It’s your fault and so are you. And when the actress Patrycia Ziólkowska recognizes someone in the audience, she says their first name, and that’s their fault. Or the. Spotting the spectators is easy for her and her colleague Alicia Aumüller, they are standing directly in front of the audience, not on top of the stage, which is closed off by the Iron Curtain, which only slightly rises a few times to emit a small cloud of fog when just belch the Oracle of Delphi.
Nicolas Stemann, director of the Zurich theater alongside Benjamin von Blomberg, staged “King Oedipus” by Sophocles, he translated the text himself and now it’s called “Oedipus Tyrann”. In addition to large-scale, theatrical tableaus, Stemann always has a soft spot for small, concentrated works. In this case, two actresses are enough for him, whom he places in front of the stage in the peacock, both in simple black dresses. They are enough for him for all roles, for the mass of text. And in the end one statement, uncovered from Sophocles’ play, is enough for him: Oedipus has the power, so he also believes he has everything right. And because he does not want to recognize his own deeds in this belief until shortly before the end, the world perishes. In the play it is Thebes, plagued by plague and drought. But what is meant, and Stemann insinuates this in the first words of his version, is we. All. Because we took too long to understand what we were doing, the world is dying.
Of course that’s a bit oversimplified, of course a lot of the piece’s subtleties are missing, which do appear here, but are consistently subordinated to the aim of the statement, of course one can ask how much guilt Oedipus really has, he didn’t know that he was his father killed. However, the question still remains as to whether it is responsible behavior to simply kill someone in the mountains because they are in the way, father or not.
If you surrender to Stemann’s purposeful straightforwardness, which is easy on this evening, then the result is an incredibly exciting performance of a well-known story. Because what Aumüller and Ziólkowska do with the text is pretty fabulous. They speak in dialogue, they take on the text of one and the same character as a rhetorical ping-pong game, they speak the chorus, they make the many characters vivid, which Ziólkowska in particular does with the many colors that are available to her when speaking standing, works wonderfully. They get emotional, and the long scene of the epistemology, the conversation between Tiresias and Oedipus, is really a thriller. At the end, when Laura Marling’s beautiful song “What He Wrote” has faded away, the audience jumps to their feet. The bourgeois audience at the Pfauen is enthusiastic. Because it’s meant to be.
The Swiss public currently has a soft spot for clear statements. At the end of the series of premieres at the beginning of the season at the Zurich Schauspielhaus , Christopher Rüping is adapting the film “Border” by the Swedish filmmaker Ali Abbasi in Schiffbau. Message: It is better to acknowledge that people and living beings are different at all. And you allow them this difference.
“Border” (2018) tells the story of Tina, a troll woman who works at Swedish customs because she smells when someone is smuggling illegal goods, in a wild mix of genres. Trolls can do that. As the film progresses, it dives into dark mythical worlds, from which Rüping brings to light the motifs that are decisive for him. But first of all, Maja Beckmann stands alone on the completely empty stage and flirts with the audience, which she can do like hardly anyone else. She says goodbye to Zurich (but will continue to play there), moves to Hamburg because her people are there and she hasn’t felt at home in Switzerland in three years. Beckmann is incredibly friendly, knows about her privileges as a salaried actress, but it doesn’t work. She never felt like she belonged. For “Time to Say Goodbye” she does rhythmic gymnastics, a grandiose moment of pathos.
Beckmann’s monologue is part true, part fictitious, set in writing, yet she speaks as if it occurred to her in the moment. Out of this huge charm, she introduces Tina (Wiebke Mollenhauer), the troll woman, whose sniffed out successes are documented in the newspaper. Really. Then the stage floor is torn open, revealing the forest floor underneath, including a small pond, the planks standing around like logs, and an elf appears. Benjamin Lillies can speak like Legolas in “Lord of the Rings” and explains to Mollenhauer who her character is, how the humans took the trolls out of the forests, took their children away from them, pressed them into human life, some dying but also exploiting their abilities , see customs.
The great thing about this clever performance, which is also equipped with enormous show value, is how Rüping weaves together the completely free, grandiose actresses Beckmann and Mollenhauer in their actions, how the story of a being that is not allowed to live out its fairytale nature is interwoven with a non-arrival in everyday life. Maybe we should all be more trolls, less mainstream, then nature will be better off too. Tonight, the audience is enthusiastic about this idea.