Swing: Dance to the Right premiered at Werk X weeks after a coalition government was formed in Austria between the conservatives and the right-wing populist party. With eerie smoothness and ease, Nicholas van Diepen’s dancing moves perfectly embody the self-complacency that has driven the recent turn to the right in Austrian and European politics.
Die Zehn Gebote commemorates the work of the Polish film-maker Krzysztof Kieślowski (1941-1996). Within the span of three hours, it seeks to enact the stories which compose Dekalog, a series of ten films directed by him and broadcast on Polish television in 1989. Stephan Kimmig takes up the challenge of bringing this rich material onto the stage by reducing each story into an abstract of itself, into, as it were, a postcard —a picture and a couple of lines— from that vast cinematographic country. In this theatrical rendition, the different plot lines take place simultaneously and are intertwined with each other, thus conveying the sense of unity in Kieślowski’s universe, which is full of recurring themes and characters.
Each story deals with the breaking of one of the Ten Commandments, and questions the values of Judaeo-Christian ethics as well as our own. This preoccupation with morality, stressed in the prologue, is explored theatrically in different ways throughout the play. In many scenes, actors do not face each other when speaking, but their body language indicates that characters are doing so. The disruption of the natural spatial orientation opens up their intimacy to the audience, who thus have to mediate the relationships between them. The divide between stage and represented world is furthered heightened in scenes where actors share a physical space which characters do not. We see a man, his wife and his lover interacting with each other in two superposed fictional spaces, forming an image which visually synthesises the conflict of their story.
The only object on the stage is the cabin of a crashed lorry, which the actors can climb up and down. It is a fragment of the broken world they inhabit, which can still be utilised by them in different ways, if not for the purpose it was originally intended. The stage is surrounded by opaque translucent flats, which are lit from behind with either a cold or a warm white light. In the proscenium, there is a row of five chairs on each side, where the actors sit and become the spectators of their own story and those of others. This further contributes to dissolving the fictional wall between the actors and audience, making the questions raised by their lives and actions all the more relevant and urgent for us today.
Summary: The ambitious staging of an extensive cinematographic work, which puts ethical questions at the centre by experimenting with montage techniques and the use of space.
DIE ZEHN GEBOTE
von Krzysztof Kieslowski und Krzysztof Piesiewicz
mit Gábor Biedermann, Peter Fasching, Anja Herden, Lukas Holzhausen, Nadine Quittner, Seyneb Saleh, Jutta Schwarz, Jan Thümer, Leonhard Baumgartner/Oskar Salomonowitz, Johanna Baumgartner/Maila Otto
Regie: Stephan Kimmig
Bühne: Oliver Helf
Kostüme: Anja Rabes
Musik: Michael Verhovec
Licht: Paul Grilj
Dramaturgie: Roland Koberg
Fotokredit: © http://www.lupispuma.com / Volkstheater
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
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