Demon Radio Colorful outside and deep black inside

Demon Radio
Colorful outside and deep black inside

One place that was played for the first time is a former call center in Mariatrost. The vacant building, from which phone calls used to be made from an open-plan office, underwent a transformation into “Demon Radio”. A place where the demonic can be found in many ways.

The Four from the Gas Station

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Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, The Four from the Gas Station (2023), installation view, Demon Radio, photo: steirischer herbst /, courtesy of the artists

Already at the parking lot, in front of the exhibition location, an irritating installation awaits the audience: “The Four from the Gas Station” by Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys. The work was given its title in reference to the 1930 film “Die Drei von der Tankstelle” (“The Three from the Gas Station”), which was placed on the list of banned films by the Nazi censors. In the car there are not three people, but four uniformed Dobermans. Dogs, sharply trained, like to appear around people who need special “protection”. The number plate of the old Mercedes can be deciphered, since it bears the date on which Hitler thrilled the crowds in Klagenfurt in 1938. The two artists, who live in Brussels, leave it open in this installation whether the four occupants are chasing someone or whether they are on the run. Thus, the artwork opens different windows of interpretation – an approach that is significant for the exhibition “Demon Radio”. The work corresponds with those in the interior – primarily with the one about the former German jazz expert Dr. Schulz-Köhn.

A second artistic contribution of the duo inside the exhibition hall also bears animal features. Micro Mundo 3, 4, 5, 8 and 10, created this year, are small, surreal terrariums in which rodents, reptiles and other creatures with human heads cavort. Fascinating and repulsive at the same time, they present themselves to the viewer and pose ad hoc the question of genetic manipulation and mutations that man did not intend in this way.

A jazz collector, SA and Nazi member

The German, Dietrich Schulz-Köhn, was a lover and connoisseur of jazz music. He bequeathed to the Institute for Jazz Research in Graz, of which he was one of the founders, his collection of jazz records that he had collected before, during and after World War 2. Himself a member of the SA and the NSDAP, he was stationed in France as a young man during the war, where his good contacts with the American enemy enabled him to get hold of the new releases he was so interested in as quickly as possible. Not only are some of his records on display in the exhibition, but a radio recording can also be heard. As the presenter of many jazz programs on WDR and other radio stations, he created a series of programs on this subject. In that contribution, which can be heard in the exhibition, one can well understand how, after the war, a kind of dislocation must have taken place in Schulz-Köhn’s own actions during the war. After all, he speaks there about the restrictions during the Nazi regime as if he had never been part of this murderous regime, but rather had been commissioned by a broadcaster outside Germany to speak about this topic.

Contextualizing this with the other contributions still in this exhibition, it becomes clear that the demonic in man is a phenomenon that is evaluated differently depending on time.

Serene Velocity in Practice: MC510 Signs & Wonders (Prerequisite for CS183 How to Build the Future) (2017-23)

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Serene Velocity in Practice (Photo: courtesy of the artist)

Across from the small room where the radio show is playing, Michael Stevenson, bounded by fabric panels, created a kind of room within a room. In it, he recreated the setting of a practical course on faith healing and exorcism taught by church founder John Wimber at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena from 1982 to 1985. The artistic alienation done there further intensifies the oppressive impression that one is in a surroundig in which psychic violence has been inflicted on people.

Indian freedom fighter and current nationalisms


A total of four video contributions invite us to confront the demonic in completely different ways. Indian theater-maker Zuleikha Chaudhari created a film about Subhas Chandra Bose, a fighter against British colonial power. He had hoped to gain Hitler’s support in the 1930s and had therefore traveled to Berlin. On this trip, as well as others that were to follow afterwards when he left Germany again without having achieved anything, he assumed different identities with different nationalities. Similar to Schulz-Köhn, one is amazed at how much reality and ideal diverge in certain stages of life, sometimes even turning into the opposite. In addition, the artist also mixes in the video recordings of lectures on nationalism given at teach-ins during the 2016 student movement at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

Mechanical and profoundly human

Israelite artist Dani Gal was commissioned by Styrian Autumn to create two works. In his film “Book of the Machines,” close-ups of 19th-century mechanical dolls that bear human features and behave like humans are used to pose questions that are congruent with those our society is currently having to ask itself in light of ubiquitous AI applications.

