Thursday 28 November 2013

Das Schottenstück. Konzert für Macbeth – Volksbühne, Berlin

[written for Exeunt]

If you think you like German theatre, go to the Volksbühne. To my mind the Volksbühne is almost completely unlike any other theatre in Berlin. The work there feels more more politically committed, more dramaturgically difficult, and just more out-and-out alien to the British mindset. Deutsches Theater? Piece of cake. Schaubühne? Walk in the park. Volksbühne? Ah.

Part of the reason might the longstanding intendant-ship of Frank Castorf, who has a reputation for being a difficult Communist with a preference for destroying Chekhov over the course of five hours rather than say, making a nice watchable production which leaves time for a post-show supper. But it’s hard to say for sure. After all, the Volksbühne is effectively the Berlin home of Gob Squad, and they’re likeable enough fluffy nonsense. And even René Pollesch – Castorf’s second in command – is a bit more visually and temporally user-friendly.

So why does it feel like there’s a kind of Volksbühne aesthetic which permeates into more of the work here than it should? Perhaps it’s the dramaturgs, perhaps it’s the auditorium, or perhaps it’s just my imagination.

I’ve seen bits of David Marton’s work before. I adored his Die Heimkehr des Odysseus, I was pretty impressed with his Das wohltemperierte Klavier too. But these were both takes – admittedly incredible takes – on extant works. Heimkehr, an opera with a a plot, and Klavier, at least a single cycles of music grafted onto a single book. The approach here is much more similar to the Extreme Jukebox Musical style of Christoff Marthaler’s Meine Faire Dame (which remains one of the best, most life-and-mind changing things I’ve ever seen as regards the possibilities of theatre) – essentially taking any piece of music at all and using it because it feels dramaturgically correct for telling the story.

[I will fill in the rest of the review bit ASAP, but my hostel has YouTube blocked on the wi-fi to stop da kidz uploading porn of themselves, apparently – ah, the modern world – so I’m just filing the whole playlist in a coffee shop to check it works.  Still, well worth a listen.  Some amazing stuff and the links, leaps and contrasts tell the story all by themselves really...]

Henry Purcell - The Queen's Funeral March

Henry Purcell - Canzona

Arnold Schönberg - Suite for Piano Op 25 Trio

Arnold Schönberg - Red Mass

Ludwig van Beethoven – Come fill, fill my good fellow

Jón Leifs – Vögguvísa

Geoffrey Burgon – Nunc Dimittis

(yes, really. That made me sit up and take notice, I can tell you)

Johann Sebastian Bach – Passacaglia in C-Moll

Béla Bartók – Miraculous Mandarin

Johann Sebastian Bach – Partita II C-Moll BWV 826, Sinfonia

Pietro Locatelli – Cappricio

John Cage – Experiences No 2

Henry Purcell – Funeral Sentences

Henry Purcell – Thou knowest Lord

Cream – Strange Brew

Nina Simone – Tomorrow is my turn

Eugène Ysaye – 2. Sonate

The Shaggs – Philosophy of the World

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi – Stabat Mater

The Doors – Shaman’s Blues

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