there are necessarily compelling rea- sons for production. Hytner has assembled a first- rate cast and created a delightfully entertaining evening that seems to truly echo nineteenth-century acting in its degree of scenery-chewing and star turns. The only glaringly wrong note is the casting of Junix Inocian as the moneylender Solomon

Isaacs. Added language that appears clearly (and

," "with a name


Inocian's appearance as a stereotypical, Fu Manchu- moustachioed, Asian money-lender, yet this ulti- mately turns the minor character of Isaacs into a bigger presence that is simultaneously anti-Semitic and Orientalist.


yet obliquely) anti-semitic—"Is he "








Barbican Theatre Yukio Ninagawa's Musashi¸ which I saw in

the same week as London Assurance continues what

I hesitate to call a trend of animatronic props.

Rather than the oversized rat in the former, here it is

a severed and bloodied arm, cut off of one of the

characters in a duel that lies centerstage with its fin- gers flexing disturbingly for the rest of the scene. Written by Ninagawa's frequent collaborator Hisashi Inoue, who sadly passed away on 9 April, the play is a contemporary comedy, drawing strong- ly on noh and kyogen traditions to reimagine the aftermath of a legendary Samurai battle—the duel of Ganryu between Musashi Miyamoto and Kojiro Sasaki in 1612. Although historically according to

legend, Musashi killed his rival, this play imagines that he had shown mercy and allowed his opponent

to live, seeking for him and training until they meet


up six years later. The production opens with the duel staged on a mostly bare stage, in front of a sheet with rippling water and a large sun. After a brief blackout, an elaborately choreographed scene change with whirling trees and large walled corri- dors settles into a beautiful temple set, with a center piece strongly based on a Noh stage. Musashi (the excellent Tatsuya Fujiwara), along with two Buddhist priests, the shogun's tutor/fighting trainer, and the two female patrons of the temple prepare for a retreat to inaugurate the temple, when Kojiro (a very strong Ryo Katsuji) appears. The two agree to put off their duel for the duration of the retreat, but establish an uneasy detente. The other characters attempt to broker peace through a series of comic interventions—notably a scheme devised by the tutor (Kohtaloh Yoshida) to tie the ankles of the five men together, with the two impetuous swordsmen each sandwiched between two others, a story about lost children that causes Kojiro to believe he is eigh- teenth in line to the imperial throne, and a complex plot involving the younger of the two women (played by Anne Suzuki) seeking retribution for her father's murder at the hands of a local swordsman. The women (and a comical servant) ask to be trained in sword fighting for a duel to which they have challenged the gang, led by Jinbei Asakawa. As they are not familiar with challenges, the lan-

guage (and indeed the time and place of the duel) were copied directly from the challenge that Kojiro had laid to Musashi. The training montage, in which Musashi eventually decides to use the "non-strate- gic strategy," is a delightful scene resembling chore- ographic training, that ultimately becomes a group tango. Musashi notes this suggesting that without swords, this is just "noh dance," although I'd note that tango is not the typical accompaniment. The scoring includes traditional noh instrumentation—a shakuhachi and woodblocks—along with a cello and organ and the characters frequently break into noh song, relying on a couple of shaky excuses—the older woman (Kayoko Sharaishi) was a temple dancer/prostitute, and the tutor is writing a noh play, "The Filial Badger." The play is structured as Mugen Noh (fantasy noh), with a fabulous twist at the end, as it turns out that other than Musashi and Kojiro all the characters are ghosts trapped in the world who need to get people to listen to them about valuing life (and forgoing retribution) and have decided to do that in this instance in dramatic form. This produces a fabulously theatrical evening, with strong acting throughout and a full sweep of emo- tions and theatrical style, from low comedy to high philosophical meditations—truly a stunning pro- duction by Ninagawa and a fitting tribute to Inoue. The final two productions I wish to dis-

tribute to Inoue. The final two productions I wish to dis- Dion Boucicault's London Assurance ,

Dion Boucicault's London Assurance, directed by Nicholas Hytner. Photo: Catherine Ashmore.


Hisashi Inoue's Musash i, directed by Yukio Ninagawa. Photo: Courtesy of Barbican Theatre. cuss, both

Hisashi Inoue's Musashi, directed by Yukio Ninagawa. Photo: Courtesy of Barbican Theatre.

cuss, both on international tours, and both at the Barbican in London, offer incredibly powerful med- itations on the aging body. The first of these, also a tribute to a great talent, was Tanztheater Wuppertal's remounting of Pina Bausch's Kontakthof. Performed on alternate nights by two casts of "non-dancers," one of "Teenagers over 14" and one "With Ladies and Gentlemen over 65," Bausch's 1978 master- piece produces an incredibly elegiac sense, espe- cially with the more mature cast. The piece, set in what looks to be a high school gymnasium, begins with the twenty-six performers each coming down- stage and using the audience as an invisible mirror as they prepare for what might be a high school

dance, opening their lips to check their teeth, patting down insistent curls, adjusting themselves. The rest

of the three hours is a dance of flirtation, pairing up

and splitting apart, group dances, solos and duets playing out all possible permutations of seduction (although almost entirely within a heterosexual framework). These are knowing bodies, the flesh containing histories and telling stories, but they behave in ways we might more associate with the

teenage cast. Elements that might be disturbing with

a younger cast—a scene of men pawing at one

woman, for instance—carry a different tone with

this strong cast, one of poignancy and life that might with teenagers have more visceral connotations of gang rape. The movement is classic Bausch: small shuffling, fast moving feet with still upper bodies, rapid darting across the stage, farcical use of doors, microphones and various props. The choice to do this production with these aging, knowledgeable bodies is stunning, their vitality and presence on stage a powerful reminder of life and, seeing this less than a year after Bausch's death, of its fragility as well.

In his own meditation on life and death, I Went to the House But Did Not Enter, German music theatre composer Heiner Goebbels has cho- sen to set four major twentieth century texts— Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," Blanchot's "La folie du jour," Kafka's "Excursion into the Mountains," and Beckett's "Worstward Ho"—to music. Three elaborate settings frame the song cycle, all sung beautifully by the four member Hilliard Ensemble—countertenor David James, tenors Rogers Covey-Crump, and Steven Harrold, and baritone Gordon Jones. For Eliot, the four, dressed in gray coats and hats ritualistically pack and then unpack a gray room, wrapping white china, black flowers, white horsehead vase, and tablecloth,


taking down curtains and cross-stitch portraits of dogs, and placing them all into a shipping carton, moving the table, rolling up the carpet and vacuum- ing the floor. They unpack a similar box, and rebuild the room, only this time the china, flowers, and vase have switched colors. The second and third numbers are first inside and then in front of a generic, but incredibly realistic setting of the exterior of a boxy beige house; for Blanchot's intermingling story, the different men, now dressed individually appear and disappear behind different windows—an office, a dining room, in a garage/workshop, in what might be a kitchen, but seems ultimately to be a chemistry lab, and then for the Kafka, the four gather around a bicycle in front of the house. The final setting, for Beckett, is an overly pink hotel room, where they look both out the window and at projections of childhood vacations cast on the wall, trapped in their own lives and memories, no longer partici- pants, but observers—the echo of Sartre is palpable. These four settings offer meditations on aging, from Prufrock's imagination of aging—"Let us go then,

you and I

wall, / Then how should I begin / To spit out all the

When I am pinned and wriggling on the

butt-ends of my days and ways? / And how should I presume?" through Blanchot's middle-age, "I am not learned; I am not ignorant. I have known joys. That is saying too little: I am alive, and this life gives me the greatest pleasure. And what about death? When I die (perhaps any minute now), I will

feel immense pleasure," Kafka's joy in middle age "I do not know, if nobody comes, then nobody comes. I've done nobody any harm, nobody's done me any harm, but nobody will help me" and ending with Beckett's morbidity, "On. Say on. Be said

Try again. Fail again. Fail

This is a stunning meditation and a beautifully pow- erful evening, striking in its simplicity and depth of emotionality, set to Goebbels's dissonances and psalm-like music. London remains at the moment spoiled for choice in terms of exciting theatrical production. With doubt mounting over the next government and

finances both domestically and globally casting a shadow of uncertainty on the place of the arts, the continuing presence of vital theatre asking and addressing these big topics is of crucial importance.



these big topics is of crucial importance. Nohow ." I Went to the House But Did

I Went to the House But Did Not Enter, directed by Heiner Goebbels. Photo: Mario del Curto.


Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth at the London Apollo Theatre

Joe Heissan

As the house lights come down in the Apollo Theatre, the sounds of drums, pipes, and accordions seem to signal an approaching battle. A teenage girl—dressed in what looks like a home- made fairy costume inspired by Henry Fuseli's paintings of A Midsummer Night's Dream—flits onto the forestage and stands in front of the main curtain on which is painted a gigantic Cross of St. George. Carvings of mythical woodland creatures decorate the proscenium arch, and overhead—in large letters—are the words "English Stage Company." As the girl stops to stare into the audi- ence, she begins to sing a William Blake hymn about Jerusalem and England:

And did those feet in ancient time Walk upon England's mountains green? And was the holy Lamb of God On England's pleasant pastures seen? And did the Countenance Divine

Shine forth upon our clouded hills? And was Jerusalem builded here Among these dark satanic--

But before she can finish the second verse of the hymn, the lights go black, and the theatre is filled with the deafening beat of contemporary dance music. In the darkness the curtain rises, and flashing lights reveal an Airstream camper, woods, and what seems to be a bacchanal. Before anyone can get used to the surprise and the humor of the scene, there is another blackout and silence. Soft morning light slowly begins to fill the stage while birdsongs greet the dawn. The sunlight reveals that this mobile home may be somebody's lair, but it is certainly not moving anywhere soon. In fact the old sofa, the live chickens in a coop, the old refrigerator, decaying bathtub, smashed-up flat-screen TV, and remains of the evening's revelries littering the patio area sug- gest that somebody has been living in these woods

area sug- gest that somebody has been living in these woods Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem . Photo:

Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem. Photo: Simon Annand.


Jerusalem . Photo: Simon Annand. 58

Jerusalem. Photo: Simon Annand.