Book of the Machines, courtesy of the artist


Extremely moving has become his film “Dark Continent,” which reenacts a case study from the book Black Skin, White Masks (1952) by psychiatrist and anti-colonial author Frantz Fanon: It’s about a girl who began developing nervous tics at the age of 12. She eventually ended up in a mental hospital, where the head primar quoted Freud in his final diagnosis, saying that women’s sexuality is a black continent. During the film, we learn that soon after colonization, bus drums were banned in Africa, simply because they could be used to transmit messages over long distances, and thus the danger of revolts could not be ruled out. The father of the young girl, himself formerly conscripted in Africa, put on music in the evening in which these drums could be heard. An unambiguous imagery, which suggests a cruel trait of the man and the fantasy, which one develops as a viewer himself, let think at the end of the film of a child abuse within the own family. The perfidious way in which the drumming of the black population, which is portrayed as backward and threatening, is shown leaves one speechless.

In the coupling with the expressions with which Schulz-Köhn mentioned the black jazzmen from America in the Nazi dictum, a bridging between the individual artistic contributions succeeds here as well. The curatorial team around Ekaterina DegotDavid Riff, Pieternel Vermoortel, Gábor Thury and Barbara Seyerl – did a great job here.

Anna Engelhardt and Mark Cinkevic trailer, courtesy of the artists:inside


With a video by Anna Engelhardt and Mark Cinkevic (Russia and Belarus), in which they refer to the demonic power of Russian high-tech support points in occupied states, the arc of the exhibition’s theme reaches into our present.

So does a sound installation by Anton Kats, in which he recalls his childhood and the war in Kherson, recorded by a quiet female voice (Susanne Sachsse) on the sound layer “Palladium” by Weather Reports. That influential jazz band founded by Austrian Joe Zawinul. Palladium had cult status in the USSR, of all places. Fine and beautiful to listen to, flowing and harmonious, the music deceives and covers the horror that was added to it in the text.

What from the outside colorfully flags, pretends to be a fun scene, is inside full of dark spots worth uncovering.
Admission to the exhibition is free thanks to a generous sponsorship offer from AK-Steiermark.

Who am I anyway?

Who am I anyway?

The “poetic-documentary performance” has a strong reference to Graz and runs as a co-production in the “Steirischer Herbst” at the Theater am Lend. This makes sense, since this year’s theme of the festival is “Humans and demons” and many of the contributions and their contents are linked to Graz.

The text was written by the ensemble itself. Bernhard Berl, Vinko Cener, Franciska Farkas, Natalija Teodosieva and Christian Winkler tell stories from their lives and those of their ancestors. Except for Natalija and Christian, who takes over the intro part, they all belong to the Roma population group and come from Austria, Slovenia, Hungary and Macedonia. Between the individual descriptions, they all work together on a wooden boat with the inscription Feuerwehr Steiermark. They core it, sand off parts of the surface, paint and glue together individual wooden parts.

Moritz Weiß and Ivan Trenev (photos Edi Haberl)

Ivan Trenev (accordion) and Moritz Weiß (clarinet/bass clarinet) contribute a musically harmonious background from the edge of the stage. Klezmer with a strong Balkan drive, but also lyrical pieces that are easy on the ear, as well as dramatic sounds when the events on stage come to a head, are part of their repertoire.

The boat that is used on stage is one that was already used as a lifeboat in the Mur in the 1930s. The fact that it was not used when Bernhard Berl’s great-grandmother drowned herself in the Mur on March 13, 1938, testifies to the hostile social attitude that the Roma had to bitterly experience in the interwar period and during the Second World War.

Bernhard, who comes from eastern Styria, vividly recounts that when he was barely 20 years old, he set out to find his ancestors and learned that he was a Roma. During his narration, one notices how much he is still emotionally gripped by this circumstance, even if he downplays it first and foremost with the means of humor. “I’m Roma? Great, an Italian!” was his reaction to the revelation of his ancestry. Only his grandmother’s curt reply, “No, not Italian, a Gypsy!” pulls the rug out from under the young man. He freely admits that without psychological support he would not have been able to get his life back on track.

