Megalomania and self-abasement

Megalomania and self-abasement

They really do exist. Those small productions that travel the world without much fanfare and captivate audiences in every country, no matter where they land.

One such production has landed at the Kasematten „wortwiege“ Festival in Wiener Neustadt. “fragil / fragile” is the motto of this season and thus also captures the essence of the piece “The Anthology”. Smadar Yaaron and Moni Yossef from the Acco Theater in Israel manage to captivate the audience in their salon for over an hour. There is also plenty of laughter, although sometimes the laughter gets stuck in your throat.

"The Anthology" at the wortwiege Festival in Wiener Neustadt. (Photo: Julia Kampichler)

“The Anthology” zu Gast beim wortwiege Festival in Wiener Neustadt. (Foto: Julia Kampichler)

Smadar plays a fine, old, Jewish lady on the piano, who accompanies herself musically to her stories about God and the world. The lively and witty opening monologue is understood in the replica as the construct of an identity that must be elevated due to its fragility and damage. Without this elevation, this woman would have perished long ago and so, although we initially laugh at megalomaniac interpretations of Jewish culture, it is only after some time that we understand why this is a pure survival strategy for the old lady.

Smadar speaks in a mixture of Hebrew, English and German about the creation of the world and that Judaism is simply the source of all existence – including, absurdly, that of the blues and tango. She talks about music as a means of survival as well as alcohol or pills, without which she would simply lose her grip. A grounding that, on closer inspection, is not grounding at all. But the story also revolves around a mother-son relationship that could not be more unhealthy. The reason for this mismatch is the old lady’s former internment in the Auschwitz concentration camp, the trauma of which she carries with her and, to make matters worse, passes on to her son. The latter – also 67 years old – only makes his grand entrance in the second part of the play and immediately mingles with the audience to talk to him. His mother’s first half is as spherical and artistic as his son’s second half, who, with a gas mask on his head, is a grotesque apparition from the very beginning.

In this psychological battle for bare survival, which the two characters obviously have to play throughout their lives, abysses open up. So deep that any political correctness is inherently doomed to failure. But it is precisely the blunt atrocities, wrapped up in charming words, that make it clear: What is done to a person in his or her life leaves its mark. No matter how cultivated he or she wants to live beyond it – the evil inflicted on him or her still breaks its way at certain points and poisons the offspring at the same time.

Nevertheless, there are also unexpected, humorous changes of scene, as well as deeply emotional outbursts. In one such scene, the 67-year-old man transforms into a small, whimpering boy. Gripped by horror, distant from his family, close to dying of thirst, he roars out his fears while standing on the piano. Whether this suffering took place or is taking place in a concentration camp or current combat zones is ultimately irrelevant. We witness a desperate group of people who are completely helpless and unable to defend themselves. Neither against the violence from outside, nor against the psychological violence of his mother.

Smadar Yaaron and Moni Yossef achieve the masterpiece of allowing us to look deep into the abysses of the soul with intense acting in which we participate at first hand, without accusing. Instead, a perpetrator-victim reversal takes place in the course of the performance that fascinates and repels at the same time. The bursting open of emotional wounds, the visibility of madness that is not self-inflicted, but into which one is driven, all this is realized with a virtuosity that is incredibly fascinating.

Applause, the means of survival for every actor and actress, is denied them by the audience. However, what at first glance appears to be regrettable for them turns out, just a few moments later, after the audience has left the room, to be a psychological rucksack that they have unnoticeably put on the audience. Not being allowed to clap and having to sneak away quietly is like a gesture of head bowing, shame and confession of guilt. As is repeatedly postulated, we should not speak of collective guilt. But wouldn’t it be fair to pass on feelings of guilt across generations in the same way that traumas are passed on to future generations?

“The Anthology” is not only of the highest quality in terms of acting. The content, as simple as it may seem at first glance, also lives on an unbelievable number of levels, which must inevitably raise a whole series of questions for any thinking person. By inviting the Israeli duo, Anna Maria Krassnigg gave the audience a brilliant premiere towards the end of the festival in the Kasematten in Wiener Neustadt, which ends on March 24, 2024.

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What is it like to be an Israeli?

What is it like to be an Israeli?

Cardboard boxes with dates written large on them, a soccer, two armchairs and a horse – the latter a prop from another play – that’s all Ido Shaked and Hannan Ishay need to set off extraordinary stage fireworks.