Jerusalem . Photo: Simon Annand. for quite a while. So begins Jerusalem , a raucous

Jerusalem. Photo: Simon Annand.

for quite a while. So begins Jerusalem, a raucous and bawdy dark comedy written by Jez Butterworth, which transferred from the Royal Court Theatre— home of the English Stage Company—to the Apollo Theatre, London, on 10 February 2010. Ostensibly this is a play about land rights, a contemporary issue that seems to be plaguing some English law enforcement. (During my visit to London, stories of squatters and illegal homes being built in the country popped up in a several newspa- pers.) Mr. Butterworth, though, is concerned with more than just some issue of the week. Lest you had any doubts from the giant Cross of St. George, or the words "English Stage Company" displayed over the action, or William Blake's hymn, Jez Butterworth has written a state-of-the-nation play, and the nation is in for some tough times. The playwright uses the tale of St. George—the patron saint of England—and the dragon as an inspiration for Jerusalem. In fact, the story of St. George is a motif that informs the entire production. According to legend, St. George was a knight who came upon a city plagued by a disease- carrying dragon. To appease the dragon and protect

themselves, the townspeople offered up their sheep

to be eaten and later—by lottery—their children. On

the day that St. George arrived, the local princess was the next on the list of those to be sacrificed. In the end, the knight rescued the princess, slew the dragon, and in the process converted all of the townspeople to Christianity. Butterworth turns the legend on its head, exposing some of the not-so-hid- den plagues befalling England today. Butterworth's hero is a charming monster,

a man named Johnny "Rooster" Byron who has

been squatting illegally in his camper in the woods on the edge of a town in Wiltshire, England, and not paying taxes for more than twenty-five years. As portrayed by Mark Rylance, this character of Shakespearian proportions is part court-jester, part warrior-poet, and part beast, but overall a local leg- end. Storytelling is at the heart of this play as much of it involves the incredibly funny (tall) tales that Johnny tells about his past—including a fantastical birth, his resurrection from death after a motorcycle accident, sexual escapades with minor celebrities, a failed kidnapping by four Nigerians, and an encounter with a giant who built Stonehenge. What


makes this outsider character so appealing are the contradictions that Mr. Rylance brings to the per- formance; he is both an ogre and a pied-piper. This witty Lord of Misrule reigns over a cohort of

delightful outcasts, leeches and undesirables created by a fine ensemble of actors who play off of each other like a jamming rock band. To the local gov- ernment officials Johnny Byron is a threat, not only

to public safety and morality, but to business—espe-

cially the New Estate that wants to expand the reach of its housing development into the land where Byron lives. To his mates, though, Johnny is a source of illegal drugs, alcohol, entertainment, and shelter when they need to hide from life or escape the pressures at home. If Johnny is the dragon in this retelling of the St. George legend, then the role of the knight is filled by the offstage presence of those local gov-

ernment officials, representatives of the "Nanny State" that wants to drive out all of the wildness and defiance that Johnny embodies. Their ultimate weapon against Johnny is local property law. Though we never see these authorities, they send two constables as their emissaries to deliver the final eviction notice to Johnny in an early scene, and

a last warning for him to clear out near the end of

the play. Johnny may treat these messengers with humorous disrespect, but the power behind them is very real; their threat is made all the more menacing because we never see them. Instead we hear stories about their world of closed-circuit TVs, emergency crisis meetings, and county court convenings. Even the offstage fair that these officials have organized in honor of St. George's Day is tinged with the threatening sounds of flyovers from military planes that have been invited to perform stunts. So where is the princess in all of this? Early in the play Johnny's mates tell him that the fif- teen-year-old Phoebe Cox is missing. As she is last year's May Queen, it is her responsibility to pass on her crown to the new queen at the St. George's Day Fair. Phoebe's stepfather, Troy, comes looking for her at Johnny's encampment, but she is nowhere to be found. When no one gives Troy the answers he wants, he attacks Johnny verbally in front of his friends with vile insults and threats of physical vio-

lence. Johnny strikes back by suggesting that Phoebe may be staying away from home because Troy's interests in her are more than fatherly. Troy counters with a story that delivers a deep psycho- logical blow. The previous summer Troy's brothers horribly abused Johnny while he was intoxicated and unconscious. Some of Johnny's mates helped the brothers film the assault, and others passed the degrading images on via the Internet for everyone's amusement. It is obvious from the pained reactions of Johnny's crew that Troy's story is true. Johnny reacts by cutting himself off from his friends, and so they leave him to attend the fair. When Johnny is alone, Troy returns to the encampment with two other men. It turns out that Phoebe was the young fairy in the opening of the play, and has been hiding out in Johnny's trailer all along. In the ensuing mêlée with the three men, Johnny puts up a valiant struggle, but he is over- come and dragged inside the camper. In a scene of shocking violence—made all the more disturbing because we can only hear what is going on—Johnny is assaulted by the men with a hot branding iron. As the men leave Johnny battered and broken on the patio, sounds of the townspeople cheering at the fair drift onstage to give their seeming approval of what has been done. The play ends with the rumble of bulldoz- ers and beams from their headlights approaching the stage. Again, the sounds of warplanes are heard overhead. But, Johnny "Rooster" Byron is not beat- en, and he will not back down. Setting the campsite on fire, Johnny delivers an apocalyptic curse upon the local government officials and anyone working with them. Johnny's final act is to summon the ancient creatures of the British Isles to his aid by pounding out an alarm on an old drum that he claims was given to him by a giant. As the deep, per- cussive sounds fill the theatre, Johnny incants the names of his ancestors, giants, spirits and devils in an attempt to bring down a reign of destruction on his enemies. If this were performed by a less skilled actor, the moment could come off as desperate or foolish, but the brilliant Mark Rylance makes you feel that one thing is certain—Johnny Byron's army most definitely is coming.


Danton's Death at the National Theatre

Marvin Carlson

In London in late July, I was able to attend

fectively intimate feel by reducing the bodies on

the 22 July opening of a major revival of a conti- nental classic at the National Theatre, Georg Büchner's Danton's Death, in a new adaptation by

stage to a bare minimum. The Olivier is a very large stage, and when it is totally open as it is for the entire production, eleven bodies simply do not make

Howard Brenton. The adaptation is a sleek and


convincing mob to be aroused by Robespierre,

intelligent one, and as one might expect from Brenton, the political debates and addresses of Robespierre, Danton, and Saint-Just are powerfully captured. There is also a good deal lost in a much cut version that runs under two hours with no inter- mission. The most obvious loss is the epic scale of the original. Brenton has not actually converted

addressing them from an upper platform. The other loss is Büchner's quirky but rich imagery, not wholly lacking here, but considerably domesticated, all the way from the obscene jokes in the opening scene to the vast images of dying gods in the empty heavens in the elegiac final prison scene. The dialogue tended to be flattened out and

Büchner's sprawling Shakespearian work into a chamber play, but he has clearly moved it in that

driven by the plot and the politics, with little time given to much else. Director Grandage seems faint-

direction, most obviously by removing all scenes


embarrassed by the love of language in the play,

involving the citizens of Paris. The critical scenes in


we see almost at once in the interchange of obser-

the Assembly and the Tribunal could hardly have been cut, but director Michael Grandage has never- theless given them a surprisingly and, I think, inef-

vations among Danton and his friends about the dynamics of revolution. Their interchange is played not like a serious debate but rather like a set of char-

not like a serious debate but rather like a set of char- Georg Bűchner's Danton's Death

Georg Bűchner's Danton's Death, directed by Michael Grandage. Photo: Courtesy of the National Theatre.


acters of Noel Coward or Oscar Wilde exchanging clever bon mots in a salon. In an almost choreo- graphed sequence each dances across the stage lightly touching the others as he delivers his set piece, then fades away as someone else repeats the process. Not until we get to the main drive of the plot, the confrontation of Danton and Robespierre, does the delivery of the dialogue take on a truly seri- ous tone. Even so, the moves and counter moves of Danton and his prosecutors came so quickly in the last quarter of the play that even following the action became quite difficult. The most commendable aspect of the per- formance was the uniformly high quality of the act- ing of the leading characters. Toby Stephens is a memorable Danton, totally convincing in the full range of this fascinating character, from the world- weary indifference and resignation of the opening and closing scenes to the fiery rabble-rouser of the committee hearings. Elliot Levey is equally impres- sive as the incorruptible Robespierre, cool, distant, and yet demanding attention whenever he is on stage. He is so formidable a villain that I was quite surprised and a bit taken aback to hear the some- what staid National theatre audience heartily boo him during the curtain calls, just as if they had been watching an old-fashioned melodrama. Among the rest, Alec Newman stands out as the dark lieutenant of Robespierre, Saint Just. Barnaby Kay is less striking as the somewhat mercurial Desmoulins, but he provides useful support to Stephens. The women are less well developed by the drama and director Grandage has de-emphasized them even further, but Judith Coke still manages a moving interpretation of Julie, Danton's wife, especially in her still-preserved soliloquy (though her key final scene has been cut); and Rebecca O'Mara does well with what is left of the role of Desmoulins' wife, Lucie. The setting by Christopher Oram serves the flow of the play well, despite its already noted emptiness. The main playing area is a slightly raked open space with six identical door openings at the rear, three benches (a center table is brought in for several scenes), and a few wall sconces. A narrow balcony runs all the way across an upper level, and provides a highly effective rostrum for Robespierre

to address the crowds below or for the final elevat- ed guillotine scene. From time to time it is much less effectively used for small groups of actors to visually bridge scenes by dashing pointlessly across it carrying torches. Behind this balcony, a series of tall, thin shuttered windows reach upward toward the flies. Usually they are closed but when one or two of them are opened, with light from them throwing a long rectangular pattern on the stage floor (lighting by Paule Constable), they provide an extremely effective visual accent. Grandage (and perhaps Brenton) has decided not to retain the ending of the play, which returns to Julie's defiance of the Revolutionary authorities and the doom this will inevitably bring upon her as well, to present an ending more in line with the production's emphasis upon the men and, I assume, the director's sense of the theatrical. The four condemned Dantonists, in striking white shirts, line up on one side of the upper balcony, give most of their final lines there and then are led, somewhat awkwardly, to another holding area somewhat upstage of the guillotine, which has been erected in the most prominent position in a tall inset stage in the middle of this upper balcony. They are then brought forward one by one and beheaded in the most graphic manner, with the falling heads drop- ping into a basket facing the audience. The final line is Danton's actually reputed rebuke to his guard, "You cannot prevent our heads kissing in the bas- ket." The effect of this grim final jest is considerably reduced, however, by Grandage's apparent misun- derstanding of its context. The story is that Danton and Camille sought to make a final embrace on the scaffold and when they were forced apart by the guards, Danton responded with this mot. Grandage however, possibly wishing to emphasize the pathos of the situation, allows everyone to embrace at length before even approaching the guillotine. As a result the critical final line is decontextualized and more than a little gratuitous. Like much in this sin- cere but occasionally troubled production, it misses or blurs the impact of the complex and powerful original.