Natalja has had opposite experiences. From infancy, she was very attached to one of her “babas”, who was one of the most famous Roma singers. She wanted to become like her. When, at the age of eight, her brother told her that there was no blood relationship between this grandmother and her and that she was not a Romni, a world collapsed for her.

Vinko, a Roma from Slovenia, did not have to learn the language of his ancestors until adulthood. His parents were too concerned about integrating into their country and not standing out as Roma. It almost sounds like irony of fate that Vinko eventually had his own television show where he hosted Roma affairs. He has been living in Graz for many years now and experiences again and again what it means not to have been born here.

Franciska finally begins her account with a horrific story from the Nazi era. After a pause of consternation, in which one notices that the audience has become very uncomfortable, she suddenly puts on a completely different face and asks what would happen if this story were made up. Franciska is a professional actress, a celebrity in Hungary and would like nothing more than not to be constantly cast only in Romnja roles.

As different as all of the ensemble’s life stories and approaches to their Roma origins are, they are united by the fact that at some point in their lives their identities began to falter and they had to come to terms with their origins, whether they wanted to or not. With the inclusion of the boat, Franz von Strolchen created two artful dramaturgical levels that at first glance seem quite unobtrusive. On the one hand, he uses scrolling text to explain the philosophical paradox of the Ship of Theseus. Second, he creates a parenthesis with the rowboat. It encompasses the story of Bernhard’s great-grandmother, which is told at the beginning of the production, to the end because: In the last scene, the boat is sheathed in white fabric without words, wrapped with ropes and ultimately left alone on the stage. The association that stops here has it all: tied up in this way, people who die at sea and are not brought ashore, but find their final resting place in the floods of the seas or rivers.

“The Ship of Theseus” opens many windows into the past, but at the same time the almost overpowering desire of the performers for a better future becomes palpable. A future in which a person’s ancestry and origins should no longer play a role. Utopias become reality when they are lived. Starting now seems to be the order of the day in times like these, in which national countercurrents are on the rise again. Contemporary theater can hardly be more topical.

Sea glitter and fire crackling

Sea glitter and fire crackling

According to Greek mythology, Dido, who came from Phoenician royalty, was the founder of Carthage. She fled her homeland to escape her brother and, by acting intelligently, obtained enough land in the new land where she had arrived with followers and ships to build Carthage. Described as a tall, beautiful, wise and untouchable queen, she fell in love, through the intervention of the gods, with Aeneas, who, having fled Troy, asked her for the right to stay. The love story, which ends tragically, has been adapted many times in literature and found its way into some 90 operas. Henry Purcell created “Dido and Aeneas“, from which ‘Dido’s Lament‘ gave rise to one of the most famous and beautiful mourning arias in operatic history.

Turkish dancer and choreographer Korhan Basaran made a guest appearance at the wortwiege festival “Europe in Scene“, this time subtitled “Sea change”. He presented his dance piece “Dido” in which he himself slips into the role of the woman loved and then abandoned by Aeneas. The gods demand of Aeneas to leave Dido alone in Carthage to sail across the sea with his people in order to found a city himself, namely Rome. This breaks the heart of the once proud woman. Basaran condenses the action to the last moments of Dido’s life, after she has been abandoned by Aeneas, and makes visible all the emotions that heartbreak can bring. In Dido’s inner monologue, he concentrates on the existential emotions that arise at the moment of abandonment. Small paper boats, folded by the audience under his guidance at the beginning of the performance and placed on the stage floor, make it clear: it is the sea that has brought the two lovers together, but ultimately also separates them again. Underpinned with musical layers by composer Tolga Yayalar, Purcell’s Dido Lament resonates from the start. If at first it is only the harmony sequence, transposed into electronic sounds, that can be heard delicately, at the end Dido herself will sing along the refrain of this lament loudly and emotionally fiercely moved. Yayalar also created the auditory perceptions of the horn of a large steamer, the chirping of birds, ominous-sounding demon noises, and the cracking and crackling of burning wood. Ataman Girisken also contributes significantly to the success of the production with his visuals. Depending on the mood, he bathes the space in glittering blue and white wave refractions, provides it with a twinkling starry sky, transforms it into a dark cave or triggers frightening moments when Dido meets her death at the stake. Red tongues of fire blaze until the figure of Dido lying on the ground visually dissolves. The billowing conflagration that follows also remains palpable in its abstractly designed undulations, which at the same time seem incredibly aesthetic.


