How Sunil Narine turns the bowl


by Esther Slevogt

Berlin, October 17, 2019. A frenzied collage is projected onto the enormous stage structure that Andreas Achenbach placed on the revolving stage of the Volksbühne for Claudia Bauer's Heiner Müller adaptation "Germania": on one side a kind of hall facade with isolated window openings. When it turns, a nested room system becomes visible, with Heiner Müller's proverbial new "fuck cells", for example, toilets and a bar. Over the course of the evening, chamber-play scenes from Müller's two collage-like German dramas "Germania Tod in Berlin "and" Germania 3. Ghosts on the Dead Man "and transferred to the facade in oversize by the live camera.

Picture arch of horror

The first "Germania" piece is still written from the perspective of division: an attempt to use mythically charged images to trace the history of ideas how the two ugly post-war republics FRG and GDR became what they are. "Germania 3" was written after the fall of the Wall and Müller did not complete the piece. In it he undertakes to capture the history of history falling into banality, which the change of epoch in 1989/90 also meant for him, as a story of loss in pictures. This also implies Müller's declaration of impotence as an author in the face of the new circumstances.

The Germania house: (above) Emma Rönnebeck, Amal Keller, Sebastian Grünewald; (below) orchestra, male choir © Julian Röder

Claudia Bauer took these two pieces apart and reassembled them for her "Germania" evening at the Volksbühne in Berlin. And so it all begins with this frenzied collage in which Rebecca Riedel has processed motifs from German history into a martial arc of horror in a style somewhere between John Heartfield and Jonathan Meese. Wars, chaos, soldiers with steel helmets. City Palace and Palace of the Republic flash. Stalin, Hitler, archaic scenes from the Nibelungs (although one sometimes believes to recognize the Dutch right-wing radical Geert Wilders in Siegfried). An orchestra plays Wagnereskes, which was freshly composed by Mark Scheibe for this evening, who underlay the evening with a multi-layered soundtrack. Because the staging doesn't make a mess, but opens up the theater's very large instrument case with a live orchestra on stage, male choir, puppet show and live video.

Traces of the German misery

Right at the beginning, three singers in red evening gowns sing the scene "Siegfried a Jew from Poland" from "Germania 3". In it, Heiner Müller made an associative bow from the mythical German hero Siegfried, who was treacherously murdered by Hagen, and the left-wing politician Rosa Luxemburg, who was also treacherously murdered by the right-wing Freicorps in January 1919 - two key events with apocalyptic consequences in the German-German civil war. This mirrored figure of thought is typical of Müller's way of working (and especially the Germania pieces), with which he adheres to the traces of German misery and German division through the millennia. How it all started with the hostile German brothers and sisters, and why the Germans never managed to turn their story around happily. These Germans, who since Napoleon have always seen unity and freedom as nothing more than foreign rule and new terror.

The thalidomide wolf child BRD was just born here in the Führerbunker: Amal Keller, Zenghao Yang, Sebastian Grünewald, Friederike Harmsen, Rowan Hellier, Narine Yeghiyan © Julian Röder

It would probably have been important to decipher Müller's not self-explanatory image of Siegfried-Rosa-Luxemburg for those who are now living and theater-viewers and to locate them in today. Instead of Müller's, often succumbing to metaphorics slipping into the torrent of history. Systematically analyzing images and questioning them for the present instead of overlaying new images. In the "Siegfried" scene, however, it is difficult to even understand the lyrics being sung. Just as later Germania figures (like the worker Hilse) are no longer decipherable for today.

Stalingrad as a puppet theater

There are many good reasons to play Müller's pieces again right now: where the ghosts of the German past rise again from the morass. In the meantime, we live in the eternal presence of our timelines, where our awareness of history only extends from one shit storm to the next - (an agony that Müller predicted in a famous conversation with Alexander Kluge, which the evening alludes to). Someone who, in these times, which have become so blind to historical contexts, exposes large lines again with a deep drilling, would therefore be urgently needed.

Sebastian Grünewald, Emma Rönnebeck, Mathis Reinhardt, Lina Mareike Wolfram, Malick Bauer, Katja Gaudard, Zenghao Yang, Sebastian Ryser, Amal Keller, Peter Jordan, Paula Kober © Julian Röder

At the Volksbühne, Claudia Bauer starts off well, with eclectic force and comedic sharpness. But soon the evening is lost in an increasingly slow flowing maelstrom of images that hardly changes its pitch. We meet Hitler and Stalin as bad guys in the history of history - although Katja Gaudard's fragile and grotesquely refined portrayal of Hitler also has strong moments. In general, many individual scenes are of great intensity and pictorial power: if, for example, the Stalingrad scene is created in the puppet show, in which two rattled, hardened and starving skeleton soldiers, smirking, approach a boy with the intention of eating him: a fat, delicious toddler with steel helmet and Wehrmacht uniform. There is a whole squad of great actors on stage: led by Peter Jordan, Katja Gaudard, Paula Kober and Sebastian Grünewald.