Howard Barker Day

Duška Radosavljević

In the breaks between the three perform- ances on Howard Barker Day at Riverside Studios, I was reading an essay which incidentally contained this quote by Herbert Blau: ''Of all the performing arts, the theater stinks most of mortality." Blau prof- fers this view in the context of contemplating the notion of actor's presence and absence and the inherent possibility of his performance of death on the stage, in front of us. No other playwright seems to capitalize more successfully on this metaphysical and ritualistic potential of the theatre art than Howard Barker himself. Following the success of his repeatedly reprinted theoretical volume Arguments for a Theatre, in 2005 Barker published a much anticipated second book of essays Death, the One and the Art of Theatre which is entirely dedicated to the links between those key terms. In addition, Heiner Zimmerman has identified five facets of Barker's oeuvre concerning visual repre- sentations of death and the interrelationship of eros and thanatos in them. These include "the meshing of death and love, the necessity of a consciousness of death for a full experience of life, the role of

death as a doorway to survival as myth, the life-giv- ing and life-taking ecstasy of martyrdom, the erotic relationship between the executioner and the vic- tim… or the work of mourning as emancipation from the power of the dead" as illustrated by the examples of Judith, Ursula, Und, The Last Supper, Ego in Arcadia, and Victory: Choices in Reaction. The most recent of these examples, Und, was pre- miered by the Wrestling School in 1999. Although Barker's work and the Theatre of Catastrophe more or less retained an interest in all of those themes throughout the 2000s, the plays became a lot more broken down, distilled, and uncommunicative in that period. The Seduction of Almighty God in 2006—the year of Barker's sixtieth birthday—was, for example, a stark and desolate take on the 'ecstasy of martyrdom' set in the Reformation period. If the works listed above could be seen as theatrical equivalents of Renaissance paintings, the latter example would have been clos- er to a book of etchings. The year that follows the twenty-first birth- day of the Wrestling School is also the second year

birth- day of the Wrestling School is also the second year Howard Barker. Photo: Courtesy of

Howard Barker. Photo: Courtesy of Howard Barker.


Barker's Hurts Given and Received . Photo: Courtesy of The Wrestling School. of the company's

Barker's Hurts Given and Received. Photo: Courtesy of The Wrestling School.

of the company's existence without any state sub-

sidy and under the patronage of an anonymous benefactor—an arrangement which is highly unusu- al in the British theatre system. The company's annual allowance enables them to stage one big- scale and one small-scale play, and this year they are doing both at the same time—barely six months after their big production of 2009, Found in the Ground. Barker's productivity has often shown that age can hardly wither him or custom stale his infi- nite variety, although mortality, coupled with sacri- fice, is once again a prominent theme of his work. The large-scale show of this year Hurts Given and Received concerns poetic prodigy Bach,

a thirty-three-year old landowner, and a genius

(played by Tom Riley), whose wilful arrogance and daring despotism eventually leads him to a kind of crucifixion by those he has injured. Physically par- alyzed and seemingly comatose from a beating he has received, Bach is suspended above the banality of daily proceedings for the last third of the play. His genius is thus forced to find channels in ran-

domly chosen acolytes through which he can com- municate the rest of his unfinished masterpiece, past page one which he had completed before his ordeal. The Christ-motif is clearly seen here once again, and the play's setting is not far from being compara- ble to a Chekhovian dacha. Director and long-term associate of the Wrestling School Gerrard McArthur in collaboration with Barker's alter egos, the com- pany designers Tomas Leipzig and Billie Kaiser, has given Bach an outsized schoolboy's desk which he has to climb when inspiration calls; though his dis- tractions from his task are many: an old servant who tenders his resignation so that he can go to die, a Lauren Bacall-like spurned lover, the best friend Detriment who kills himself to spite him. Tall and statuesque Penelope McGhie who plays the best friend's mother and Bach's older lover has the task—by now a trademark of a Wrestling School production—of disrobing and displaying her mes- merizing vulnerability as a means of both mourning and self-sacrifice. However, the actual shock factor of this piece is potentially contained in the taboo-


breaking encounter between Bach and the 'lovely liability'—school-girl Sadovee, his eleven-year-old seductress, compellingly portrayed by Issy Brazier- Jones.

Offering some interesting insights into the subjects of why poetry is beautiful, the nature of humanity, and the artist's fear of 'irrelevance,' Hurts Given and Received concludes with the revelation that "Bachs must exist as wars must," adding per- haps one more layer to Barkerian dealings with death—that of the im/mortality of the poetic genius. Symmetrically counterbalancing this piece, the Barker Day actually opened with a read- ing directed by the author of a play called Worship and Wonder in the Dying World. Belonging perhaps to the strand of the oeuvre that concerns odd house- holds—such as for example A House of Correction, this is essentially a four-hander with a chorus of the 'mortally ill' which reflects on the difference between neglect and decay and proposes that "the dying are not dialectical." A paraplegic daughter who moves around this establishment on a mechan- ical bed and just as smoothly schemes against her mother is an unlikely protagonist of this piece which also features a compliant chauffeur, a dwarf, and frequent fetishizing of an "amber car with off-white upholstery." The blurb tells us that this play is about

the necessity to apologize juxtaposed with a poten- tial loss of integrity, and I would say, that this is pos- sibly the closest that Barker ever gets to writing a farce—especially if we take the definition of farce as being "a tragedy with trousers down." In addition to some really good humor, this lively and watch- able reading offered an imaginative approach to chorally produced sound effects and some unex- pectedly delightful quirkiness—not least because it ends with "a rain of dogs and rabbits." My favorite piece of the day was the small scale production of Slowly, directed by Hanna Berrigan, which incidentally also nestles very com- fortably and smartly into the set for Hurts. Featuring four women, dressed in black Elizabethan dresses and with vampirically white faces, the piece is an elegant and almost Beckettian exploration of the potential of suicide as a political weapon "to obstruct or delay the inexorable law of decay." More specifically it is the "process of disappearing" taken from the first century BC Greek geographer Strabo that forms the thematic focus of this play's explo- ration of death and sacrifice. In Berrigan's produc- tion, movement is brought to an absolute indispen- sable minimum, which therefore makes all the kinaesthetic reactions to panic and fear all the more theatrically valuable. The setting of a rat-infested

more theatrically valuable. The setting of a rat-infested Barker's Found in the Ground . Photo: Courtesy

Barker's Found in the Ground. Photo: Courtesy of The Wrestling School.


subterranean chamber in a fortification besieged by barbarians, is conjured up subtly and effectively through an echoing amplification of the actresses' voices and a very focused lighting design. At about the length of forty-five minutes, Slowly is therefore a seductively moody and provocative piece which shows the journey of four princesses from dignified decorum to potentially becoming "one willing whore, a whore who whores reluctantly, a suicide and a subject of an atrocity." This is Barker at his absolute best and one can easily imagine this piece as following in the footsteps of Judith and The Possibilities to become a frequently revived text among university student companies.


The fact that the Wrestling School's 2010 season ultimately shows resourcefulness, imagina- tion, rigour, and a sense of humor in the face of financial adversity can only be good news when it comes to alleviating any fears concerning the com- pany's own future. For in the case of this company, as long as the playwright continues to explore such depths of human experience and tragic possibilities with such irresistible poetry, the work is very much alive and kicking.

Interview with Howard Barker

Duška Radosavljević

The Wrestling School as a theatre company DUŠKA RADOSAVLJEVIĆ: The Wrestling School has recently had its twenty-first anniversary as a theatre company. When you look back on this peri- od, what would you say have been the most signifi- cant stages of the company's development?

HOWARD BARKER: The most significant stage without question was my assumption of the role of director with Judith in 1995. This remains one of the company's outstanding productions. It was as if all my frustration at the aesthetic cul-de-sac into which my work had been driven initiated this new style. Much of this can be seen in Ivan Kyncl's memorable photography. It was rich in images. The perform- ances were first rate, also. Everything came togeth- er. Other stages reflect alterations in my ambitions as a writer, the assumption of control of the whole visual aspect (excluding the lighting), and the aural aspect into a whole. But all this was pretty well there in Judith.

DUŠKA RADOSAVLJEVIĆ: Could you name the key members of the company (past and present) and what they have individually brought to the evolution of the Wrestling School as an entity and an ensem- ble?

HOWARD BARKER: The three members of the Judith cast remain deeply embedded in the compa- ny. Melanie Jessop and Jane Bertish particularly. Jane had worked with Kenny Ireland on my plays and before. Few of the actors of that phase came into my period, but for these two women. The major figures that followed were Victoria Wicks, Sean O'Callaghan, Julia Tarnoky, and Justin Avoth. More recently, Suzy Cooper has entered to play leading and less-leading roles. They bring a quality of per- fect diction, perfect rhythm, perfect physical bal- ance, all vital to me. They could each follow the syntactical and emotional complications of the later work. They master it by instinct. Instinct is every- thing, training rather little, I now think.

DUŠKA RADOSAVLJEVIĆ: How are new collab- orators and members of the company selected and initiated into the working/creative process?

HOWARD BARKER: I prefer to work always with


the core ensemble, adding new individuals, usually in minor roles to begin with. Interesting young actors appear, some of whom go on to huge reputa- tion. We employed Tom Burke and Philip Cumbus directly from drama school in Gertrude and The Fence In Its Thousandth Year respectively. They wanted to work with the Wrestling School; many, many people do. For a company with no state finance and constantly ignored or attacked, this is remarkable. We are, as I have said before, a rumor. We are immune to hostility. But I have to say, I look for qualities in actors, and these qualities of preci- sion, of presence, of joy in articulation, are rare.