Korhan Basaran’s Dido is wracked by painful convulsions, but also reveals that defensiveness that results from wounded pride. An expressive facial expression makes every single emotional emotion visible. Be it despair, fear, hope or disgust. The tall figure in a long skirt, the upper part of the body clad only in a shirt, conveys in a contemporary way the image of Dido that has been handed down in tradition. But Basaran also slips into Aeneas, who, lantern in hand, affirms to Dido that it is not his will but that of the gods why he must leave her. It is the brilliantly crafted melange of his expressive dance, the selected text passages from Virgil and Christopher Marlowe that he recites, the atmospheric visuals as well as the music that create a harmonious, emotionally gripping stage event. With Basaran’s interpretation of Dido, he continues to write a tradition that has captivated countless generations to date and, judging by the audience reaction, continues to emotionally grip them today.

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Evolution and its physical legacy

Evolution and its physical legacy

“Bones and stones” are two nouns that radiate anything but warmth and security and that one does not necessarily immediately associate with each other. And yet, as Claudia Bosse points out in her latest work, they are inextricably linked. “Bones and Stones” had its world premiere in Hall G of the MuseumsQuartier and – according to the theatre-maker – is soon to move to the great outdoors. This makes sense, because the theme of the performance is the relationship of man to his bony inner life, but also to nature with its stony formations and evolution from the formation of the earth to the present day.

Bosse works with six women ranging in age from 24 to 75, most of whom move naked among the audience during the two-and-a-half-hour performance. You are allowed to wander along with the ensemble or move further away from it. Which position you take is up to you, also how and when you want to change it. In fact, however, most people follow the direction, which makes full use of the space and constantly shifts the focus of the actions. The darkness of the hall and the partial lighting on small “volcanoes” marked with bricks, as well as the first appearance of the women, transports one to a time long before man as a species himself ruled the earth. Equipped with small bones, extensions of toes and fingers, the women act as beings who still have much animalism about and within them. They will remain mute – with exceptions – until the end, but their habitus will change permanently.

After the little ankles have been recognised and shaken off like annoying appendages, one embarks together with the performers on the retelling of human development, starting from prehistory up to the present. It is a narrative without words, with many stops. Those that are easy to grasp and others that leave more room for interpretation.

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“Bones & Stones” – Claudia Bosse – Tanzqaurtier (Photo: Markus Gradwohl)

There masses of bodies are presented as a sculpture placed on the floor, in which life gradually begins to stir. Memories of the artist couple Prince Gholam were evoked as well as works by Mette Ingvartsen. Dancing and aesthetics from the visual arts are skilfully balanced here. Shortly after the women have separated from each other and are now acting as individuals, dressed in long plastic aprons, their smiling faces change. The strongly tightened expulsion from paradise, which the humane beings were still allowed to experience unreflectively, with a smile on their lips, is followed by an action with veritable contempt for humanity. Those who collapse on the ground are roughly dragged away from the surrounding crowd by their arms or legs. With kicks, the extremities of the lifeless bodies are brought into position so that they can be dragged behind them without obstacles. A text accompanies the brutal act by pointing out that it is the bones of the bodies that leave traces on the ground. This draws attention to the physicality of women. But not to those stereotypes that are usually paid attention to in women – their faces, their breasts, their hips. Rather, it is now the skeleton that suddenly acquires a strong moment of attraction. This is reinforced by a scene in which most of the audience looks at the sitting and standing women from behind. Slow movements with stretches to the left and right from their centre illustrate the flexibility of their spine and also skilfully bring into focus the shaping of their shoulder blades.

