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Route 4 of the Spieltriebe 3 Festival – Journey to the Inside of the Room, Shakespeare is Dead

The most modern question by far

by Christian Rakow

Osnabrück, September 5th 2009. Today, on the second day of the festival, I have finally opened my official "Europe Starter-Kit" (it was sealed tightly). Inside it was a Albanian proverb: "If you don't have a companion, take your walking stick into consideration." That it's not so simple became evident in the first play of my route today: "Journey to the Inside of the Room" by the successful Polish author Martin Walczak, performed in the Emma-Theatre. The room is by no means a nice walk, but a painful trip to the depths of a psychotic, lonely soul. The girlfriend of the thirty-something protagonist Haut called Elka, has eloped with his best friend Gold. Now of all times when the long-term student wanted to move into a flat in Warsaw with her.

So far the plot is laid out as an interchangeable triangular conflict with a tragic edge. But Walczak takes pleasure in the familiar form. While Haut barricades himself inside a mysterious, empty flat, his senses for the outside world slowly shadow over. The single-apartment turns into a room of consciousness, in which it will soon be impossible to tell if the guests that appear in sequence (his parents, Elka and Gold, the sinister landlord "from outside") are real visitors or already projections.

Emperor's child before a standard lamp
It takes a little time until Marie Bues' production has reached the right company temperature for this feverish schizophrenic drama. Shortenings would have been necessary, especially in the frame story, in which a personified curtain (with Mary-Morgan-Look: Verena Fitz) somewhat intrusively debates Walczak's theatrical expression. As soon as the three glittering chain curtains between which the play takes place disappear and allows us to see a musty brown armchair and standard lamp (stage: Lena Sofuoglu), the circumstances change. Haut, who Dominik Lindhorst develops with growing strength, doubles over and then pulls himself together and in the next moment plays a crazy Nero, an emperor's child with a stubborn countenance and tucked up knees.

In the front: Dominik Lindhorst, photo copyright: Klaus Fröhlich

His only contact person is a personified flight of fancy: Judas (as an erratic clown with afro-hair and tight Freddy Mercury trousers: Oliver Meskendahl). His ex-friends, Saskia Boden as Elka and Friedrich Witte as Gold, meet him as Marthaler-figures, in seventies chic. In the end he kills both. "On the ruins of the outside we build a gigantic inside" Haut triumphs for the last time before he collapses.

Already the introduction is an encyclopedic storm
Less than an hour later, Paul Pourveur's radically cut narrative play that also takes place within the ruins of the inner self called "Shakespeare is dead – get over it!" is performed in the disused roundhouse. The inner conflict, as the Flemish Pourveur conveys on the level of postmodern theory, can't be thought of without recognition of the pluralised discourse-world, the polyphony of ideologies and life outlines. Anna, as we discover, is a stage actress, worships Shakespeare and primarily performs at his 540 minute long royal dramas. William is an opponent of globalisation (from Naomi Klein's mercy) and loves Anna. Their love could be something that belongs to them, or is it just a repetition of how Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway loved each other, or how you find it in Jean-Luc-Godard films?

Pourveur attempts a wide split when he permanently confronts his characters with more or less popular miss-matched elements from political, economical and cultural spheres. The introduction is already an encyclopedic storm. How come Thatcher and Reagan read Milton Friedman instead of Milton's "Paradise Lost"? Why is market meanwhile God and not politics? Why do you now say "The price is everything" instead of "everything has its price?". Within seconds the discourse-orbit is glowing between theories of attack and drama history.

The strongest headwind against tradition since a long time
From here on Pourveur develops his love story with the sad melancholy of Milan Kundera, full of time leaps, repetitions, subtle displacements of meaning and a lot of humour. "Lying in the arms of a woman is the most precious experience for a man, but with you I have to share this experience with Shakespeare" William says to Anna. "How can I survive the most precious place-namely your breasts – with all the tradition between them?" For a long time there wasn't such a strong resistance against the alleged time-transcendence of Shakespeare's work and person beyond the likes of René Pollesch. For a long time modernism wasn't seen as a discontinuous, unwritable process for the historic succession.

photo copyright: Klaus Fröhlich

Pourveur's play surely contains plenty of risks for a production. On one hand there is the danger of falling into plain recital theatre, on the other there is the risk of forcing up an emotional wave. However, director Nina Mattenklotz (who won the Hamburg talent-prize in 2008) and the fabulous Osnabrück ensemble manage to stay clear of those traps. Sometimes relaxed as if in a run-through rehearsal, at other times full of sting and physique, they create the postmodern partnership-mosaic. Only seldomly do they play more elaborately (for example when William and Alexis, a stage director and rival for Anna's favour, duel by means of eating whipped cream).