DUŠKA RADOSAVLJEVIĆ: How has the Arts Council funding cut in December 2007 affected the present operation of the company?

HOWARD BARKER: The brutally political deci- sion made by the drama panel of the Arts Council to eradicate the company failed. It was a political deci- sion; I am not indulging in hyperbole. The criteria for funding grants are nakedly sociological, and Soviet in content (benefit to community, raising community involvement, addressing gender or race

issues etc

Quality was not identified as a reason

for subsidy. (This alone succinctly makes my point.) We were out of action for a year, and in that year, following a reading of I Saw Myself, an individual unknown to us came forward, invited me to break- fast, and provided funding at an enhanced level for three years.


DUŠKA RADOSAVLJEVIĆ: What plans are in place for the near future?

HOWARD BARKER: This funding runs out after the 2010 season. I am however, ready to initiate the 2011 season with new work (The 40, Wonder And Worship In The Dying Ward, and our first film, A Dead Man's Blessing).

On the style and its origins DUŠKA RADOSAVLJEVIĆ: The recent memoir authored by yourself and an alter ego highlights a very interesting model of authorship that has emerged around your own work more recently—for example the idea of crediting imaginary artists with various aspects of each production (costume and set

design etc). Could you explain how and why this has come about? Does Howard Barker ever come into conflict with Thomas Leipzig or Billie Kaiser?

HOWARD BARKER: Heteronymity isn't unknown in artistic careers. But there are good reasons why my set and costume design integrate the style of the Wrestling School. I am a painter and photographer. I have learned what kind of decor suits my texts (not entirely a matter of economy) and provides both a setting for voice (the chief factor) but also a distinct

statement of non-realism. The images are by Eduardo Houth, another alias. In all this, a single eye on the production creates the distinctive mode for which we are now known. When I speak of 'we' I talk first of myself and the actors, but I also talk of the assistant directors, the lighting designers, and the financial manager. On certain occasions, direc- tors are used who have been actors deeply involved in the company's work, for example Gerrard MacArthur, or assistants I feel have come close to my sense of values.

or assistants I feel have come close to my sense of values. Barker's Slowly , directed

Barker's Slowly, directed by Hanna Berrigan. Photo: Courtesy of The Wrestling School.


DUŠKA RADOSAVLJEVIĆ: In the book you con- fess to a "dread of the collective" and yet your work (like most theatre work) is produced collectively. You often write epic plays for big casts. What chal- lenges do you encounter in this way and how do you resolve them?

HOWARD BARKER: The Wrestling School, let me state clearly, is not and has never been, a collective, nor is it an actors' company, as some mistakenly believe. It is a company for one writer-director. Decisions rest with me, the texts are mine, and the artistic policy is my own. Naturally, there is discus-

sion, but rather little. We are peculiarly efficient and our long history proves how much can be done with

a small amount of bureaucratic equipment.

Furthermore, given the huge ambition of these plays (think of Found In The Ground), it is unimaginable that such things could be created by any other body in four weeks with such poor financial resources. If there was friction, factionalism, sub-division, it could never be achieved.

DUŠKA RADOSAVLJEVIĆ: In the conversation we had last year you mentioned the analogy of working with the ensemble as if it were an orches- tra. You also discuss the idea of "text as music" in your book. Could you say a bit more about the importance of rhythm in relation to meaning which you attributed to Nietzsche on that occasion?

HOWARD BARKER: Nietzsche's insight that

meaning and rhythm were synonymous is borne out

by all my experience with actors. When an actor is

bluffing, for example, saying something the mean- ing of which he has not got, it is immediately obvi- ous in the handling of the inner pace of the speech. (We are talking of a highly-developed and poetic form here.) You are born with this sense of rhythm. It is a gift of God. The overall meanings of plays is unknown to the actors because it is unknown to me. All they require to know is their emotional condi- tion in each scene.

DUŠKA RADOSAVLJEVIĆ: You have noted that one characteristic of Howard Barker's work is that it keeps changing and the style keeps developing. Could you pinpoint its evolutionary stages and the direction it is moving in at the moment?








Victory, a semi-political picaresque history play, with a language metaphorical and coarse. The Possibilities, a string-quartet of related but separate stories mythical and semi-historical. The Last Supper, a revisiting of a religious story broken up by parables acted by the company. Seven Lears, a spec- ulation on a Shakespeare classic, as is Gertrude:

The Cry. Found In The Ground, a balletic, imagistic, anti-linear series of dreams and chorus. The 40, forty scenes of despair with only one sentence in each, entirely dependent on its spatial organization.

DUŠKA RADOSAVLJEVIĆ: Could you describe any rehearsal room rituals that may have emerged with the Wrestling School way of working? Or alternatively, what kind of a spiritual experience does the work aim to invoke between the actors and the audience members?

HOWARD BARKER: There are no rituals, nor any methods peculiar to us. I spend no time at all at a table but begin moving the actors in space immedi- ately. I discourage discussion of meaning or pur- pose, nor do I permit political argument, or newspa- pers, in the space, which while I do not make a fetish of it, I regard as sacred to the work, and want to exclude extraneous influences. We work amica- bly, I mean by this, there is tremendous respect for one another's talent. But the director must direct. I cannot work with people who want to collaborate, they must—and do—give themselves over to my direction because, quite simply, they trust me. This trust works both ways. I know their powers, or they would not be here. And we do no research whatso- ever. The very idea is anathema to me. As for the audience, it does not enter into my calculations. I aim for the realization of the text. The spiritual value of theatre relies on its absolute integrity. This integrity means, frankly, ignoring what might please or reward the public. This is not contempt for the public, but the opposite.

Current work DUŠKA RADOSAVLJEVIĆ: Last year Gerrard McArthur directed one of the two annual Wrestling School works. This year he has been given another directorial opportunity while the companion piece has been entrusted with Hanna Berrigan. Considering that as directors they would bring their own collaborators into the process, this seems like a significant departure from the previously estab- lished—distinctly monolithic—way of working.

Could you say a bit about why this has come about and what it means for the further development of the Wrestling School?

HOWARD BARKER: These directors do not bring their own collaborators—as you persist in calling them—into the work. They use our existing people, for example, Thomas Leipzig, Billie Kaiser, Ace McCarron, a long time lighting designer. Nothing is altered in the fundamentals, how else could we be a school? It's not a free for all. The style is not up for negotiation. Hanna Berrigan has assisted me three times and is ready to do her own play. I wrote this short piece for her. She understands the demands of the work. Am I saying there is only one way to do Barker? No. But in the Wrestling School, we have one style, and this develops organically. As for your remark about the company being monolithic—an implied criticism, I think—it is a company created and developed out of one writer's distinctive work. This work has very particular demands, which must be realized. Where these demands are not realized, the productions have been imperfect (we see this all over the world). In other words, we have set a very high standard for presenting Barker texts.

DUŠKA RADOSAVLJEVIĆ: Are you pleased with


how the "21 for 21" initiative has gone, and has this created any new interesting opportunities for the internationalisation of the company's or your own work?

HOWARD BARKER: My work has always been international, at least since the 1980s, and this has coincided with the attempts made to eliminate me here (successful attempts, it must be said). The situ- ation in which I find myself—and the company finds itself—is unprecedented in theatre. We persist in spite of vicious journalistic reviewing, a collec- tive (yes, here there is a collective) decision by all the national companies to cease performing my plays (new and old), but yet we enjoy a powerful subterranean reputation. In May there is a major conference in New York devoted to Barker studies. If you can think of any artist who has undergone such a strange fortune, I should like to hear of him/her. But it's not important. The fact is, no one in the National Theatre, the Royal Court or the Royal Shakespeare Company would know how to direct a play like Gertrud: The Cry or The Fence In Its Thousandth Year, nor could I—without the compa- ny—have ever written them. It works out in the end.

Vegard Vinge and Ida Müller's The Wild DuckPart 2 Director's Cut

Andrew Friedman

The theatre work of Vegard Vinge and Ida Müller was the focus of great debate at the 2009 Bergen Festival where the duo premiered their high- ly stylized interpretation of Ibsen's The Wild Duck. The central talking point of the scandal was the pro- duction's running time. Nightly the show exceeded its advertised length by hours and, as a result, the festival's director, Per Boye Hansen, halted each evening's performance. While Vinge and Müller maintain that they never agreed to the posted run- ning time and Hansen defended his interruptions as necessary for the contracted laborers working the theatre as well as local noise ordinances, the scandal threatened to overshadow Vinge and Müller's stun- ning attempt to brutally and beautifully re-imagine the father of modern drama. Vinge (director, performer) and Müller (scenographer, costume designer, performer) began their exploration of Ibsen's works in 2006, present- ing a controversial version of A Doll's House at Oslo's experimental venue Theatre of Cruelty (Grusomhetens Teater). The production focuses on Nora's three children, depicting them as abandoned casualties who rebel violently against their mother's emancipatory action. Ivar decapitates their mother with a chainsaw, Emmy commits suicide with a kitchen knife, and Bob destroys the entire hand- painted set to reveal the show's second act: a free- form, apocalyptic vision of the Helmer's broken home. In 2007, Vinge and Müller presented a child-

centered version of Ghosts at Oslo's Black Box Teater. The production featured two Oswalds. Müller played the son of the staged drama while Vinge, as the second, sat in the theatre commenting upon, directing, and interrupting the action as both the show's fictional and actual director. These performances featured what has become the artists' signature aesthetic of hand- made, cartoonishly artificial designs, masked actors, and a flexible performance structure (whole sections of their shows are improvised and rarely is the length of the piece determined beforehand). Aesthetically, they take cues from splatter-films, opera, puppet theatre, melodrama, and renaissance painting. Their interpretations follow numerous the- matic threads, but are primarily concerned with the children in Ibsen's texts, addressing ideas of nation- al, theatrical, and familial heredity and inheritance, while affirming the family as the locus of dramatic conflict. These domestic clashes often result in excessive, but clearly fictional violence. Characters abuse, mutilate, and sexually and physically assault one another through mimed gestures to gruesome non-realistic sound effects. The actors spray them- selves with squeeze bottles full of fake blood, vomit, semen, and excrement, never attempting to conceal the artificiality of their actions. Their fetish for hyperbolic and gory representations of the body reveals an indebtedness to performance artist Paul McCarthy, while their irreverent takes on classic

Paul McCarthy, while their irreverent takes on classic Henrik Ibsen's The Wild Duck , reimagined and

Henrik Ibsen's The Wild Duck, reimagined and directed by Vegard Vinge and Ida Müller. Photo: Magnus Skrede.