The two actors and directors presented their latest play “A Handbook FOR THE ISRAELI THEATRE DIRECTOR IN EUROPE” at the ‘wortwiege’ festival in the Kasematten in Wiener Neustadt under the label ‘Théâtre Majâz’. Both are from Israel and left their country a few years ago – Ido Shaked to settle in Paris and Hannan Ishay to study and work in Austria. However, he now lives with his family in Tel Aviv again and can report first-hand on the situation there.



The show, which is conducted in the style of a double conférence, arose from the idea of talking about Israel and what is happening there on stage, as the two men are always asked what is going on there when they travel. So they took advantage of the lack of information to contribute to a better understanding of the events with their view of the developments. And they did this using the medium they know best: theater.

After just a few moments on stage, it becomes clear that Ido and Hannan are throwing their arguments, peppered with plenty of humor and side-swipes, at each other with such speed that you are happy to hear their easily understandable English. Supertitles or subtitles would be completely pointless in this constellation, but their conversation is so well paced that even audiences who don’t speak English on a daily basis have no difficulty following them.

They talk about politics as well as soccer or food, they talk about Israel as an occupying power as well as the fact that they are not allowed or able to talk about many things. Partly because it contradicts the raison d’état, partly because they themselves do not know how to deal with a development whose spirals of violence are inevitably driven upwards.



As difficult as the situation in her home country is and as hard as it may be to believe that an evening about Israel can be staged in a peppery, spicy way that offers the audience the highest level of entertainment, the endeavor is plausible. When asked whether they would even be in a position to perform their play in Europe in view of the current outbreaks of violence from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, they both respond with an unequivocal “Yes! How else are we supposed to deal with this situation if not by reflecting on stage!”

The anti-Semitic trend in Europe is addressed just as much as the feeling of being torn apart. Torn between the luxury of living abroad, but at the same time not having the opportunity to take part in anti-government demonstrations in Israel. Ido and Hannan are aware that their venture on stage could be doomed to failure at any moment, but they are professionals enough to ensure that this does not happen. Their witty pas de deux captivates, affects and invites laughter at the same time, leaving the audience with plenty of feelings and even more food for thought.

“What are you going to do? Go away? Stay?” Ido asks his colleague Hannan at the end, who has no conclusive answer. Instead, they embed their final reflections in the great European myths such as those of Odysseus and Troy, the city that was reduced to ashes, thereby locating the horror and suffering, but also the resurrection from the dust, in those millennia-old tales that are just as valid today as they were in antiquity.

What a wonderful reference to the host “wortwiege”, which also repeatedly takes up ancient material in its festivals to illustrate exactly the same thing. Rating: Absolutely worth seeing!

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.

A good story is like a fit knife

A good story is like a fit knife

“A good story is like a fit knife”. Anna Luca Poloni recites this sentence at the beginning and end of her production “Orlando Trip“, which she premiered in Austria together with Christian Mair at the festival “Europa in Szene” focusing on “Sea Change – the art of transformation” at the Kasematten in Wiener Neustadt.

The cinematic-musical show, produced under the label “Fox on ice”, leans on the tradition of “concept albums” with 12 songs. With his album “Frank Sinatra sings for only the lonely“, Frank Sinatra is considered the forefather of this genre, in which the individual titles refer to each other and thus follow a certain “concept”.

“Orlando Trip” refers to Virginia Woolf’s famous book “Orlando” in which she tells of the transformation of a medieval knight into a woman. The fact that this transformation takes place over a period of 400 years additionally underlines the story’s fantastic construction of ideas. The original inspired and continues to inspire many artists to take up the material again and add their own interpretations. What is little known, even among literature geeks, is the fact that Woolf had a model for her text. Ludovico Ariosto’s “Orlando furioso” from the 16th century.Interestingly, it is precisely in our time that it is increasingly popping up in different ways. Several film adaptations, an opera by Olga Neuwirth, radio play adaptations, dance performances, but also those in public space, such as the Orlando project in Vienna make it clear that the material still offers sufficient impulses to deal with it in an original way.

Orlando Trip 19 c Ludwig Drahosch web

Orlando trip (Photo: Ludwig Drahosch)

Christian Mair and Anna Luca Poloni alias Anna Maria Krassnigg do this in their own way, which has a high recognition value. Film material, recorded by Christian Mair, is interlocked with texts by Anna Luca Poloni, which are sung by her, but partly also recited in a speech style. One is amazed at how polyglot the artist couple is in this production. The texts are largely written in English poetry, an undertaking usually only mastered by those literary artists whose mother tongue is English. In addition, there are Italian, but also French sprinklings, which underline the international touch that the production has.