Again and again, questions about one’s own physical constitution arise as one follows the performance. Where do we come from, what do we carry within us that was already there thousands and millions of years ago? How does this special way of seeing change the way we look at ourselves, but also the way we look at others? What role do we play as part of nature on this earth?

Dionysian moments with live sung and spoken fragments of sound and language push the imagined wheel of time forward by millennia shortly afterwards, leaving it somewhere between industrialisation and Wagner’s Grail myth. The sound of sweaty hammering on large chunks of stone merges with a powerful female voice repeating the sentence “reality exists of processes rather than material object” several times. The sound layer – ingeniously produced in many facets by Günther Auer from the beginning – becomes denser and reaches ecstatic proportions, also through the vocal accompaniment.

In the silence that follows, the oldest performer, equipped with two shopping bags, crosses the room and finally pours the contents – brightly polished pig bones – onto the floor. One by one, the women pick some out of the small pile and carry them to other places in the room to rearrange them. In time, the archaeological gaze with which the bones are put together to form new shapes spills over to the audience. The reference to the danger and fragility of nature is not omitted. Cylindrical glass containers containing small biospheres convey the impression of preserved nature in a dystopian future. They symbolise a remnant of what the earth was once made of.

It would not be a work by Claudia Bosse if she did not explicitly deal with the medium of theatre in it. And she does so with a grand finale. In it, she evokes an image of a sleeping woman in a place created like a circus, which places everything that could be seen before in the realm of dreams.

With Anna Biczók, Myrthe Bokelmann, Anita Kaya, Carla Rihl, Marcela San Pedro and Christa Zuna-Kratky, the ensemble was homogeneous but also diverse. The clever, all-female cast made it possible to avoid raising questions about male and female identity, rivalry, attraction and repulsion, which meant concentrating on the human in itself. One can look forward to the continuation in the outdoor space.

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The horror does not only take place in the theatre

The horror does not only take place in the theatre

Motionless, they lie and sit on a bed, in front of it, but also next to it on the stage floor. The room is white and seems sterile, except for a mess of journals and scraps of paper under the sleeping area. There are a total of seven young people who do not exchange a word with each other. While the audience is still looking for their seats, the young people remain motionless – until you finally realise that they are not people but life-size puppets. These are a trademark of the French-Austrian choreographer, artist and theatre director Gisèle Vienne. She studied puppetry at the École supérieure nationale des arts de la marionnette in Charleville-Mézières from 1996 to 1999 and used puppets as well as choreographic elements in her scenic works from the very beginning.

L’ÉTANG / DER TEICH was first performed at the Ruhrtriennale last year and had its Austrian premiere this year at the Wiener Festwochen. The play, based on a text by Robert Walser, as well as text passages by Vienne herself, was realised by the theatre-maker in a very idiosyncratic formal language. The two actresses, Adèle Haenel and Henrietta Wallberg, walk towards or away from each other – except for a few moments – in slow motion. Individual movements, such as lighting a cigarette, take what feels like eternities and produce a sense of time that people often experience in exceptional situations in which they are threatened. What lasts a few seconds in measured time stretches out indefinitely, while you know that bad things are happening at precisely these moments that you can no longer run away from.

It is precisely such moments that Vienne retells through Robert Walser’s characters. She transposes the story of Fritz, a teenager who pretends to drown himself so that his parents will finally take notice of him, into our present. Adèle Haenel slips into this role, but also into the roles of his sister and his brother. She does this in the same outfit, but with different voices. The fact that this change takes some getting used to at the beginning is intentional. It happens in a matter of seconds, especially when it comes to dialogue. But as the action progresses, one begins to better distinguish between the different characters. From her first appearance, Henrietta Wallberg gives the impression of being an extremely dominant mother whose parenting style largely involves beatings and harshness. The fact that she herself is a victim of violence in her marriage only becomes clear shortly before the end of the play.

The contemporary reference is not only achieved through the costumes (Gisèle Vienne, Camille Queval, Guillaume Dumont). In one scene it becomes clear that Fritz is getting high on drugs just so that “it will finally stop”. “It” is the abuse and corporal punishment to which he is subjected and against which he cannot defend himself. In addition, there is the poisoned climate between the siblings, who do not help each other, but rather each has to fight for his or her own place in the family.