The Wild Duck , directed by Vegard Vinge and Ida Müller. Photo: Magnus Skrede. texts

The Wild Duck, directed by Vegard Vinge and Ida Müller. Photo: Magnus Skrede.

texts and broad cultural sampling bears the imprint of German theatre pioneer Frank Castorf. What dis- tinguishes Vinge and Müller's work from its sources, however, is that they coherently shape these disparate influences into a fully developed aesthetic universe governed by stylistic fanaticisms and performative rules, which they call a "total rad- ical fiction." The phrase is a catchall for the ideals that ground their theatrical process and performanc- es in an overtly alternate reality, designed to be anti- thetical to rationalized and technocratic methods of performance and art production. Vinge claims that, "we need this place [the theatre] to project. When you look at these masks, you see yourself. Everything today is a demystification of the world, everything should be taken away and categorized and you know everything and then there's nothing left to project into. They've even taken the gods away. That's why fiction is important to me because it's about fairytales and dreaming. Something bigger than life." In May 2010, Vinge and Müller staged a new version of their Wild Duck at Oslo's Black Box Teater with the subtitle, Part 2 Director's Cut. The venue gave a carte blanche to Vinge and Müller, allowing the artists to present their work without any of the time restrictions they encountered in

Bergen. Ticket holders were simply informed that the production would last a minimum of twelve hours. The two performances I attended easily exceeded the minimum, one lasting for over thirteen hours and another seventeen hours. More than a simple extension of The Wild Duck's plot or theatri- cal gimmick, the open-ended running time of the production is both a challenge to contemporary the- atre going and dramaturgically necessary to Vinge and Müller's aesthetic. The production unfolds slowly, according to Vinge, as a means of "getting under the audience's skin" as contemporary culture finds it "dangerous if you spend too much time on something because the energy [between you and it] becomes strong." In their fictional world, "just opening a door and shut- ting a door could be a whole play," and so Vinge and Müller set out to lovingly develop miniature three act dramas from everyday events. Mundane moments of showering, opening the blinds, setting the table, or preparing breakfast become character sketches played at length to loops of Purcell, Wagner, and Mozart. The leisurely pace of their work is highlighted in the opening scene of their performance. The show begins in a seatless black box theatre in which a video of two Neanderthals clearing a forest plays on the back wall. Vinge,


dressed as Gregers, walks into the room fifteen min- utes into the film and in a digitally altered voice welcomes us to the "total radical fiction." As the for- est is depleted behind him, Vinge opens the door to let two naked men, masked as the Neanderthals in the video, into the room. The two actors menacing- ly glare at the audience until one of the video Neanderthals murders the other, unleashing a vol- cano of blood into which a single duck flies, as the show's title explodes onto the wall in a blast of sound. Taking their cue from the film, the live Neanderthals engage in a violent and protracted ax fight as Vinge coats them and the walls in buckets of fake blood (they are kind enough to spare the audi- ence). Only after the actors are too fatigued to con- tinue is the audience led across the bloodied stage into a larger theatre where the rest of the show is performed. Whether the Neanderthals of this thirty minute prologue are Cain and Abel or Werle and Old Ekdal is left unclear and, ultimately, secondary to the sheer sensory overload of the scene. Vinge and Müller's theatre is first and foremost imagistic, allowing meaning to arise from the interplay of stage pictures rather than narrative continuity. Once in the main theatre, the performance runs without an intermission, but uses a system of

short on-air/off-air breaks between scenes. When the curtains close at the end of a scene, a red light bulb in the theatre and lobby indicates that it is safe to exit and reenter the theatre. The duration of each break, of which there are roughly three-dozen, is never made explicit and can last anywhere from thirty seconds to ten minutes. During the longer interludes, Vinge and other members of the cast dance to pop and techno music, while encouraging the audience to join them. These pauses create a welcome and particularly contemporary informality within the theatre. Audience members came and went throughout the night, if only for the free coffee and soup provided by the theatre, and new waves of curious spectators arrived after the bars closed, while about a third of the hundred and fifty patrons hunkered down for the entire performance. If you get caught in the lobby during a short break you are likely to miss something beauti- ful or shocking, but it is nearly impossible to miss something important. Vinge and Müller's The Wild Duck is not so much an analysis or singular inter- pretation of the play as a free-associative re-imagin- ing that time warps across the cultural spectrum. Scenes are rearranged nightly, the length of which are determined during performance, and many of

nightly, the length of which are determined during performance, and many of The Wild Duck .

The Wild Duck. Photo: Håkon Windsland.


The Wild Duck . Photo: Håkon Windsland the events unfold without regard to Ibsen's original

The Wild Duck. Photo: Håkon Windsland

the events unfold without regard to Ibsen's original plotting. On both nights I attended, I was treated to scenes not used during the other performance. Unwritten or traditionally unstaged events figure largely within Vinge and Müller's performance of the text. Werle and Gina's affair is an explicit sex scene played to Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" and Hedvig's suicide repeats to the Days of Thunder theme song "Show Me Heaven." These associative digressions often lead away from the original events of the play, but towards more famil- iar and, perhaps, meaningful contemporary expres- sions of the play's themes and characters.

Overseeing the onstage fic- tion is one of two Gregers, played by Vinge, who both directs the action on stage and serves as the master of ceremonies. Seated in the sound booth, Vinge spends most of his time speaking to the actors through a microphone, which broad- casts throughout the theatre. In a digitally altered, high-pitched voice, he instructs the performers in carry- ing out tasks or coaches them through their fictional lives. During the short breaks, Vinge speaks directly to the audience, encourag- ing us not to give up or leave, as the best parts are still to come. At times he leaves his perch to dance to the pop music playing between scenes or join in with the onstage action. His performance is part rodeo clown, willing to sacrifice his body to titillate and appease the audience (inserting a paintbrush in his anus to paint the floor, urinating in his own mouth to spit it back like a fountain, or swim in a puddle of his own vomit), and part tyrannical director who joins the onstage action to assassinate his characters or douse them with fake blood as they pum- mel one another. The shockingly real acts of Vinge are contrasted by the hyper artificiality of Müller's scenic and costume design. The performers, dressed like cartoonish puppets, wear rubber fright masks at all times. Each character's mask is dis- tinct, with brightly painted lips, ears, and raccoon-rings around the eyeholes, with a uniquely colored and styled head of hair. Dr. Relling's mask, for instance, has a longish pointed nose, sharp angular features, spiky, short blond hair, and sickly green rings around the eyesockets to match a pea-green lab coat. Only the performers' eyes are visible through the show's hefty costume design, making them appear entombed by, rather than performing their character. The show's dialogue is prerecorded and processed into distorted voices for each character. Ibsen's text, when used, serves as epigrammatic


headlines of a scene's conflict, while succinctly caricaturing its speaker. The actual voices of the performers are never heard, rather they gesture with their hands and heads to their own unique audio track cued from the sound booth. Hjalmer speaks with a comic, dig- ital stutter, Werle intones in a bass- heavy menacing drawl, and Hedvig hisses and whispers non- sense. The performance amounts to a full-bodied "lip-synching," with much of the dialogue drasti- cally cut to repeated haiku-like exchanges (Gregers and Werle's conflict is effectively reduced to the phrases "father," "no," and "mine") or rendered unintelligible due to the heavy processing of the recordings. The characters' actions are highlighted through a series of cued sound effects, brilliantly designed by Vinge and Müller's long time collaborator Trond Reinholdtsen. As if in a video game, every motion made by the performers and inanimate objects is accompanied by exaggerated non-realistic sound effects. Doors creak, glasses break, toilets flush, and bodies make a litany of belch- es, gags, coughs, and moans. Each character is assigned their own footstep effect, matched to the per- former's physical movements. Every high-stepped stride of Gregers is followed by a creaky floorboard sound, while Werle's feet fall with an authoritative thud. These distin- guishing sounds, like the masks, take the place of actor generated characterization. This highly concentrated artificiality pre- vents the performers from conveying anything that might suggest their own personality. Instead, they function as puppeteers operating ghoulish exoskele- tons. These choices have a dichotomous impact on the viewer. The absence of onstage personalities, at once, aids in totalizing the work's "radical fiction." By shielding the audience from the performers' faces and voices, the audience is given room to proj-

faces and voices, the audience is given room to proj- The Wild Duck . Photo: Magnhild

The Wild Duck. Photo: Magnhild Nordahl.

ect onto the artificial and anonymous image or to speculate about the actors' interiority. But the "fic- tion" also occasionally, perhaps deliberately, fails to be "totalizing." Over the course of seventeen hours, the performers display signs of frustration, confu- sion, and fatigue. It's during these moments, when the fiction collapses, that one is hauntingly remind- ed of the live performer anonymously laboring to create the theatrical fantasy. In the context of such an overarching artifice, the ultimate inability to sus- tain the fiction reflects Vinge and Müller's fetish for the real to be as powerful as the fictional. Perhaps the most central feature of the fic-


tion is Müller's massive set. The Werle's mansion is a fantastically designed two-story, six-room diora- ma house, hand-painted in black and white mono- chrome, and made entirely from cardboard. On the backside of the structure is the Ekdal's home (which we don't arrive at until about ten hours into the per- formance), a bright and trippy swirl of psychedelic colors, of which only the living room and attic are shown. The other four, fully designed rooms of the Ekdal home, I was told, are utilized by the perform- ers, but never seen by the audience. The centerpiece of the home rotates to reveal an additional two sides: a smoking Ibsen hell mouth, Hjalmar's fabled invention, a tropical island getaway, and an under- water cavern that suggests the depths to which the wounded wild duck dives in the original text.