So it keeps flashing what the evening could have been - if Bauer had tackled the subject more analytically instead of being maneuvered to the brink of agony by a HitlerStalinBloodWarNaziCommunismHeinerMüller bliss.

after Heiner Müller
Director: Claudia Bauer, set Andreas Achenbach, costumes: Patricia Talacko, composition and musical direction: Mark Scheibe, accompaniment: Hans-Jürgen Osmers, video: Rebecca Riedel, lighting: Hans-Hermann Schulze, live camera: Nicolas Krell, sound effects and Soundscapes: Roman Canon, Dramaturgy: Stephan Wetzel.
With: Malick Bauer, Katja Gaudard, Sebastian Grünewald, Peter Jordan, Amal Keller, Paula Kober, Mathis Reinhard, Emma Rönnebeck.
Puppeteers: Sebastian Ryser, Lina Mareike Wolfram, Zenghao Yang.
Singers: Friedericke Harmsen, Rowan Heller, Narine Yeghiyan.
Male choir: Matthias Bade, Stefan Bailleu, Holger Bentert, Christoff Hoff, Galil Jamal, Caspar James, Manuel Klein, Peter Krumow, Alexander Lust, Djordje Papke, Jens Pokora, Till Schulze, Helge Witt.
Orchestra: Sascha Friedl / Avner Geiger, Antje Thierbach / Özge Inci, Jens Thoben / Julius von Engelbach, Damir Bacikin, Halleyn Polo, Samuel Stoll, Elena Kakaliagou, Morris Kliphuis, Finn Vesper, Johannes Lauer, Daniel Eichholz, Anna Viechtl, Magdalena Zimmerer , Anna Maria Steinkogler, Hans-Jürgen Osmers, Wijchiech Garbowski, Olga Holdorff, Hayley Wolfe / Mia Bodet, Magda Makowska / Michael Yokas / Mari Sawada, Catherine Aglibuth / Cecilia Ferron / Marjin Seiffert, Miriam Götting, / Nikolaus Schlierf, Zoé Cartier / Junko Fujii, Natalie Plöger / Daniel Kamien.
Premiere on October 17, 2019
Duration: 3 hours, one break


Review Circular

"A lack of courage and the will to express" is from Ulrich Seidler's point of view in the Berlin newspaper (19.10.2019) not the problem of this staging, but "its untidy intellectual and dramaturgical sewerage". That Heiner Müller is now being played, "the first and highest of the castorf Volksbühne's house spirits", and that the whole thing takes place in a two-story lightweight container à la Bert Neumann (stage: Andreas Auerbach), on whose corrugated iron back wall the general hysteria in video close-up rolls his eyes ", this critic tears open all the healed Volksbühne separation wounds".

"It is remarkable that Bauer is taking on the challenge of telling a lot about the present with these" Germania "pieces," writes Christine Wahl in Berliner Daily mirror (19.10.2019) "Because Müller's texts, carried by historical awareness and symbolic condensation, sound rather strange to today's ears, which tend to be geared towards the present." From the point of view of the critic, the director succeeds "on the one hand (...) in a far-reaching depathization". Compared to many other Müller evenings, "Germania" sounds comparatively modern in the Volksbühne. "The price for this, however, is that this sound hardly knows any differentiation. The evening rushes over the Volksbühne as a dark, grotesque historical highlight sequence. With a high number of directors' ideas, but without any new insight."

"Bauer's direction replaces mental clarity and closer study of the subject with the joy of generously generated effects," writes Peter Laudenbach in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (19.10.2019). In "Bauer's surface directing", from Müller's bloody grotesque, from the point of view of this critic, "only harmless Grand Guignol numbers with dangling additions to the trashy furnishing revue remain. Hitler and Stalin, recognizable by their different beards, lie together in the bathtub and pour blood out of gasoline cans over the heads like in the old Harald Schmidt show. Those are the highlights. "

"Claudia Bauer has the stamina and the necessary scenic imagination for the artistic demands of this horror chronicle," writes Irene Bazinger in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (October 19, 2019. "With the extension of the circus music tragedy, she makes it appear even more distant and abysmal in order to present it to the audience as clearly and differentiated as possible. But she does not teach, she rather amuses and provokes. This is how she succeeds in creating Heiner Müller's historical dramas as a challenge for the theater to revive: dust-free and stimulating. "

Claudia Bauer plundered the texts of the two Müller plays, "picked out fragments and scenes, mixed them up, put them into a big scene with wit and recklessness and sometimes childish arrogance," writes Bernd Noack Mirror online (October 18, 2019). That is "as funny as it is dreary, as colorful as it is flat, as confused as pompous, hanging somewhere between commedia dell'arte and stand-up, between heavy thought and nonsense." In the best GDR fashion, "the Bavarian woman serves her kettle of colored food, in which the soup made from all sorts of theatrical ingredients steams and simmers and finally boils over. The menu is then served hot-cold, that is to say: really decide which thematic flavor she wants because actually offers, Claudia Bauer can not. "

"Perhaps the difficult, cumbersome thinker and playwright, who is being reanimated many times in memory of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago, can only be approached in this way on today's stages," said Ute Büsing in Inforadio from the RBB (18.10.2019) - "with an exuberant playful approach that tries to translate as much as possible of all the clever, cryptic snippets of thought into pictures, choirs, performances and acts. Materialistically, rather harmless zombie potpourri by Claudia Bauer - probably not at all. "

"Müller's language had a tendency towards the oracle, discovered the fascist, the Deutschtümelnde in many attitudes of everyday life", writes Katrin Bettina Müller in the taz (October 21, 2019). "For a long time it seemed like archaeological work, digging into what was hidden. In the meantime, however, a lot of it, such as anti-Semitism and xenophobia, is once again broad and vicious on the surface.