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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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    Puppet show in the Berliner Ensemble: When God discusses religion with Karl Marx

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    Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein huddle around in the back rows, in front Karl Marx hangs on the hook – with a kind old face, ready to perform. The illustrious cast will not be fully used in the following 90 minutes. But as accessories for the resonant space that the puppeteer Suse Wächter promises to open up in her new production at the Berliner Ensemble, it looks good.

    “Brecht’s Ghosts” is the name of the cheerful zombie show that – originally planned as a summer theater event – is now unfolding with a slight delay on the front meters of the main stage near the ramp.

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    It is an evening that, quite literally, has theater history breathing down its neck: the performance is in front of the (curtain) stage set of the “Threepenny Opera”, the Brecht blockbuster par excellence or even the “ghost of this theatre”, like the man in the work overall and the cigar in the corner of the mouth soon reasoned out between Wächter’s experienced puppeteer fingers.

    “Ghosts are what is present but absent,” the miniature BB continues the thread of ghosts, naming the leitmotif of the evening. Of course, following up on what is absent – ​​what has gotten stuck somewhere in the darkrooms on this side of the spotlight narrative, unresolved, pushed aside, undigested – is in principle an undertaking that generates knowledge; especially with the dialectic entertainer Brecht.

    Applied dialectics in easy listening format

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    “You, dear audience, should learn to think in terms of contradictions,” warns the Brecht puppet over the ramp – and arouses anticipation of a kind of brain fitness that many people should be very welcome, especially in the theater, where things are currently mostly quite clear .

    But: It won’t stay the way it is. That is in Brecht’s poem “In Praise of Dialectics” and it also applies – unfortunately, as one has to say in this case – to Wächter’s evening. There are a few whimsical skirmishes between God and Karl Marx: two touchingly old sofa chatters who are physiognomically the same down to their tousled hair. No, God replies to Marx’s bon mot about religion as “the opium of the people”: he considers this comparison to be completely inappropriate. “I would rather describe myself as LSD for the people”. The scene ends with a heartfelt fraternal kiss.

    Ernst Dwarf (doll), Suse Wächter, Angst Dwarf (doll), Hans Jochen Menzel, Cynic Dwarf (doll), Martin Klingeberg.
    © Jörg Brueggemann

    Finally, there is applied dialectics in easy-listening format when a small Henry Ford puppet intones the “Praise of Communism” and calculates the royalties that flow into the account of the Brechter heirs in a very real-capitalist manner: 24 cents per second. Or when Margaret Thatcher – a particularly beautiful ghost doll example with a neat little cap over the white-boned skull – rededicates that “Praise of Communism” to “Praise of Capitalism” without any significant effort to rewrite it.

    In general, the ghosts of Suse Wächter, who is supported by Hans-Jochen Menzel and the live musicians Martin Klingeberg and Matthias Trippner, scurry past the surface in a harmless and fleeting manner rather than nesting somewhere really dangerous. The séance with the house spirit from Schiffbauerdamm is reminiscent of a cabaret program with more or less charming numbers.

    The Brecht student and longtime BE director Manfred Wekwerth, who as president of the Academy of Arts in the GDR was also a member of the Central Committee of the SED and appears here with a red sock over the skull of a death puppet, administers a mini-dose of epic Brecht theater theory .

    A Pavarotti doll belts out Brecht’s famous children’s hymn beautifully. And to the praise of “Lenin” by Hanns Eisler and Johannes R. Becher, which older East Germans know from the Ernst Busch interpretation of tiresome flag roll calls, the sung man rises from the mausoleum bier, slightly crumpled, but in terms of content befitting his status: “He touched the sleep of the world”.

    The “Solidarity Song” is also sung – repeatedly. With him ends Slatan Dudow’s film “Kuhle Wampe”, in which Brecht worked as a screenwriter and at the beginning of which an unemployed person throws himself out of the window: a scene that Suse Wächter reenacts with a member of a particularly small puppet formation – the “proletarians”. .

    The social question that “Kuhle Wampe” deals with is “still as topical today” as it was then, claims the evening – and is of course right in principle. But that’s exactly why one would have liked to have had something more precise and differentiated, especially in this thread.

    Another famous zombie conjurer, Goethe’s “Magician’s Apprentice”, has to state at the end: “The spirits I called, I can’t get rid of now”. This is different with “Brecht’s Ghosts” in BE. They quickly retreat to their crypts.

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    Source: Tagesspiegel

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