This rehearsal review is about beginnings in medias res and therefore must begin with what was there before any actor, any character appeared in the eye and mind of the audience, but what cuts to the heart of the play itself: the stage. Set designer Horst Vogelgesang had created a seemingly simple flight of stairs, stretching across the entire width of Ingolstadt’s main stage: a monotonous monster pretending to be of the same stone as the theatre itself. The walls of the auditorium had been crystallized into their most literally concrete form: the height of each step was determined by the height of each concrete slab in the wall. This materially moved the theatre center stage, and one reviewer aptly referred to the set design as the “speaking stage” (Anja Witzke, Donaukurier, 26/03/12). The basic concept for playing this stage was that all actors would be sitting on the top of the stairs and would enter and exit from there. The effect: characters stepping up and down on the stairs caught between two audiences with the actor-audience like back benchers supporting the characters center-stage with their presence, waiting themselves to enter and influence the debate in person. [End Page 539]
07/02/12. In the first rehearsal, after the concept talk and read through for 1.1, Sascha Römisch, Rolf Germeroth and Johanna Schall sat on chairs in front of the stairs to clarify the use of the stage and the situation between Camillo and Archidamus. Johanna explained that the entire ensemble would enter upstage from behind the top of the stairs in one line and then sit down on the top stair. Only the actors playing Archidamus and Camillo would remain standing and begin their scene in character. The circumstances of this and all the other beginnings, Johanna stressed, was really what she was looking for. In this instance it might possibly be a light change, but what they really needed to do as a company was to find a rule for movement, impetus and intention for the entire evening.
They began by reading the scene. Rolf was finishing his first turn when Johanna interrupted to cut Archidamus’s last word: “bemerken” (see). She wanted the Bohemian to be as labored as possible. To sketch a clearer picture of how she imagined the character, she related Enver Hodscha’s effort to cover all of Albania with tiny atomic shelters and the years it took him to accomplish the project. This was certainly an unusual way of laying the foundation stones of a topography of Shakespeare’s Bohemia-by-the-sea. Listening to this Bohemian had to be an arduous and alienating task: Rolf was asked to create an Archidamus whose effect on his on- and off-stage audiences was wonder—wonder in fact whether it would take him years to complete a thought. Rolf thus developed a stammer and tested how long each uncomfortable pause would carry even in the most unexpected places.
This had several effects: perhaps most importantly the attention was directed to the act of locution itself. It accordingly problematized one of the play’s central motifs right from the beginning of the performance: the act and art of speaking, of putting things seen, imagined or observed, into phonetic utterances. It was a particularly clever move with respect to a German audience, who are not...