A sophisticated lighting strategy (Yves Godin) constantly bathes the room in different colours. This – just like the slowing down of the movements and the background sound – has an almost hallucinogenic effect. This creates an illusion in which one is not sure whether what one sees is actually happening or whether it is rather traumatic memory fragments of Fritz. This is suggested by the last image, in which the mother – as at the beginning – enters the room in a threatening manner. The endless loop is opened, the horror to which Fritz is exposed seems to have no end.

The venue, the Jugendstiltheater am Steinhof, does the rest to further stimulate one’s own mental cinema. It is not only the memorial in front of the building that was erected for those children who were killed here in the area during the Nazi era. It is also the fact that one suddenly begins to suspect that only a few metres from the theatre there could be people who have to be treated here because of traumatic events in childhood and adolescence. The horror that is shown here on stage, it takes place in real life and spills out directly into the immediate environment. That it is not an individual fate that Fritz suffers is pointed out by the seven dolls, a fact that is only understood in retrospect. One after the other, they were carried from the stage to the offstage by a man in black leather gloves, completely emotionless. The lifting up of the lifeless bodies, as if they were heavy sacks, but also the black leather gloves, illustrate the power imbalance between the man and the young people.

Moments of disturbance, which repeatedly raise uncertainties in understanding what has just been shown, at the same time allow for highly empathetic moments of identification with Fritz. There is nothing in his world that he can hold on to, but much that deeply unbalances him.  Adèle Haenel’s intense acting and the fact that the youth ultimately descends into madness also contribute enormously to this.

L’ étang / the pond can be experienced on several levels. One can get involved with the piece exclusively emotionally and trace what the images, texts, music and sound do in oneself. But you can also analyse the scenes afterwards and come to the conclusion that something is being shown here that is not being talked about because such a thing “should not be”. Giséle Vienne succeeded in creating a work that is at the height of contemporary theatre aesthetics and impresses with intelligent direction and outstanding acting performances.

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At the breaking point between the old and the new

At the breaking point between the old and the new

Tubular steel chairs with plastic meshes are lined up in rows on the stage of Hall E in the MuseumsQuartier, as if waiting for an audience. On the right wall are massive, multi-armed lamp constructions, fitted with crystal chandeliers from the past 200 years. From the Biedermeier chandelier to a spherical design variant of our days, everything is represented. Like heavy fruit, they hang from artificial branches, but also draw attention to the fact that the rule on the Russian estate where Anton Chekhov’s “Cherry Orchard” takes place has lasted for several generations.

In the right background of the stage, a small group of people is gathered. It is the ensemble of director Tiago Rodrigues, who has gathered the actors and actresses from various European countries for his production of the Russian stage classic.  “It’s the first time I’ve chosen the ensemble to play very specific roles,” the future director of the Avignon Festival explained at the audience discussion following the premiere. In 2021, the premiere took place in Avignon, and the Wiener Festwochen is one of a total of ten other cooperation partners that will still show the play. The photos shown here are from the Avignon setting. However, the stage in the Museumsquartier had a completely different effect, not only in terms of lighting, but primarily because of the modern ambience. In his previous works, three of which have been presented at the Vienna Festival in recent years, the Portuguese director had developed the roles together with the ensemble. Originally, he wanted to see how he could deal with Chekhov, but it soon became clear to him that not a single sentence should be different from the way the writer had formulated them. “Everything is perfect about the text, it would be presumptuous to add or omit anything” – was his further comment.

Starting with his desired cast, the lady of the manor Lioubov, for whom he was able to win Isabelle Huppert, he formed a diverse team around her with some People of Colour. However, according to Rodrigues, this was not connected with any dramaturgical idea. However, he and the ensemble only realised during rehearsals that this opened up a special window of interpretation at a certain point.

