On the ground-level stage, a woman in garish clothes fiddles with a quirky metallic object, while a man covered with black feathers plays a rock tune and greets the children as they come in. Many kids come accompanied by a relative—a parent or a grandparent or those of a friend—, but there is also a large group of at least 30 children, who seem to come from a school and rush in to take up three or four rows of seats. I am surprised to hear not only or mostly German, but several other languages being spoken. By my side, sit two boys and two mothers who speak Latin American Spanish, which to my southern ears sounds like a Mexican dialect.
Besides a broom, several musical instruments, and the large cube the woman is sitting on, the stage is black and totally empty. As I wait for the play to start, I wonder how they are planning to hold all these children’s attention for more than an hour. After a brief introduction by the Little Witch (Grischka Voss), I suddenly understand how they are going to achieve this as soon as the action starts. In Claudia Bühlmann’s version of Otfried Preußlers’ story, Die kleine Hexe relies mostly on music and physical humour to keep the young audience engaged and entertained.
Grischka Voss’ outstanding performance keeps the children enthralled from beginning to end. They laugh and their eyes shine as she clumsily dances, changes clothes, eats a carrot or simply tries to find a place to sleep. Some kids even stand up from their seats to have a better view of her. As soon as she leaves the stage, their attention wanders elsewhere and they start talking to those around them, even when visual animations are displayed on the background. Her companion, the raven Abraxas (Philipp Karajev), is a talented multi-instrumentalist who steals the scene with his music. He plays the guitar, the drums, the violin, and the xylophone, creating sweet, cheerful and scary atmospheres. Some children even join in stomping the ground to some of his rockish tunes.
The set and costume design by Markus Liszt and Anna-Katharina Jaritz complement each other perfectly. The whole of the staging is constituted by a great magic cube, which changes its shape in every scene, and serves as the main object of interaction for the actors. The surreal clothes of the witches are a show of form and colour in themselves, as also are the animations of Walpurguis Night.
Die kleine Hexe tells the story of a girl who tries to find her way around in the world of adults, while staying true to her own beliefs. We witness her struggle to give sense to the words ‘good’ and ‘evil’, and how without intending it she ends up transforming the world for the best. Notwithstanding the complexity of these issues, the plot of the play as a whole is very simple, and, as in most children’s stories, episodic. It is for the most part made up of unconnected adventures, in which the Little Witch endeavours to master her art and become a ‘good witch’ in order to attend the older witches’ gathering on Walpurgis Night. To a certain extent, Die kleine Hexe is a series of shorter plays within a play, each of which can be enjoyed independently, without having to make much effort to understand its place within the plot.
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DIE KLEINE HEXE
Schauspiel mit Musik (70min)
Autor: Otfried Preußler
Konzept, Fassung, Regie: Claudia Bühlmann
Bühne: Markus Liszt
Kostüm: Anna Katharina Jaritz
Komposition: Philipp Karajev
Licht: Hannes Röbisch
Körper-, Stimmtraining: Grischka Voss
Theaterpädagogik: Tamara Trojan
Theaterpädagogisches Volontariat: Hana Tumova, Lena Gottwald
Regiehospitanz: Lilian Grof
Videoanimation: Bernhard Mrak
evolving structures: Kristoffer Stefan
Aufführungsrechte: Verlag für Kindertheater Weitendorf GmbH, Hamburg
DarstellerInnen: Helene Susanne Grohma, Ulrike Hübl, Philipp Karajev, Grischka Voss
Photography: © Rainer Berson