Stylistically, the sets are rendered in high contrast colors and patterns recalling the pulpy graphic nov- els of Frank Miller. The scenography and costumes are designed by Müller, but collectively made by the performers, giving the design a rough texture. Vinge contends that, "amateurs are the best painters to use on the set because you feel there is an inse- curity, that there's something not one hundred per- cent controlled in the stroke and that's beautiful." His assertion held true for me while watching the production, as the lack of uniformity in the design allowed my eye to find endless details in the stage picture, while being simultaneously awed by the magnitude of labor necessary to create each individ- ual item on stage.

by the magnitude of labor necessary to create each individ- ual item on stage. The Wild

The Wild Duck. Photo: Magnus Skrede.


The Wild Duck . Photo: Magnus Skrede. More than an aesthetic choice, the collec- tive

The Wild Duck. Photo: Magnus Skrede.

More than an aesthetic choice, the collec- tive creation of the scenography is essential to Vinge and Müller's physical dramaturgy. The eerily puppet-like performances are more than a simple masking of the actors. There are no auditions and trained actors are rarely used, instead, it is important to Vinge, that participants "have invested with their bodies in the sets" as "it's not about playing perfect- ly, but if you've painted your own set and your own floor, then it's just about being, it's not about perfec- tion." Imperfections crop-up throughout the produc- tion: sound cues are missed, set pieces malfunction, blocking, exits, and entrances are, at times, con- fused and, I was told, one evening's lengthy scene change was the result of an actor falling asleep backstage. These imperfections, rather than distract- ing the viewer, highlight the challenges of attempt- ing to play for upwards of thirteen hours with ever- changing scenes and set pieces. What we experi- ence, instead of a sleek and uniform interpretation, is the real-time struggle of artists attempting to arrive at a destination they've yet to discover. Despite the production's cultural refer- ences and thick layers of artifice, the story is fairly straightforward. All of the play's characters are fea- tured, but their relationships to one another have been radically altered. Like their versions of A Doll's House and Ghosts, Vinge and Müller center the drama on the plights of the children, Gregers and Hedvig. The action begins in the Werles's home, but years prior to the start of Ibsen's text. Gregers, wear- ing a red t-shirt featuring Richard Wagner's image and name, is a sullen boy imprisoned in the Werle's mansion of soulless and drunken dinner parties.

When Werle, a cigar smoking, champagne drinking Capitalist in a pinstriped suit, announces his inten- tion of passing on the family business to his son, the two become locked in a struggle over Gregers' future.

Dr. Relling, a staple at the mansion, pre- sides over the marching concentration camp-like employees of the Werle Corporation, while fascisti- cally preaching the doctrines of Capitalism from a podium or, more frighteningly, genetically engi- neering babies for the workforce, and disposing of the noncompliant children through a meat grinder. Pettersen and Jensen, Werle's servants, are their boss' heavies dolling out misery on Old Ekdal, answering the phones, and testing their employer's cache of military weapons. Mrs. Sørby, is a drunk and giggling matriarch in a massive beehive wig, who, when not printing mountains of money, col- laborates on a series of shocking sexual fetishes with Dr. Relling and the various dinner guests. As a family, the Werle's are cold, brutal caricatures of economic and patriarchal opportunism run rampant. Gregers' idealism is re-imagined as a bur- geoning anti-Capitalism. He lashes out against his father's economic and social crimes by burning his father's money and credit cards, or articulating his theories through a recording of Slavoj Žižek's cri- tique of charity. The conflict is finally resolved (after some ten hours) when Gregers, fed up by the immorality around him, beats his father into sub- mission before murdering Mrs. Sørby, Pettersen, Jensen, and a half-dozen dinner guests. In a final act of defiance, he tears apart the cardboard living room to reveal the brightly colored wallpaper of the


Ekdal's family room. The Ekdal family is portrayed, through a series of 1970s sitcom vignettes, as ineffectual lib- eral artists. Hjalmar works on his invention, a mas- sive machine, which runs on his own blood and pro- duces a brace of sacrificial ducks, while Gina keeps house and shops for oversized name brand products. Hedvig, the victim of her father's sexual abuse, is the alienated adolescent double of Gregers. Crippled by abuse and blindness, Hedvig escapes to the attic to contemplate puberty and menstruation with guidance from Britney Spears's pop single "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman." The attic, in stark contrast to the miniature nature preserve described in Ibsen's text and Müller's other vividly designed rooms, is a simple all white box. This barren setting is gruesomely transformed by Hedvig's horrifically comic battle with her own menstruation and later by an endless repetition of her suicide, during which she sprays herself and the room in fake blood, des- perately shooting herself hundreds of times without relief.

When Hedvig's paternity is finally revealed, cleverly staged as a swarm of naked vam- pire ducks descending upon the Ekdal's home, the performance moves into Vinge and Müller's loose structure of improvised scenes. Hjalmer's invention is used to create actors playing ducks that march around the stage before Vinge slits their throats. The entire cast engages in a slow motion fight using actual dead herring as weapons. Werle and Mrs. Sørby flee the planet in a massive rocket ship. These pieces, like much of the show, are drawn from an extensive list of scenes developed through the group's lengthy rehearsal process. Prior to each night's performance, a set list is created with scenes swapped in and out as a means of experimenting with different patterns as well as preventing any two performances from being the same. As these seg- ments change nightly and often involve different characters with various results, (in one of the ver- sions I saw, Dr. Relling murders Hedvig and stages it as a suicide!) they are best appreciated as a series of proposals rather than well-staked interpretive positions. What is clear, however, is that the scenes of Hedvig and Gregers's suffering are key to Vinge and

Müller's interpretation of The Wild Duck. Among the artists' many prodigious gifts, is their ability to illustrate the drama in terms of clearly legible con- flicts between children and their parents, reality and an idealized future. Although these scenes are often violent, excessive in length, and unsparingly cruel, they are equally empathetic in their willingness to imagine the unspoken, unseen, and frequently unstaged injustices woven into Ibsen's work. Gregers's myopic ideals are less irrational when shown as the antithesis of Werle's fully realized mercenary business practices. Hedvig's suicide is changed from the act of a confused but dutiful daughter into a resolute protest against the crimes of her parents. In this respect, Vinge and Müller's pro- duction takes on an air of a perverse fairytale, in which the children avenge the sins of their parents. Nowhere is this fairytale justice more clearly articulated than in the production's final scenes. Gregers arrives at the Ekdal's home in time to attend Hedvig's funeral, during which she is resurrected by Molvik's droning Latin sermon. In the show's most touching moment, Gregers slowly washes the accu- mulated dirt and blood from Hedvig before dressing her in knightly armor. A man costumed as a horse appears and carries Hedvig off to confront Dr. Relling who rides atop a twenty-foot high dragon- duck made of cardboard, inside of which her parents are imprisoned. In one of Vinge and Müller's most radical revisions, Hedvig is reborn, destroys the mythic duck, frees her parents, and humiliates the villain Dr. Relling. After seventeen hours of com- plex associative imagery, assaultive sound and lighting, and cups and cups of coffee, one's critical faculties become feeble. What was indisputable, however, were the fifty some audience members cheering Hedvig's victory as if their own. For peo- ple of the contemporary theatre, Ibsen's influence is often ubiquitous to the point of invisibility. Vinge and Müller's "total radical fiction" works to clearly reanimate the father of modern drama from the per- spective of his twenty-first century inheritors. In an invigoratingly childish conflation of defiance and reverence, Vinge and Müller honor the author by simply letting his kids have the bloody, passionate, and shambolic last word.


A Conversation with Liv Ullmann

Stan Schwartz

It's a busy time for legendary Norwegian actress, writer, and director Liv Ullmann. Until recently, she presided over the jury for the International Ibsen Award, a prize given each year to a person who, in the jury's estimation, best exem- plifies the spirit of Ibsen. And just what that spirit is has been the subject of much spirited debate over the Award's three-year history. Jon Fosse, the acclaimed Norwegian playwright and author, was this year's recipient (see accompanying interview in this issue) and was officially presented his award on September 10 at Oslo's Nationaltheatret. But unlike previous years, this year Ullmann could not attend the festivities, and that was because she was on a tour bus. After an absence of several decades, Ms. Ullmann is acting on stage again, playing Mary Tyrone in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night.

It's an audacious choice for a return. Mary, one of the seminal roles in the repertoire, is the mor- phine-addicted mother in O'Neill's searing, autobio- graphical masterwork, and one of the supreme chal-

lenges for any actress of a certain age, even under the simplest of circumstances. But this is not a com- fortable run in a modern theatre in downtown Oslo. The company in question here is Riksteatret, Norway's national touring company, which means the project entails nearly fifty stops over a period of more than three months, finally winding up in Stockholm's Dramaten, where the play had its world premiere in 1956. Suffice it to say Ms. Ullmann, now seventy-one, has her work cut out for her. But it is clearly the familial aspects of good old fash- ioned touring that has attracted her to the enterprise; that and the chance to see again through a bus win- dow the beautiful countryside of her native land. There is no question that a bitter-sweet ambivalence ever so slightly tinges Ullmann's out- look regarding her return to the Norwegian stage after so long an absence (and her absence from Norwegian cinema has been even longer). Her extraordinary career has taken place mostly outside Norway, a fact which, ironically, very much is in the spirit of Ibsen, given the formidable amount of time

in the spirit of Ibsen, given the formidable amount of time Liv Ullmann in Eugene O'Neill's

Liv Ullmann in Eugene O'Neill's Long Days's Journey Into Night, directed by Stein Winge. Photo: Leif Gabrielsen.


the great Norwegian playwright also spent outside the Norwegian borders. Still, Ms. Ullmann seemed jubilant at our breakfast conversation the morning after the tour premiere in Røros, a charming and famous former mining town five hours north of Oslo by train. Here are some excerpts from our con- versation.

Norwegian stage in a really long time. How long?

ULLMANN: I don't know, twenty-three years or something.

SCHWARTZ: Is there a particular reason for that?

