Cool idea. The Deutsches Theater opens the season in Kammerspiele with the power of Shakespeare’s element. At least that’s what the co-production with the Bregenz Festival promises. His “Sturm” is one of the late plays and is widely regarded as the last. Of course, we are tempted to see in it the sum of life’s work, something testamentary, swan song. It is also the season of farewells from director Ulrich Khuon.
At the end of the comedy, allegorical art, fairy tale, the old mage Prospero renounces his magical powers, gives freedom to the air spirit Ariel, and the island to the “wild” Caliban, gets on a ship that takes him home from exile should approach his grave.
Wisdom of the books
The miraculous, enigmatic work has its premiere in London in 1611, in Whitehall, before King James I. In the same place before the kings on the occasion of the wedding in 1613, there is another performance, which proves that the story was not taken all this sinister at that time was being watched. Especially since Miranda, the wizard’s daughter, dreams of a “brave new world.” This could refer to the future of the awakening and prosperity (!) Of the British Empire at the expense of the colonies. The old ones are leaving, something new is on the way.
Shakespeare dies in 1616, and when the first foil edition of his plays is published in 1623, The Tempest comes first. Therefore, it is not a question of swan song, but rather a theatrical game, playing with rituals and conventions, thoroughly amusing. Here Shakespeare reaches all the ends of theatrical art and technique, praising the achievements of science and poetry, as well as the beauty and wisdom of the book.
Colonialism is not the problem here
Prospero draws strength and consolation from reading, he created an encyclopedia with quick access to knowledge about the world. “The Tempest” is a demonstration of spiritual strength and theatrical strength.
A look at the work with all its possibilities and history shows what does not appear in DT or appears only marginally. Director Jan Bosse doesn’t care about Caliban, so the whole complex of racism and colonialism falls out. First and foremost, what remains is the theater as a machine for illusions. This is the crux of the matter so you can see it.
And now Prospero and Ariel enter the stage, as if on a rehearsal, testing the devices and effects. The old magician squeezes into a torn suit, walks barefoot, his teeth are black as night, his hair is long and greasy. The Vagabond: Wolfram Koch is heavily disguised. Malicious Prospero, the rogue behind the scenes.
Ghost in a glamor costume
A completely different Ariel. Lorena Handschin in a sparkling glamor dress looks a bit like replicas from Blade Runner. When she snaps her fingers, the light goes out, the light comes on. She has power, timing, tricks, but she is a prisoner of the Ancient One, but she doesn’t seem uncomfortable, she doesn’t protest. Prospero follows his own staging, which is touching. According to the motto: In the theater, everything always goes wrong anyway, so let’s keep playing, let’s pretend. In an empty space: set designer Stéphane Laimé has a jungle suspended by ropes, both a metaphor for a ship and a theatrical platform. You can get artistically entangled there. Or to completely lose the thread.
The opening proposed by Bosse still works well precisely because it shows that theater is a stubborn organism, not a cold function. But then there are fundamental problems that build up over the next two hours of play. The first is the text version by Jakob Nolte. He translated word for word like a translator and created an artificial language like, “Do you love me?” The childish charm wears off quickly, and the oddly vain plot twists don’t help unravel the story either.
Why not a musical right away?
On the contrary: the brightly masked corpse of survivors who land on Prospero Island (costumes: Kathrin Plath) are almost completely unrecognizable thanks to the double cast. Tamer Tahan plays King Alonso, but also Trinculo’s fool, Jeremy Mockridge appears as Stephano’s drunk and as King Ferdinand’s son – and disappears. Again, the volume is a problem. There are screams and then also against the live music of Carolin Bigge. And people like to take the microphone and sing in English as if the whole thing would rather be a musical. Microphones on stage act as cell phones in your daily life, you stick to them.
His Majesty and Clique Prospero are doomed to watch. Finally, Wolfram Koch makes a firm move to the ramp and gives a hard speech. He marries his daughter and dissolves the island kingdom. At last you can listen, understand, think further, feel into the performance that takes the air to breathe.