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Andrea Breth at the Berliner Ensemble: More strange than wonderful

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A strange evening. There is a lot of dancing, humming, strutting, trilling, quoting. Six actors and actresses and a dozen musicians and choristers celebrate a scenic all sorts in the Berliner Ensemble under the title “I dreamed the night”.

The program booklet notes that the director Andrea Breth made her selection “from over 500 literary texts, music and finds from the Internet” for this “drama with music”.

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The extraordinary should become the wonderful here. That’s why Corinna Kirchhoff, as one of the protagonists, sits on a mustard-gold sofa next to a stuffed white Spitz, who can also chirp, wearing a fur stole and a lady’s hat.

Later she also lies on a suitcase that is moved across the stage and tells us before she disappears back into the wings that she is probably a magnate of the “shoelace economy”.

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This goes on for three hours. Occasionally a few piano bars by Robert Schumann and Heine verses sound very soft and melancholic, then “Gute Nacht” by Franz Schubert or something in a minor key by Edvard Grieg.

The Nachttraum title set to music by Brahms comes from a 250-year-old folk song by Friedrich Nicolai, but there are also fragments of seconds or minutes from film texts by Stanley Kubrick, Ulrich Seidl or David Lynch. In addition to a touch of Noh theater and poetic, philosophical, cabaret tricks by Goethe, Adorno, Ingeborg Bachmann, Diener Hildebrandt or Heiner and Herta Müller (the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature was in the premiere audience).

Almost 80 changing flashlights of cultural history. A romantically absurd foray through the head of a great director. Because the seventy-year-old Andrea Breth embodies a piece of world theater history herself as a former director of the Schaubühne, a star in the Vienna Burgtheater and an ingenious explorer of human dramas.

Alexander Simon and Corinna Kirchhoff.
© Ruth Walz

But the world and unfortunately also the theater joke stay away from the supposed dream play. Instead of dreamy magic (or nightmarish terror), intended as a counter-image to the real confusion of our days, there is only very dignified boredom for long stretches.

Even the gray felt with which the stage walls, which are constantly shifted from a narrow corridor to a flat transverse space, are decorated (scenery: Raimund Orfeo Voigt), lies slightly paralyzing on the scenery – like Ikea for Kafka. And some of the song arrangements seem almost ghastly, even with German tearjerkers from the Second World War (!) or silly stuff from the 1950s, which lacks anything pointedly parodic or even critical. This always pulls the beginnings of everything more abysmal into the shallows. Just not into that really easy thing that, according to Brecht, is the most difficult part of the theatre.

After the break it gets better in certain areas. Johanna Wokalek stalks along the ramp in high heels and tangles herself expertly in the strap of her shoulder bag, while half singing, half comically panting Sylvie Vartan’s “Vivre pour le meilleur”. A brief sheen in felt gray shines, as does a couple of agile, slanting slapsticks by Martin Rentzsch or Adam Benzwi, who is also the musical director.

In moments like this, the evening begins to soar, and you no longer have to daydream what comedy, boldness and not just outdated romance a Christoph Marthaler, Herbert Fritsch or Barry Kosky would have brought here. But the sum is no more than the individual parts, and the potpourri does not become a panorama. It is a revue of absurdities, but Andrea Breth is not Lady Dada. You’re missing a piece here in the fractions.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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