The stage set by Fernando Ribeiro remains the same throughout the play, but is rearranged and moved around as time goes on. Soon the chairs are arranged into a large pile of chairs – symbolic of the changes taking place in the manor house, around which the beautiful cherry orchard is situated. In this play, Chekhov described the downfall of the feudal era with its serfdom and the emergence of a new system in which those with luck and ability can free themselves from poverty. This upheaval, which completely shifted the social system, is effectively made visible by Ribeiro. In the end, the large lamp constructs will no longer be placed along the right side of the stage, but along the left side, and there will no longer be a chair in its centre. The power that shifted from the political right to the left after the tsarist rule in Russia and at the same time the emptiness of a social order that first had to be filled – all this resonates grandly in this stage design.

At the beginning of the evening, however, Adama Diop introduces Chekhov’s play with a few words and briefly tells us about its genesis. He then brilliantly embodies the role of Lopakhine, the man whose parents and grandparents were still serfs on the Lioubov estate. Having become wealthy, it is he who will finally buy it at auction. The breaking of the “fourth wall” is not only noticeable at the beginning of the performance. Many of the monologues are addressed by the actors and actresses not to their personal counterparts but directly to the audience. Before the beginning of the fourth act, Diop does this again to note that the play could actually have ended at this point – after the estate was auctioned off. In fact, Chekhov added the last act later, because he did not want “Cherry Orchard” to be understood as a drama, but as a tragicomedy. Thus, after the great financial, but also psychological, crash that hit all the people who had been connected with the estate, he pacified the events with a farewell scene. Although the future of all those involved is uncertain, everyone nevertheless sets off in hope and scatters to the winds. Lioubov, who has to realise that the carefree time of spending money is over for her once and for all and that her parental home is lost, and the old servant Firs, who has lost his purpose in life, serving, and is now left behind alone, are the only ones who no longer have a glimmer of hope.

Tiago Rodrigues adds another monumental musical layer to the action, cleverly separating the individual scenes from each other and, in some cases, underscoring them. Manuela Azevedo and Hélder Gonçales rock not only the stage but the hall with a stage piano, drum sounds and an electric guitar, at the same time shifting the narrative into the present. The director places the characters sharply on the edge of a commedia dell’arte manner. When they are happy, they are out of control, jumping, leaping and cheering. Great gestures, but also strong, emotional moments, which Isabelle Huppert in particular knows how to contribute with bravura, characterise this play. It is fascinating to see how she manages to change in an instant from an overexcited, fun-loving woman to one deeply grieving for her son. This strongly felt emotion is immediately transmitted to the audience and at the same time makes it clear with what high acting skill Huppert is acting here.

She is matched by Marcel Bozonnet, who plays the old servant Firs. Dressed like Freddie Frinton as the servant in the world-famous dinner-for-one sketch and also acting with the latter’s clumsy habitus, he touches the audience from the first to the last performance. Adama Diop’s skin colour alone finally creates the turning point in the interpretation that allows the play to be seen from a completely new angle. Torn between rage and anger resulting from the history of his family and the new role as landowner, which he cannot yet really grasp, he experiences psychological ups and downs, which he is not really able to cope with. His furious justification of the purchase of the estate resonates enormously with the colonial brute force from whose after-effects most of the former European colonies are still suffering today.

This interpretive approach – even if it was not originally intended – cannot be disregarded in the critical examination of the production. It resonates strongly, brought about by our zeitgeist, in which art, above all, has an important contribution to make in coming to terms with these criminal, inhuman and exploitative events. It is well known that it is always the spectacles of the viewers themselves that contribute to judging events individually. However, the fact that diverse ensembles are still the exception in theatres in Austria strongly contributes to this view. If the way a play is viewed can be given a new twist simply by the colour of an actor’s skin, one may conclude how great the need is to catch up in terms of diversity on our stages.

Isabel Abreu, Tom Adjibi, Nadim Ahmed, Suzanne Aubert, Océane Caïraty, Alex Descas, David Geselson, Grégoire Monsaingeon as well as Alison Valence – without exception, they are all to be mentioned for the intense portrayal of their roles.

The adherence to Chekhov’s original text, the addition of a strong musical component, an ensemble in which each and every individual was more than convincing, and the fact that the social upheaval presented can easily be transferred to our times, distinguish this production as a very memorable one.

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