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Theatre Journal 53.3 (2001) 485-488
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Allee Der Kosmonauten
Eine Unbekannte Aus Der Seine
Merhaba Und TschüSS
Allee Der Kosmonauten. By Sasha Waltz. Schaubühne at Lehniner Platz. 24 September 2000.
Eine Unbekannte Aus Der Seine. By Ödön von Horváth. Schaubühne at Lehniner Platz. 16 September 2000.
Merhaba Und TschüSS. Based on Hello And Goodbye by Athol Fugard. German-Turkish adaptation by Hülya Karci and Yüksel Yolcu. Tiyatron (Turkish Theatre), Berlin. 13 October 2000.
Berlin's new status as German capital and city of the world has its analogue in the vogue for theatre featuring German producers with international experience and performers from across the globe. While indebted to a German tradition of dance theatre, from Kurt Joost and Mary Wigman in the 1920s to Pina Bausch today, younger director/choreographers like Sasha Waltz offer a lighter, but no less pointed, engagement with the interface between dance and theatre, Germany and the world. They also represent a new generation and a new direction for one of Berlin's best known theatres. Under Peter Stein in the 1970s and his successors Luc Bondy and Karl-Michael Grüber in the 1980s, the Schaubühne earned fame for new, sometimes radical, interpretations of classical European drama. Under the new director, Thomas Ostermeier and his colleagues, among them directors Waltz and Barbara Frey, the accent has shifted to contemporary drama, including translations of new British writers like the late Sarah Kane and Mark Ravenhill, and to dance theatre pieces that also explore the contours of intimacy and alienation. Due attention should be paid to the Schaubühne's thoroughly contemporary and choreographed productions of localized drama, from Waltz's Allee der Kosmonauten, set as the title implies in Marzahn, East Berlin, to new transformations of older modern plays such as the dark comedy Eine Unbekannte aus der Seine (1934) by the Austro-Hungarian Ödön von Horváth (known for Tales from the Vienna Woods), set in Paris, where the author died in exile (1938), but placed in a contemporary condo development that Berliners can see under construction everywhere in the city. Finally, Merhaba und Tschüss (a Turkish-German adaptation of Hello and Goodbye) at a much more modest theatre provides local evidence for the everyday globalization of Berlin, while at the same time showing, more directly than the international work at the Schaubühne, its incomplete and uneven development in the city.
Allee der Kosmonauten has an international cast but is firmly located in East Berlin, where the heroic socialist street name belies the sorry state of the once model high-rise projects of the former Worker-and-Peasant state, now home to many of the underemployed. Despite the title, this is no naturalistic portrayal of proletarian alienation in the manner of Franz Xaver Kroetz but rather something called a "dance soap." Where the 1996 production relied on dancers and costume (in the distinctive unfashion of the late East Germany) to set the scene, this new staging draws on the 1999 TV version and uses asymmetrically placed banks of monitors to display images of homey interiors and the changing city-scape around the old sofa and improvised table (wooden planks initially supported by two dancers hidden under a pink tablecloth) that designate the living space in the long narrow stage in site "A" of the Schaubühne's three infinitely adaptable black boxes. These monitors also project pictures of pathos along with irony, old-fashioned melodrama along with postmodern coolness, against which the dancers move (video by Elliot Caplan). Although they begin with a certain naturalistic allusion to this environment and quote it at intervals as a kind of touchstone, the allusion is stylized from the outset, as the dancers move with a heightened frenzy to show the exhaustion of the working stiff out of sync with ticking clocks on the various monitors. This moment is playful, even comical, but later variations on the TV soap opera, such as men slapping women against the flimsy stage/apartment...