Thursday, June 6, 2013

Being There (Early)

Wednesday I attended the premiere of the Kleist-award-winning play Brandung, by Maria Milisavljevic. The play is being performed at the Ruhrfestspiele's new space, Halle König Ludwig, a converted industrial space out in the middle of nowhere. The festival supposedly runs a shuttle service, but it was unavailable for the premiere. I attempted to walk there, which according to the computer should have taken a little over an hour. After walking an hour and realizing I was clearly in the wrong place, I turned around and walked another hour back to the train station.

The taxi took a long, winding way out into the industrial suburbs, and let me off, quite early at the theatre. I (over)tipped the driver, and he proceeded to be (overly) helpful by pointing out the entrance. I knew it would be locked, but to satisfy the driver, I tried the door. Three young men stood outside.

“Können wir Ihnen helfen?” one asked.

“Ich bin zu früh,” I said.

“Yeah,” he replied. “You’re really early.”

I asked if there was a place nearby where I could wait.

“Around here?” he said. “There’s nothing around here.”

The map showed a church and a park and what looked to be a thriving neighborhood. Well, not quite. I did check out König Ludwig Park, which more resembled a dense, woodsy area, and I did locate a lovely catholic church, which was locked. There was a grocery store with a café, both of which were clearly set up for drivers, not pedestrians. I got some food to eat in the park, however, and later came back to the café for coffee and dessert.

After waiting around a bit longer, I was finally admitted to the theatre. Who should appear onstage but the man who disparaged the local neighborhood! Only now, he was wearing a mermaid costume. The mermaid, who I have since learned is named Christoph Hart, provided live music for the piece. He also seemed to take on the character of Karla, the woman whose disappearance sets off the play. At the beginning, he is menaced by the three other performers, who all wear fox masks. Later, when we discover what happens to Karla, it is reenacted with the mermaid again playing Karla, being savaged by one of the foxes.

The most noticeable thing about this production was the set. There appeared to be a number of window panes hanging at an angle in the rear of the stage, behind which the mermaid played his music. As the performance went on, however, it became clear that the panes of glass were actually pieces of ice that slowly melted and sometimes crashed to the ground during the show. Oh, and the two other men out front with the mermaid? They turned out to be Christopher Rüping, the director, and Jonathan Mertz, the set designer.

Funny who you can meet by showing up early.