You should recognise them by their record collection
An "asynchronism", it is repeatedly said, determines the unhappy fate of this uneven couple that rubs each other up between Shakespeare and anti-globalisation demos and finally die separately. It is an "asynchronism" of discourses and their mental effects. Who, like William, sees Stratford-upon-Avon as marketing Mekka, isn't necessarily suitable for romantic walks. The stage is accordingly cool: a white, narrowing wooden alley, where slogans have been painted on the walls for example "Nature gave me self-love" (stage: Julia Zippel/Anabel Fröhlich). At the core of the play stage director Mattenklotz eases the pressure of the room with a song: "Where is my mind" the Pixies sing (and the actors with them). It is the crucial question of this festival route, the most modern question by far.

By the way, you should recognise them by their record collection! "It's only when I lose myself in someone else, then I find myself" Depeche Mode sing along to the asynchronism of the lovers. "Für immer und dich" (Forever and you) Rio Reiser adds. It is just as cool as intensive and cleverly thought out. Mattenklotz doesn't spread her opinion with her devices, but looks for the popular comment where it seems lightened. And whoever is able to intermix Chris de Burgh's "Lady in Red" in a panpipe-version (!) into a play, should in future have the world at their feet.

Reise ins Innere des Zimmers (Journey to the Inside of the Room)
by Michal Walczak
From the Polish version by Doreen Daume
German premiere
Stage direction: Marie Bues, stage design: Lena Sofuoglu, costume design: Floor Savelkoul, dramaturgy: Tobias Vogt. Starring: Dominik Lindhorst, Friedrich Witte, Saskia Boden, Verena Fitz, Oliver Meskendahl, Jan Schreiber, Thomas Schneider.

More about Michal Walczak in our biographical guide.

Portrait of Journey into the inside of the room here.

Information on the theatrical landscape of Poland from a report by Thomas Irmer.


Shakespeare is dead – get over it!
by Paul Pourveur
From the flemish version by Uwe Dethier
German premier
Stage director: Nina Mattenklotz, stage design:Juli Zippel, costume design: Annika Kerstin Träger, dramaturgy: Armin Breidenbach. Starring: Saskia Boden, Andrea Casabianchi, Britta Firmer, Oliver Meskendahl, Friedrich Witte.

More about Paul Pourveur in our biographical guide.

Portrait of Shakespeare is dead – get over it here.

Information on the theatrical landscape of Belgium from a report by Georg Weinand.

Route plan


Comments (1)Add Comment
written by Louisa, Quackenbrück, 08. September 2009
Ich habe diese Seite erst kürzlich entdeckt, weil mich Freunde, mit denen ich seit Jahren ins Theater gehe, darauf aufmerksam gemacht haben.
Ich bin wirklich beeindruckt von der geballten Kompetenz, die mir hier entgegenblickt und fühlte mich super begleitet. Habe die gleichen Stücke wie Herr Rakow gesehen und finde auch, dass er das toll hier beschreibt. Aber auch die ganzen Länderübersichten und Autorenporträts - da fühlt man sich bei uns auf dem platten Land, sonst bloßdurchs Fernsehen oder den Mittellandkanal mit der Welt verbunden, direkt im Zentrum des Geschehens und an die europäische Kulturlandschaft angeschlossen. Danke!

Hinweis der Redaktion:
Entschuldigen Sie, Louisa, dass die Veröffentlichung etwas gedauert hat – wir sind noch etwas müde vom Festival... normalerweise geht das schneller!
Viele Grüße,
die Redaktion

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