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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Start of season at Deutsches Theater Berlin: From the east, the universe appears desolate

The DT Berlin is showing “Space Earth Man” by Alexander Eisenach. The new director, Iris Laufenberg, is unpretentiously relying on the tried and tested.

A group of women in white suits stand on the stage, in the background a puzzled man with a helmet

Science fiction on stage: actresses with futuristic suits in “Space Earth Man” Photo: Thomas Aurin

“A little pathos is part of a new beginning. “People who were born but have not yet died. Hurry up and get to the theater!”, actor Felix Goeser excitedly calls out to the audience and once again encourages people to recognize themselves. “The dramas of the past tell you who you were. The dramas outside of time tell who you are, those of the present tell you who you could be!” There is therefore no false modesty. Theater, as praised here, is a time machine, constructed to provide information about the potential of the people sitting down there in the audience, like those of the genre itself.

“Space Earth Man” is the name of the piece development with which director Alexander Eisenach heralds Iris Laufenberg’s new directorship at the Deutsches Theater. The title refers to a book that the GDR spent many years for youth consecration gave away. At the beginning, the ensemble welcomes the young comrades in the hall and praises the blessings of the last 1,000 years of socialism.

Because in this narrative of the future, Lenin’s heirs have triumphed. The means of production are firmly in the hands of the workers, society no longer knows any classes and the economy is powerful enough to even colonize distant planets. It seems as if the story has reached its happy ending, but far from it. A secondary contradiction remains unresolved: the patriarchy survived the revolution perfectly, which is why the female characters continue to be exploited sexually, emotionally and economically.

In this communism, only men have the opportunity to devote themselves to their own interests. For example, Felix Goeser and Florian Köhler, who, recorded by a live camera, engage in a discussion about the connection between parallel worlds and orthodox Marxism in a miniature setting of the Moscow Café.

A touch of Volksbühne

A touch of the Volksbühne blows through the Deutsches Theater. A scene with René Pollesch or Frank Castorf could have gone something similar. These borrowings are already known from Alexander Eisenach. Although not at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, he has worked at the Berliner Ensemble in recent years.

It’s surprising that he of all people is responsible for the new director’s big opening production. While other managements, as soon as they take over a theater, like to do everything new and different, swap most actors, revise the logo and corporate design, sometimes even change the name of the theater, Iris Laufenberg relies very unpretentiously on what is tried and tested or at least what is known.

The situation is quite similar with this production, which, although it sets out with great ambition to reconcile the Volksbühne aesthetics with a piece development, science fiction with the limitations of the stage and the history of ideas with silliness, does not really create anything new, but rather finds itself in the Repeat sets up.

The scenes in which Anja Schneider laments her suffering as an unhappy wife, Lorena Handschin comes out as a victim of penis envy and Julischka Eichel calls for war against men are long and drawn out. In terms of theater aesthetics, it also seems a little outdated. Feminist stage art these days mostly relies on autofiction or physical borderline experiences. The actresses use their own stories and bodies to support the demand for social change.

A few decades of political struggle

Eisenach’s characters, on the other hand, seem quite conventional, whose agitation lags behind the real injustice, especially because the foreign material in this piece’s development has already had a few decades of political struggle behind it. Among other things, he uses Joanna Russ’ novel “Planet of Women” from 1975.

The ensemble travels on these after the break. In a plush comic world, men are converted into remote-controlled machines or murdered in order to guarantee a truly domination-free society of women. Problem solved? In any case, the already extremely fragmented plot quickly becomes unraveled. Finally, Sarah Franke demands with reference to Ursula K. Le Guin’s essay “In the beginning was the bag”, to tell human history again in a different way, i.e. not with a focus on male violence, on heroes and war. An excellent idea! However, it would certainly have had a stronger impact if the previous four hours had been more narratively and intellectually compelling. So what was it like in space? Waste, comrades.

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