It is not necessary to read the material beforehand, yet “Orlando Trip” manages to make you want to pick up Woolf’s book afterwards to read it for the first time, but also to read it again. A fact that is often found in productions by ‘wortwiege’. This also shows that one of the main tasks of this theatre is to convey literature. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about dramas or dramatised material. Sensual, joyful, theatrically realisable – these are the criteria that are decisive for a reception and a realisation of wortwiege. Not to forget: worthy of discussion.

Christian Mair’s compositions in “Orlando Trip” move between soft, often darkly coloured, lyrical songs and rocky, rhythmic, up to poppy catchy tunes. The performers trace the development of Orlando, underpin it with current visuals from many different countries and open windows into dream worlds. The main theme is the physical, but not mental transformation that Orlando undergoes in his sleep without any active intervention on his part. One witnesses how, as a young man, he discovers his feelings and his infatuation with Sasha, who abandons him at the all-important moment. One follows his turn to literature, which he continues to uphold as an elixir of life even later as a woman. And one marvels at the resistance of the female Orlando, who knows how to preserve her independence despite marriage and a son.

Orlando Trip 10 c Ludwig Drahosch web

Orlando trip (Photo: Ludwig Drahosch)

Anna Luca Poloni’s androgynous charisma in this production supports the fluidity between the gender boundaries. At the same time, despite her delicate appearance, one feels a permanent force in the portrayal of both the male and female parts that seems to be independent of gender. Young Orlando turns to literature as a matter of course after his love disaster in his inner emigration. Financially independent, he does not even ask himself whether he can and is allowed to do so. But one can also authentically empathise with the female astonishment at the games between man and woman. When Anna Luca Poloni sings “dimmi, Capitano”, this also addresses the female fascination with the uniform. At the same time, however, she conveys an irrevocable will for freedom at every moment, which she retains even after her transformation into a woman.

Christian Mair forms a kind of rock in the surf of the production next to her with his electric guitar. Setting the pace, he nevertheless succeeds in giving his partner so much playful freedom that they both appear equal in the audience’s perception. A circumstance that is seldom encountered in the concert business, but here it works perfectly in a symbiotic way.

“Why glue together? Is this nature’s will?” Orlando sings at one point, raising the question of cohabitation and marriage as a socially established phenomenon. Unlike current gender debates, Orlando`s transformation is completely frictionless, almost natural, at best astonishing. It is to this production’s greatest credit that it highlights this, albeit hypothetical, pacifist possibility.

As part of the “Sea Change” initiative, “Orlando Trip” was and is shown in many European countries. It would be a pleasure to be present at every single performance abroad to be able to follow the different audience reactions. At the premiere in the casemates of Wiener Neustadt, “Fox on ice” was applauded frenetically.

There will be another performance on 23.9.

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From the ape-like gait to the human jogging mania

From the ape-like gait to the human jogging mania

Man moves and fights against gravity from his first days to his last. This is one of the core statements of Aleksandar Acev, who was invited by wortwiege to the casemates of Wiener Neustadt. As part of the festival “Europa in Szene”, in the special “Sea change” edition, he rocked the hall with his production “Lucy was not long ago”.

Acev is a “body language teacher,” author, director as well as a university lecturer at various European universities, where he imparts his knowledge to acting students. Moving on stage and finding the right expression for the character and the situation is one thing. Observing people in everyday life and analyzing their emotional state or even their character in a few moments – this is also possible with Acev’s Bodylanguage knowledge. Both mediation approaches are thematized in his performance – however not theoretically dry, but made visible with his grandiose use of the body.

C Julia Kampichler Lucy was not long ago ASC 0069

Lucy was not long ago (Photo: Julia Kampichler)

Lucy the monkey is considered one of those ancestors of man who practiced the upright gait and thus established our way of life on two legs instead of four. Acev approaches this topic with a great deal of knowledge, body awareness and a large dose of humor, and delighted audiences across all ages with his story of animal and human movement history.

His brilliant show ranged from an easy introduction, the explanation and pointing out of many possible human gaits to four grandiosely performed, different shoulder looks and the resulting different forms of expression. With Lucy on one side of the stage and Scully – a miniature human skeleton – on the other side, he had brought two artificial antipodes to him, which he filled with life.

Particularly entertaining was the part in which he demonstrated his observations of jogging people: he juxtaposed one type, characterized by its looseness and bouncing gait, with another who, with his upper body bent backwards, seemed to be stuck in his past. Still others, who rush headlong into the future, without ifs and buts, or those who, bent with grief, nevertheless set off on the run – all of them and many more were alternately imitated by Acev almost every second. In the process, the performer juggled words just as well to accompany his performance.