SCHWARTZ: So here we are in Røros, and in 1968

ULLMANN: I don't really want to go into that. I haven't filmed here since 1968, and I did do a lot of

SCHWARTZ: So how does it feel to be back?

you made a film, An-Magritt, about the hardships of

theatre until twenty-three years ago. But it was also


girl, An-Magritt, in Røros in the 1600s. How does

the time when I decided I wanted to write scripts


feel to be back in Røros?

and direct. The particular reason doesn't matter. We

ULLMANN: It's wonderful. An-Magritt was one of my favorite acting roles. She is famous, it is written by one of our very best writers, Johan Falkberget. She was very poor, and couldn't read. She lived a life of shame because she was born outside of wed-

have this thing in Norway, if you cross the border, people don't like that. It has happened with far greater people than me. It happened with Ibsen. He didn't come back for thirty years, people didn't want him. Munch, the painter, he was absolutely not wel- come in Norway. And it has happened to musicians.

lock. But she wouldn't give up and she became a folk hero. I also liked the film because Sven Nykvist shot it and it was directed by Arne Skouen, one of our foremost directors. This was one of his last films and it was my last film in Norway, done in 1968, which is a shame, very sad, because I could have done a lot in Norway. I also liked it because I could speak my own dialect. It was the only time in my life I could, because normally I would have to speak

Yes, they don't like that. So for some reason, specif- ically as an actress, I've always wondered. But it's fine with me, because I got to do a lot of other things. It really is fine with me and maybe it was meant to be, so that I could do everything else.


Norwegian that wasn't really mine, or I had to

ULLMANN: It feels so marvelous, I feel so happy and so safe. And I am doing what I grew up doing,

SCHWARTZ: I was about to say, you did say that

speak Swedish, which of course, isn't mine, or I had

being on a stage in an ensemble, although it is so

to speak English.

long since I've been here, so it's a little Ullmann-

SCHWARTZ: How did Long Day's Journey come

tour, but not really. We are an ensemble. We are together and that's where I started, so I am terrifi-



cally happy. And also, wonderful, from Streetcar,

ULLMANN: I was asked even before I directed Streetcar Named Desire, and I said yes because I wanted to do theatre with this theatre, Riksteatret [Norway's national touring theatre company], because I had an incredible memory from when I was thirty years old and I traveled around the coun- try and saw Norway. I've written about it in my first book, Changing. And Norway is so beautiful. And

SCHWARTZ: This is the first time you are on a

Cate [Blanchett] sent wonderful roses and the actress who played Stella, Robin [McLeavy], she came all the way from Australia and she was at our premiere in Oslo. And that also makes me happy because the new intersects with the very old, with me. It's a good way to say goodbye to the stage.


so when Riksteatret asked me, and I knew this incredible cast, I said absolutely. There's no way I would say no to that. And a little after Streetcar, I

ULLMANN: I did say that, which is a reason I haven't acted on the stage in Norway.

got so many offers [as a director] to do West End, to do Broadway. And just for a minute, I said, this is

SCHWARTZ: Or anywhere.

bad timing. And then I thought, no, no, no, what I really want and what is my life is to do this. And I don't regret it for a moment.

ULLMANN: Or anywhere. Because I wanted to direct, I wanted to write film scripts. So I said it then, but this time I mean it. I don't want to be on stage. I would direct stage, absolutely.


SCHWARTZ: So much of the attraction in doing this was to be able to tour…

ULLMANN: Can you imagine! We are going every- where from here to far, far North, and we are sitting on this bus and talking and looking out! I mean, I am so privileged! And then we will play in Oslo and then Dramaten in Stockholm.

SCHWARTZ: But isn't it exhausting? For your return to stage, you could have done a smaller, eas- ier play, say, at Nationaltheatret downtown and taken a comfortable taxi back and forth, between the theatre and your home. But this is hard work.

ULLMANN: No it's not. For me, it is to be Liv again and be part of an ensemble, and to re- encounter what I loved when I was young. And very few people get to do that one more time and have that incredible life in between. And I got to do that and I am very grateful. No, no taxi for me! Actually, my husband heard that we were going six and a half hours from Oslo to here and he told me, "Oh, you should have told me! I would have hired a car with a driver." And I said, "What are you talking about?! That's the last thing I want!"

SCHWARTZ: About the ensemble—this production is absolutely not "The Mary Tyrone Show." It's very much about the ensemble, and that's a joy to watch.

ULLMANN: I know, they are geniuses, all three.

SCHWARTZ: You often don't feel like the two brothers are really, really brothers and here you do.

ULLMANN: That's a wonderful compliment. Also because they look so different. They [Pål Sverre Hagen and Anders Baasmo Christiansen, playing Edmund and James, Jr., respectively] have made a big effort in this to really emphasize the brother- hood, the love, the hate, the jealousy and all of that. And yes, we come from different ways of acting. I haven't been on stage in more than twenty years. The way of acting (nowaday) may be more impro- vising. Yes, it's new for me. I had to adapt to that, not them adapt to me. And that has been fantastic.

SCHWARTZ: Was it difficult?

ULLMANN: I like blocking, that's what I'm used to.


But I really loved this. My difficulty was speaking fast. This director liked fast, fast, fast—pause. Fast fast, fast—pause. And I, sometimes I want to go a lot more into the text, but you can combine what my feelings and thoughts were and still do it this way. And I have to say that I have never, never in my life worked so hard on a part; one, because it was a new way for me, and two, (Mary Tyrone) has so much text. At least I know I don't have Alzheimer's because I could learn my text! And I also had to work so hard because of the way O'Neill has written her—she jumps from subject to subject and then goes back. What was he thinking, why did he [write her like that]?

SCHWARTZ: What is your connection with Mary Tyrone?

ULLMANN: At first I thought she was really trying to be the victim and angry, and I thought, "I'm real- ly going to do a nasty woman." But when I started working on it, and started to know why she says [what she says], and sometimes she speaks the real truth in her drugged state, I realized she is a really good woman. Trying to connect, cannot connect, tries to hide what is happening, but it's impossible for her to hide it. And she is always saying, "I've lost something, what am I am looking for? I don't know what I'm looking for…" And what she's looking for, she says the Virgin Mary, she is looking for a high- er power to help her. She says she lost it when she didn't become a nun, she lost it when her son died because she went on a tour. What is not in the play, but we know from the biographies, is that years later, [O'Neill's mother] finds her faith again. She knows that she is forgiven for what she thought was her sin, and she never takes morphine again. O'Neill is talking about spirituality. So, I know her and I understand her. And even in the end, when she is completely into the drugs, I think she is also getting to that place where she will once again get sober.

SCHWARTZ: It's interesting that in the final moments, what she's retreated into is a childhood state, so in connection with what you just said, per- haps O'Neill is making a connection between child- hood and spirituality.

ULLMANN: Exactly, and there is. That's when we had innocence and that's when we were willing to accept or allow maybe a higher power, or whatever you want to call it. Instead of being grownup and

making a wrong choice because you can't stand it anymore, that you feel guilty, or that people don't connect with you, or as Mary always says, "I'm lonely, I'm always lonely." She has taken thirty or forty years to get out of that hell, but she makes it. So I think the ending—just like I thought in Streetcar—she's thrown out but she is also a free spirit and she is somehow going to make it.

SCHWARTZ: I was wondering if there is some kind of connection between Mary and Blanche…

ULLMANN: I think there is. We can't help some- times what life does to us, which makes us make other choices so that it's not us anymore making the choices.

SCHWARTZ: Any last thoughts about O'Neill before we move on?

ULLMANN: It's my third meeting with O'Neill. And each time it is different and I just enjoy it. I've always worked with incredible actors when I work with O'Neill, but I think part of why we can be good

is O'Neill himself, because he is a master. And I've

learned a lot about life doing this play. I've learned

a lot about myself. It's probably the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life, but I found some- thing within me that I didn't even know I had.

SCHWARTZ: Shall we talk a little about Jon Fosse?

ULLMANN: Yes. All of us [on the jury] agreed—


and we had incredible candidates, I mean world- famous candidates. We thought we must be careful now, because since we're Norwegian they are going to say that we gave it to a Norwegian. But then Leif Zern made an incredible statement.

SCHWARTZ: I imagine he was a main force on the jury. I mean, he wrote the book.

ULLMANN: He wrote the book, right. But you know, we all, in our own different ways, had enor- mous respect for Jon Fosse. And we did a vote—and we did another vote. And we kept narrowing it down from the other candidates. And we really passed over world-famous people. But he absolutely won; the last vote was one hundred percent. It really is fantastic, because he is the Nordic voice of melan- choly. He wrote the way melancholy is. He says something. Then he says it again. Then he says the same thing just in another way. I love his rhythms.

SCHWARTZ: And always the images of the water and the sea…

ULLMANN: Absolutely.

SCHWARTZ: And it parallels the way the waves go in and out.

ULLMANN: Absolutely. And I like wave people!

SCHWARTZ: Thank you Liv.

A Conversation with Jon Fosse

Stan Schwartz

The International Ibsen Award is now in its third year. This year, on September 10, 2010, the award was given to the world-renowned Norwegian playwright, poet, and author Jon Fosse on the main stage of Oslo's Nationaltheatret. Although relatively unknown and unperformed in America, Fosse is a major force in European theatre, with more than thirty plays to his credit and numerous awards. His work has been translated into more than forty lan-

guages, including Albanian, Hebrew, Catalan, Persian, Slovenian, and Tibetan. Fosse's style is quite particular, marked by an austere stripping down of language, a dramatur- gical minimalism, and a stylized use of rhythms and repetitions of language. As far as stylistic compar- isons go, Pinter comes to mind, but with a differ- ence. Whereas Pinter's ever-present sense of menace seems utterly earth-bound, sometimes overtly polit- ical, Fosse's minimalist angst is infused with an almost mystical Zen-like calmness, all the more unsettling for that reason. There is some- thing distinctly ethereal in the trance-like repetitions, always musical in quality. His roots in poetry are unmistakable. Fosse writes about loneliness, loss, dis- connection, family relation- ships. Ghosts and memory are prevalent themes. However sparse and stylized the language may be, his vision is imbued with a pal- pable sense of Nordic melan- choly. The sea is a favorite and often recurring motif. Fosse has a reputa- tion for shyness, but I found him to be utterly warm and forthcoming in our breakfast encounter the morning after he received his award. Here are some excerpts from our conversation.

SCHWARTZ: How do you feel about receiving the Ibsen Award?

