Great fun

Rico and Oskar – these are of course two boys who at one point developed an unbreakable friendship. But please, what are the deeper shadows? Yes. deeper shadow. Or is there a higher shadow? Probably not. But there are deeper shadows. They are black spirits who probably live in the basement of a demolished house – probably in Berlin – and break down there and sometimes go out – otherwise the question would not arise. But can the shadows even live? What if…? What! Stop asking questions! If you want to know exactly, you just need to go to the open-air theater in Maßbach. At the moment, “Rico, Oscar and the Deeper Shadows” is working there, and you can learn everything there.

Ready in just five weeks

Which is not at all obvious. Because when Andreas Steinhöfel published “Rico, Oskar und die Tiefer Schatten” in 2008, it wasn’t art, it was a novel. He immediately received several awards, was filmed by Neele Vollmar in 2014 and adapted to the stage several times. Christian Schidlowsky and his team have now grabbed the novel and created a theatrical text for children aged six and over in five weeks of improvisation and rehearsal. His team consists of Benjamin Jorns, Susanne Pfeiffer, Jack Rehfuss, Silvia Steger and Jonas Stüdemann. The result was a huge theatrical fun – by no means only for children.

What is it about? Almost everything, actually. It is basically a crime story. But first what is so special about Rico should be mentioned. He describes himself as “profoundly gifted.” This doesn’t mean he’s stupid, but it takes a little longer for him to think. When he has to think about several things at once, his thoughts circulate in his head like bingo balls, and then he always has to sort them first. And that takes time. But there is nothing wrong with the results.

He befriends Oscar, who is three years his junior, is very talented, but always wears a helmet because he lives in constant fear that he will hit his precious head somewhere. One day this Oscar is kidnapped by a child kidnapper – of course! – kidnapped. Rico is afraid to go to the police because he is afraid that his thoughts get too confused when there are so many questions. And he sets out in search of Oscar himself. At first thoughts … stop! You can’t say everything at once.

Fun, witty dialogues

And you quickly realize that it’s not the plot that is so important, but the execution. A thrillingly colorful game was created in an equally colorful setting (set design: Robert Plant, costumes: Christina Halbfas). The piece is fast-paced, taking children seriously through funny, witty, sometimes intricate dialogues, assuming that they have a witty sense of humor and the ability to recognize and classify situations. And it captivates for almost an hour, because there is always something going on on stage that nobody wants to miss. There are many doors whose frames can be turned in such a way that rooms and apartments are perceived as facing outwards. There are surprising game levels, props, dance routines and slow motion moments.

For five actors, this means 50 minutes of constant stress. Maybe not that much for Benjamin Jorns, because he’s “only” Rico. Not because he would be overwhelmed by the next roles – Rico for sure, but not by Benjamin Jorns – but because he is constantly on stage and therefore cannot change roles. To that end, the other four must share all twelve roles as bingo balls that comment on Rico’s thoughts, or as neighbors with constantly changing dialects, attitudes, and clothes. You have to change in a few seconds and then walk through the right door onto the stage.

This is the best theatrical artistry that can be experienced when children’s theater is really taken seriously. But there are so many witty, funny events happening on stage that even as an adult you are almost enslaved.

A further discussion with the actors, moderated by the new drama teacher Uwe Gröschel, showed how well the play was received by the children. There were so many intelligent questions not only about the performance, but also about the work of the actors and the theater technique that it was amazing how well the children observed and remembered everything. Anyone at this age who asks such questions will never go to the theater without suspecting anything again.

Educational material for learning theater can be downloaded from www.theater-massbach.de.

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