The different ways of greeting, submissive, deprecating, fearful or hopeful triggered just as cheerful moods as the references to the direct Lucy kinship in the field of male sports greats. The tennis player Djokovic beating his chest with a clenched fist, the famous, unforgettable headbutt of the soccer player Zinédine Zidane – against the Italian Materazzi at the World Cup – or the wide-legged goal celebration of his colleague Ronaldo: all these short and yet so striking movements, demonstrated by the mime, made it clear that Lucy and her kind cannot have been extinct for so long. The evolution of man’s fusion with his chair – this was another theme that served as an eye-opener for one’s own movement patterns. Who hasn’t lounged at the office chair without energy on several occasions, who hasn’t had the feeling of being fused with his keyboard, and who hasn’t felt prompted to expose his body to sporting activities more often?

Probably the most amazing thing about Acev’s performance is the realization that with this kind of “edutainment” you can gain knowledge in a short time that you wouldn’t get by reading books for hours on end. And it does so in a highly enjoyable way. All who have seen “Lucy was not long ago” have been given a new observational insensitivity by the artist at the bottom. What a great side-effect, triggered by a theatrical event as part of the wortwiege festival.

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Orlando’s Vienna Stroll

Orlando’s Vienna Stroll

The theatrical project aimed to interactively confront the audience with the story of Orlando by Virginia Woolf along various stations within Vienna’s city center. On foot, equipped with a cell phone and headphones, they set out on a path with a total of five stations, accompanied by a charming guide. Approximately 9,000 steps had to be completed in a time of 1.5 hours. At each station, the participants received instructions on which environment they had to point the camera of the cell phone provided in order to activate the app installed on it.

Anisoglu and Pacher’s work is highly transnational, which in this context meant that every single station in Orlando’s life had been designed by other artists. Visuals that could be seen on the small cell phone screens partially merged with the environment for which they were made. Except for one station, the audience listened to the text by Sophie Steinbeck, who had made an abridgment, but also an overwriting of Woolf’s literary model. In doing so, she had used narratives from the individual book chapters on the one hand, but also introduced her own ideas, which at times added another layer to the original text. A small sample:

“the english language is not enough to say what he feels
the german language must be enough for the author to understand what orlando cannot say in english.”

Aras Levni Seyhan delivered the musical bracket that connected all the individual stations.
Claudia Virginia Dimoiu, Simon Goritschnig, Theo Emil Krausz, Nour Shantout, Cosima Büsing, Metamorkid and Lara Sienczak are those artists who had also been invited to this project and delivered contributions.

The story of Orlando is diverse and colorful, dreamlike and at the same time visionary in structure. “The Orlando project” adopts this multicolor. The narrative of the life of a man who transforms into a woman stretches from the Middle Ages up to our own time. Each of the five stations marks a particular time period and bears its own artistic signature. Visual transformations with the help of virtual reality, dance and song interludes recorded on video and reworked on the computer, but also a sculpture garden that you can walk through thanks to a magnificent artificial architecture, create variety and excitement. What begins in the Griechengasse finally ends in the Museumsquartier in front of the Mumok.

The diverse impressions have been charmingly recorded in a leporello, which one receives at the end of the trip. It thus becomes a kind of memory tool along which one can let one’s thoughts wander. Both a brief description of the individual stations and the complete text to be heard are recorded on it. The individual text stations are supplemented with a small photographic excerpt. Large enough to set the memory in motion, small enough to revive one’s own sensations and impressions.

In fact, the artistic team managed to create a sustainable work, which – it is planned – can be discovered in the future with the help of the app alone. This also makes sense, because the overabundance of impressions, coupled with the “real life” that inevitably surrounds you during the performance, do not allow you to take in, hear, see and process everything at the same time.

Individual aesthetically very successful realizations remain in the memory. For example, the artificial landscape of sculptural imprints by Simon Goritschnig in the Schweizerhof of the castle, or the work of Manuel Biedermann, who expanded the transgender performance of Metamorkid with a memorable mapping animation on the wall of the Mumok. The fragmented Persian carpet by Nour Shantout on the facade of the Weltmuseum, which symbolizes Orlando’s stay in Istanbul, also belongs to this group. It should also be noted that it succeeded in plausibly tracing Orlando’s passage through the centuries and ultimately seeing his change of gender in a contemporary light.

Should the project emancipate itself in the next step with a self-operating app, this could develop into a new Viennese attraction that artistically underscores the internationality of this city.

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