FOSSE: It is something like the thirtieth award I've gotten but I have never ever received such a large amount of money [approximately $427,500.00]. This is without doubt the largest [amount] I

$427,500.00]. This is without doubt the largest [amount] I Jon Fosse receives the 2010 International Ibsen

Jon Fosse receives the 2010 International Ibsen Award. Photo: Åsne Dahl Torp.


have had. To be honest, what is the most important thing is simply the money. I am fifty by now and I have written an enormous lot and I think by now I have enough money so I don't need to write if I don't want to write, and that is a great feeling.

SCHWARTZ: But don't you want to write?

FOSSE: Of course I do. I've been doing it since I was twelve years old. So, of course I keep on doing it. But the thing is now, I don't have to.

SCHWARTZ: Do you think that will make writing easier or harder?

FOSSE: In the last two years, I have not written anything new for the theater. I have written versions [of existing classics] and translations and the like, and I feel a bit tired. I like to write still, but what I have written lately is a collection of poetry. I wrote poetry before I started writing for the theatre, but then I stopped. Because a play is, in a way, a poem; to me it is. Somehow quite a long poem, but still a poem. And it was great to go back to poetry again.

SCHWARTZ: So maybe the poetry can refuel you to go back to playwriting later.

FOSSE: Could well be

of my plays are, in strange ways, connected to my poems, and they are. I wrote poetry for let's say fif- teen years, and then I started writing for the theatre, for some fifteen years, and when I think about the plays now, I connect them to my poetry.

I keep thinking that many

SCHWARTZ: The Ibsen Award is supposed to be given to someone who somehow exhibits the spirit of Ibsen. What does that mean to you?

FOSSE: It doesn't mean anything in a way. But it was the bureaucratic and political way to say it, when they initiated the prize, so they had to say it in this or that way. It is an Ibsen prize so they had to somehow connect it of course to what you say is the spirit of Ibsen. To me, you can interpret that what- ever way you want and the way that I interpret it is that the spirit of Ibsen is the poetry of Ibsen, the poetry of his writing, of his theatre. So it is a prize for the poetry of the theatre, in a way.

SCHWARTZ: Theatre poetics.


FOSSE: In a way. Of course you have the politicians who want Ibsen to be a very nice feminist kind of thing, but of course he wasn't. I normally quote James Joyce who said that if Ibsen was a feminist, than I am an archbishop.

SCHWARTZ: Is there a particular reason why you are not terribly well known or played in America? And would you like that to change?

FOSSE: There are not many European playwrights

known at all in America and England. So Europe, in

a way, is one place, and America and England and

English-speaking theatre is another place. As a European playwright, I am produced a lot in Europe. And I think I've had five or six productions in the United States, and that's a lot for a European writer. And Patrice Chéreau is directing I Am the Wind in London.

SCHWARTZ: Would you like to be more well known in America?

FOSSE: It would be great if it happens, but to be honest, I am not too concerned because I have had so many productions, so in a way, it is enough already.

SCHWARTZ: You are known for a very particular style. Why or how did you arrive at your style?

FOSSE: It is not a choice. I never chose to write like that. It's more the other way around. This way of writing chose me. When I was quite young, I was very much into music and I played and played guitar but I also tried to play the violin. And when I quit playing, I started to write a lot and I tried to bring into my writing something of what I had expe- rienced in music. So the repetitions are a kind of recreation of playing music.

SCHWARTZ: I have this feeling that you have a particular take on how history and humanity works which, at the risk of sounding pretentious, I would call cosmic or mystical. Then I came across this one short speech by the Boy in The Name which I found quite striking:

"Because the unborn are people, too, of course, Just as the dead are people.

If you want to be human

you have to imagine humanity

as being all the dead and all the unborn and all those who are living now."

(English translation by Gregory Motton)

FOSSE: It's a beautiful speech. But it's the only speech in the whole play [like that]. It's all "yes" and "no" and then you have this one thing. But you remember the situation. [The character of the Girl] "

is saying "you talk like a book

SCHWARTZ: But it struck me that the speech func- tioned like a key to your entire universe, or am I reading too much into it?

FOSSE: Yes, in a way. I try to avoid such statements almost all the time. But for once, I didn't.

SCHWARTZ: I'm glad you didn't, because it seems important to you. Can you talk about why?

FOSSE: It's very hard to talk about this. How do you say it? If I call myself a mystic, it is all wrong, of course, because that simplifies [it] too much. But if I have to use a word, then I feel that as a writer, as a kind of mystic. And that of course has to do with my own experiences and what I have seen in my own life. Even if in my own writing there are almost no references to what I actually have experienced. I try to avoid it. That has to do with my shyness and pri- vacy. And also the way I write. If I reproduce my life [in a literal way], the writing becomes too earth- bound. It doesn't soar.

SCHWARTZ: It's clear that silence is very impor- tant and has a special function in your plays. But I also have the impression it is equally important for you in real life.

FOSSE: Yes, it is very important for me. I almost never listen to even music. And I don't watch televi- sion. I prefer everything to be quiet, if possible. The only noises I like, in a way, are the noises of my kids in normal life! It wasn't always like that. When I was a kid, I loved Jimi Hendrix and noisy music. But I ended up like this. It just developed slowly. I really have to have a quiet place to sit and work— by the sea. No traffic. The sea and the wind. I prefer the sea.

SCHWARTZ: Can we talk a little about your sense


of time? There is an almost science-fiction-like quality of multiple, parallel universes where the past, present, and future are folded into one.

FOSSE: That's the possibility of theatre. And a poem is also like that. You can experience this gold- en moment in theatre—a kind of eternal moment

with no past, future, or present in a way. That's what

I like, and the theatre makes this possible.

SCHWARTZ: That idea also seems a bit mystical.

Now I don't want to pry, but could you give us just

a little hint of your own experiences to which you

alluded earlier that might be characterized as mys-


FOSSE: Well, when I was seven years old, I nearly bled to death. I was in an accident and was weak because I had lost so much blood. And I remember when my parents were driving me to the local doc- tor—this was in rural Norway—I remember seeing myself and my parents, and everything. I saw myself and the situation from there [indicating with his hand a high up point].

SCHWARTZ: So you saw everyone sitting in the car from a very high vantage point, looking down, almost like from a spaceship.

FOSSE: Yes, and everything was completely relaxed and beautiful. And that sense of distance, that distance is the distance I see things from in my writing.

SCHWARTZ: How strange. Here is something I wrote in this very magazine two years ago, compar- ing Eirik Stubø's production of your play Someone is Going to Come with his own production of Ibsen's Rosmersholm in the 2008 Ibsen Festival here: "Both



where the characters became objects of some unbearably close but cosmic scrutiny—a giant cos- mic microscope or magnifying glass?—in which their every syllable was being analyzed."

presented a[n] other-worldly

FOSSE: Yes. Leif Zern [the Swedish theatre critic and author of a book on Fosse, Det lysande mörkret or "The Shining Darkness"] called me an alien in the world of the theatre. Somehow I am, of course.

SCHWARTZ: But something tells me that when Leif calls you an alien, you probably take that as a


FOSSE [laughing]: I do take it as a compliment! And as a fact.

SCHWARTZ: Thank you Jon.


JOSHUA ABRAMS is a Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at Roehampton University, Assistant Editor of PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, and the Vice President for Conference 2011 for the Association for Theatre in Higher Education. His publications have appeared in Theatre Journal, TDR, and PAJ, among other places. He is Vice President for ATHE Conference 2011 and is completing a book-length manuscript on notions of Levinasian ethics in relation to performance.

MARVIN CARLSON, Sidney C. Cohn Professor of Theatre at the City University of New York Graduate Center,

is the author of many articles on theatrical theory and European theatre history, and dramatic literature. He is the

1994 recipient of the George Jean Nathan Award for dramatic criticism and the 1999 recipient of the American

Society for Theatre Research Distinguished Scholar Award. His book The Haunted Stage: The Theatre as Memory Machine, which came out from University of Michigan Press in 2001, received the Callaway Prize. In 2005 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Athens. His most recent book is Theatre is More Beautiful than War (Iowa, 2009).

ANDREW FRIEDMAN is a Chancellor's Fellow and Theatre Ph.D. student at CUNY's Graduate Center. He co- authored the article "'Let Our Freak Flags Fly': Shrek the Musical and the Branding of Diversity," which appeared in the May 2010 issue of Theatre Journal. Most recently, he presented "Keeping Time with Culture: Playing Gombrowicz's Operetta Across Borders" at the Graduate Center's 2010 (Re)Making (Re)presentation conference. He teaches theatre history and acting at The City College of New York.

JOE HEISSAN is a graduate student in the Ph.D. Program in Theatre at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York. He is a Writing Fellow at The City College of New York, where he also taught acting, directing and theatre history, and directed several Theatre Department productions. He is currently writing his dis- sertation on devised theatre and Theatre de Complicite.

DUŠKA RADOSAVLJEVIĆ is a Lecturer in Drama and Theatre Studies at the University of Kent. She has pre- viously worked as the Dramaturg at the Northern Stage Ensemble and in the Education Department of the Royal Shakespeare Company. As a theatre critic, she has contributed regularly to The Stage Newspaper since 1998. Having published academic articles on dramaturgy and adaptation, her current research is on "the ensemble way of working."

BRIAN RHINEHART has worked as a freelance theatre director in Florida and New York City since 1994. In

2008 he served as assistant director of the Atlantic City production of the Broadway musical, The Wedding Singer,

as well as its first national tour in 2007. He was a member of the 2006 Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, and

a Resident Artist of the Kraine Theater, NYC, from 2003 to 2005. Rhinehart has an MFA in Directing from The

Actors Studio Drama School and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Florida. He is currently an Adjunct Professor of Directing at the Actors Studio Drama School, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Theatre at Baruch College.

STAN SCHWARTZ is a freelance theatre and film journalist with a particular interest in Scandinavian theatre and film. He lives and works out of New York City and has written for such publications as The New York Times, The Village Voice, The New York Sun, Time Out New York, and Film Comment. In Sweden, he has written for Dagens Nyheter, Expressen, and Teater Tidningen.

DAN VENNING is a doctoral candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center. He has a BA in English and Theatre from Yale and an M.Litt. in Shakespeare Studies from the University of St Andrews, Scotland. His dissertation research is on the popular reception of Shakespearean drama on the German stage in the nineteenth century.


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Comedy: A Bibliography

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