Göttingen’s Deutsches Theater which is usually a bit lame tried something mildly exciting by staging Elfriede Jelinek’s 2009 piece Die Kontrakte des Kaufmanns - eine Wirtschaftskomödie which deals with the economic crisis.
As you can check on her website (how many authors, let alone famous authors over 60 have this? And isn’t it a really good thing?) her texts are strenuous collections of words without many breaks, packed with what at first sight looks like redundancy but is more an elaborate game with words and thoughts that progresses and develops further and further. I find them quite hard to read because it’s easy to get stuck in there, trying to figure out all the connections implied by the text. As a consequence I was prepared for a somewhat strenuous night at the theatre. Which was somewhat reinforced by me overhearing the box office lady telling a lady at the front of the queue that the piece
is good but she prefers ‘nice’ theatre where she can relax.
The show lasted two hours without a break. It was a constant stream of words delivered at a high pace (even though the tickets weren’t cheap, this probably was the theatre piece with the cheapest price per word which I have ever seem) with a lot of momentum and at great clarity. The actors, changing ‘roles’ throughout the piece, delivered text / sentences / monologues with barely a break in between. Touching topics attached to the financial crisis. Companies, banks, names, certificates, small investors, retirement plans, god, nothing, wards, guilt, debt. And taking on the roles of the various participants in the process. From suits to investors losing their retirement funds to deities.
I thought all that was very good and a pretty impressive performance as well. You get sucked into it and it drives you along with the thoughts of the piece. The fact that everything was delivered at a rather fast pace also changed my impression of Jelinek’s writing. While I previously considered it a slow read as it provokes a lot of thought, this ‘turbo’ version just drags you along and adds a lot of force to what is spoken. In addition the fact that things are spoken also highlighted some of the word games which I missed in writing.
Which brings me to the strange audience. Many of them giggled during the word games. I completely didn’t get that and thought it was inappropriate. It was also strange to see that many seats in the theatre were free even though I had difficulties getting three seats next to each other when buying tickets two weeks ago.
All in all a very good experience. As others remarked before me, it was refreshing to see this in our local state theatre.
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