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Route 3 of the Spieltriebe 3-Festival – Mission:London, Fragile!, Cycling for Malawi

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Route 3 of the Spieltriebe 3-Festival – Mission:London, Fragile!, Cycling for Malawi
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Between Identity and Promises of Luck

by Christian Rakow

Osnabrück, September 4th 2009. "Have you come from far away?" the person sitting next to me asks before the last play of the evening. "Well, yes". "And what do you think of the route?" My hesitation, the professional thoughtfulness of a critic motivates her: "Well people in Osnabrück have the feeling that there's a lot going on here". The feeling isn't wrong. The event that the Osnabrück Theatre planned for its hundredth anniversary is immaculate. You move between the town centre and the performance venues on the old British barracks, always guided by a whole team of friendly instructors.

Theatre folk have gathered: many Dutch voices can be heard. The international alignment has obviously given the festival another boost in both attention and audience reception in comparison to Spieltriebe 2 (The second premiere festival in 2007). The festival begins for all five routes at 5 p.m. in the main theatre by the market square with "Mission:London". What's more it begins with a surprise. Behind a closed iron curtain Dietmar Nieder, in the role of a cramped employee, speaks the prose text of a man in a lift from Heiner Müller's "Der Auftrag" from 1980. Such a brazen prologue for this rather featherweight farce about the Bulgarian Embassy in London?

Prostitution on all levels
The evening begins with a reflection on the post-communism situation. Once again we hear the story of a man who is expecting an assignment from "Number One", and then not only leaves the correct floor behind him on his journey in the lift, but virtually the entire Eastern bloc as well. In Müllers text the man arrives at the Peruvian highland, in the Wasteland. He catches sight of some children doing handicraft and through them expects the awakening of the "Other", of someone who can release the Mid-European to propel the history of humanity to the next round.

Stage director Sebastian Hirn wishes to place the stage version of Alek Popov's novel "Mission London", which he created with dramaturge Jürgen Popig into this releasing scenario. Avoiding the highland savanna of course. For the steppe has long since arrived, in the midst of the finance metropolis. To be more precise: it is in the Bulgarian Embassy in London, where the newly arrived Ambassador (Dietmar Nieder) has to sort out a huge mess: His cook (Steffen Gangloff) illegally deals with muscovy ducks; his cleaning lady (Sophie Lutz) prostitutes herself in an escort-service as a double of Lady Di.

When the Ambassador wants to contact the British upper class in order to spur Bulgarian self-marketing, he gets into the hands of this doppelganger service who promise him an appearance of Queen Elizabeth for the ceremonial act. Notice: in capitalism prostitution exist on all levels. The whole arrangement could serve as turbulent excessive idiocy in the tradition of British TV comedy, even when in detail the dialogue goes far beyond the slanted plot.

From the ground floor of the house of Europe to the cellar

However, stage director Sebastian Hirn wants it to be more serious as in the spirit of Heiner Müller. On a stage that he has arranged himself, which looks like a simplified version of Marthaler/Viebrock - rooms with its wooden paneling and tables, he calmly choreographs. Only now and then slapstick hints hit in (coitus escapades) and Laurenz Leky, the high-pressure actor of the ensemble, is allowed to add some turbo installations and shoot a plucked duck into the audience.

"Fragile!" by Tena Stivicic, photo copyright: Klaus Fröhlich

When it is finally time for the party, Thomas Schneider livens it up as a tottering and grumbling Queen of England. Then follows the jamboree: from amidst dense stage fog Nicole Averkamp whips after Agitprop: "We have compromised socialism. Now we are your slaves and have to show you our cunts for a Euro." This message could just as well have been the motto and punch line for Tena Štivičić's drama "Fragile!", which was then subsequently played in the barracks hall. If "Mission:London" was in some way located on the ground floor of the house of Europe, then we now proceed to the cellar.

The view into the higher floors is fully obscured. "I have no use for dream dancers" the Bulgarian club owner Michi (Johannes Bussler) says. He far more needs bar girls like the Croatian girl Mila or barkeepers like the Serbian Marko (Steffen Gangloff). She will slip into the soft-porn business, he allows himself criminal involvement.