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Das Weinen [Das Wähnen] – The Crying [The Imagination]

based on texts by Dieter Roth

directed by Christoph Marthaler – Schauspielhaus Zürich

staging: Christoph Marthaler | stage design: Duri Bischoff | costumes: Sara Kittelmann | sounddesign: Thomas Schneider | musical production: Bendix Dethleffsen| light: Christoph Kunz | dramaturgy: Malte Ubenauf | audience development: Elena Manuel | theatre pedagogy: Manuela Runge | production assistant: Clara Isabelle Dobbertin | production trainee: Samuel Petit | set design assistant: Julia Bahn | costume assistant: Natalie Soroko | stage management: Aleksandar Sascha Dinevski | soufflage: Lea Theus, Gerlinde Uhlig-Vanet | tour management/International Relations & Touring Management: Björn Pätz

production: Schauspielhaus Zürich.
coproduced with: Emilia Romagna Teatro Fondazione, Nanterre-Amandiers – centre dramatique national, Bergen International Festival, Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne und International Summer Festival Kampnagel, Hamburg
supported by: Georg und Bertha Schwyzer-Winiker Stiftung and Pro Helvetia, Schweizer Kulturstiftung

cast: Liliana Benini, Magne Håvard Brekke, Olivia Grigolli, Elisa Plüss, Nikola Weisse, Susanne-Marie Wrage

premiere: 14.03.2020


What I Saw

Paige and I were lucky enough to take a deep dive into Marthaler’s work in 1997 when Deutsches ShauSpielHaus Hamburg was doing a kind of festival dedicated to his work featuring his productions of Horvath’s Kasimir and Karoline and Stunde Null (Zero Hour) as well as symposiums on his work.  Sadly, that was the last time we had a chance to see anything of his live and so it was a special treat to be reengaged with his work here in Wroclaw.

In his productions, Marthaler creates a hyper-realistic space and lets his actors inhabit the space at times in completely realistic, even mundane ways and at other times almost using techniques one associates with clowning and physical theatre.  In Kasimir and Karoline, the set was almost an exact replica of the Haufbrauhaus in Munich.  In Stunde Null it was a kind of post-war industrial multi-purpose media room.  In Das Weinen, it was a perfectly rendered European pharmacy with pill boxes meticulously displayed on countless shelves.

Das Weinen is a series of texts by artist Dieter Roth that are a kind of Dada poetry – completely surreal with no sense of plot, character, action, or anything we usually associate with drama.  Marthaler’s company of actors includes five women dressed as pharmacists (a boss and four subordinates) and a nattily-dressed man in a black-and-white-checkered suit and hat.  The women go about their business placing pill boxes on the shelves, polishing glasses, and occasionally putting on a record of classical music.  The text is mainly in German but there are sections in Italian, French, and English as well and the one time the man speaks, it is in Norwegian.  The precision and the repetitive gestures create a kind of dance.  What is uncanny about Marthaler and really hard to describe is that however repetitive and mundane these actions are; he and his actors find a way to make them quite, quite funny without ever losing a sense of seriousness and focus.  The man enters a number of times to weigh himself on the scale and each time the smallest of the woman goes to the scale and picks him off the scale and carries him out the door.  When he comes back to get a drink of water from the water-cooler, the water-cooler animates and wheels itself out by remote control.  The women sing together with great poise and precision.  At one point they all leave and return dressed in their “out-on-the-town” clothes: all black and white checkered like the man’s suit and all with a whimsical but perfectly tailored sense of fashion.  At another point, a pill box goes flying off one of the shelves upsetting a sense of perfect order.  Of course at the end of the play, this sense of order is completely disturbed by each pharmacist wildly knocking ever single box from off its shelf until the stage floor is completely covered with pill boxes.

As someone who has directed Gertrude Stein plays and Richard Foreman plays, I can tell you that keeping the audience’s attention without the traditional building blocks of theater (character, plot and action) is tremendously challenging.  Marthaler is a genius at this and had the entire audience riveted the entire time.  Paige and I said once the play was done that we could go back and watch the whole thing again right away.  It was so satisfying.

-Rob Melrose

About the Artist

CHRISTOPH MARTHALER - Born in Erlenbach near Zurich, Christoph Marthaler has been working as a theatre and opera director since the 1980s at the Theater Basel, the Volksbühne Berlin, the Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg, the Münchner Kammerspiele and many other major theatres. His productions range from musical, collage-like evenings to idiosyncratic interpretations of classics. Many of his productions have been invited to the Berlin Theatertreffen, and he has twice received the Director of the Year award, as well as numerous other prizes. His productions are invited to festivals all over the world and some of them are performed again and again over many years. From 2002-2004 Christoph Marthaler was the artistic director of the Schauspielhaus Zurich, which was twice voted Theatre of the Year during this period. In 2004, Christoph Marthaler received the Berlin Theatre Prize together with Anna Viebrock. In 2017 he directed the opera Luluan at the Hamburg State Opera, which received the Performance of the Year award and the Fauster Theatre Prize. In Munich, at the Kammerspiele, he produced Tiefer Schweb in 2017. Ein Auffangbecken, the same year he returned to the Schauspielhaus Zurich with Mir nämeds uf öisan. Christoph Marthaler is a related artist at the Schauspielhaus Zurich.

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