The Asylum Seeker in the Reality Show: “Gutmenschen” at Volkstheater Wien

Yael Ronen and Ensemble expose the arbitrariness and flippancy with which Austrian authorities decide upon asylum applications. They lash out against the absurdity of prevailing attitudes towards refugees, as well as the helplessness of those who try to oppose them.

Maryam (Birgit Stöger) is about to host a reality show in her own flat. Her place is full of cameras everywhere. We see her red sofa and dinner table projected above and below the stage from different angles. Shortly before the show starts, Maryam finds out that her cousin Yousef’s asylum application has been rejected. Yousef (Yousif Ahmad) has been living with her for 3 years, but now he has two weeks to leave the country and go back to Iraq. It is a grim situation, which I could hardly imagine myself being capable of laughing about. But that is exactly what Gutmenschen manages to do.

Gutmenschen_Klar_Klein_cwww.lupispuma.com_Volkstheater-1620x1080

Yousef’s  friends and relatives dissect and expose the details and procedures of his deportation. At the same time, we see their own impressions and reactions being recorded under bright white neon lights, as in a live-stream operation room. Ute (Jutta Schwarz) is horrified to know that —at her parents’ request— Yousef has taught Arabic to her granddaughter, and seems to be relieved by the news. Klara (Katharina Klar) stands on the table and sings a melodramatic song addressing right-wing voters. The lyrics are ridiculous and superficial, and mock the isolation and self-righteousness of the Linksliberale.

Yousef cannot play his part in his own story. When he enters the stage, he is taken away by a guard with a red mask, and kept in custody in the changing room, because he does not have a working permit. At the end of the play, Yousef is allowed to be on the stage for 30 seconds, without talking to or interacting with anyone. He walks silently from the back of the stage towards the exit, looking each of the actors intently in the eye. After that, the lights go down and the play ends with a note of deep sadness.

Summary: A daring tragicomedy about a difficult subject, which disparages both right- and left-wingers alike.


GUTMENSCHEN
von Yael Ronen und Ensemble

Regie: Yael Ronen
Bühne: Wolfgang Menardi
Kostüme: Amit Epstein
Musik: Yaniv Fridel und Ofer (OJ) Shabi
Video: Jan Zischka
Licht: Jennifer Kunis
Dramaturgie: Veronika Maurer und Niels Bormann
mit Yousif Ahmad (Yousef), Knut Berger (Schnute), Katharina Klar (Klara), Sebastian Klein (Elias Sabry), Jutta Schwarz (Ute), Paul Spittler (Moritz), Birgit Stöger (Maryam Sabry) mit
Fotos: © http://www.lupispuma.com / Volkstheater

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