Superheldinnen is a theatrical adaptation of the award-winning novel by Barbi Marković, published in 2016. Rather than undertaking to rewrite the plot of Superheldinnen in dialogue form, the director Bérénice Hebenstreit has taken the bold decision of literally ‘bringing the novel to the stage’, making storytelling the main element of the performance. Throughout the play, we hardly see any action taking place in front of us. Rather, the three main characters spend most of the time relating what is happening, and commenting on the events, with a few lines of dialogue interspersed within the narration. Even the descriptions of cities and the texts of advertisements are preserved in the dramatic text.
The play is set in a dilapidated coffee house located in Margareten, the fifth district of Vienna. Here we meet Mascha (Seyneb Saleh), Marijas (Katharina Klar) and Direktorka (Nadine Quittner), three migrant women whose life stories, marked by failure and disappointment, have finally brought them to Austria. Every Saturday, they fruitlessly discuss the best way of helping people with their superpowers, and plan their much awaited entrance into the middle class. Their impotence and frustration is compensated by the wittiness of the text, whose freshness keeps the audience engaged and laughing during the long narrative passages. Their dubious superpowers —Strike of Destiny and Annihilation— are but an ironic symbol of their place in society, which only makes the precariousness of their situation more bearable through humour.
The theatrical staging of Superheldinnen sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Not being a native German speaker, I found some of the descriptive and narrative passages simply too long. However, most of the time the rhythm of the performance is successfully punctuated by the use of music, movement and light. A quick rearrangement of the set by the actors —by moving chairs or spinning the walls— was sometimes enough to refresh my mind and regain my interest. And perhaps the most enjoyable moments of the play, full of a sad and campy beauty, are the scenes where the three characters go to the back of the stage and sing ‘Heroes’ (David Bowie) or ‘No More Heroes’ (The Stranglers) like in a karaoke, under a red or blue light.
Summary: Bold experimental staging of a narrative text, full of pop references, light irony and social critique.
Bühnenfassung Bérénice Hebenstreit und Andrea Zaiser mit Barbi Marković
Regie: Bérénice Hebenstreit
Bühne und Kostüme: Mira König
Musik: Gilbert Handler
Licht: Mauritius Luczynski
Dramaturgie: Andrea Zaiser
Regie- und Dramaturgieassistenz: Kerstin Hatze
Schauspielerinnen: Katharina Klar, Nadine Quittner, Seyneb Saleh
Fotocredit: © Robert Polster / Volkstheater