[Translate to English:]

Silvia Stefka

On the road at SPIELART

Of wrestlers, (wooden) puppets and singers

A wide variety of performance aesthetics, a wide variety of artists from different corners of the globe at different venues in Munich - that is the SPIELART Theatre Festival - that is pluralism in action.


To kick off the festival, Julian Warner and Veronika Maurer really let it rip with their action-packed performance theatre KAMPF UM DIE STADT. We find ourselves in a wrestling show, with professional wrestlers in the ring, acrobatic cheerleaders, a presenter and a DJane.  Via video transmission, we not only see the fight, but also the introduction of the six characters involved. These are, for example, "little people", based in Giesing, a greedy "landlady", "the city" and other protagonists. The dialectic show takes us through a story that could be set in any big city. Greedy "landlords" give notice to "little people" and rich "investors" want to defeat "the city". The audience, fuelled by music, colourful lights and fog, is invited to take sides and make their voices heard. The audience thus becomes part of the performance. Perfectly choreographed with the finest slapstick. It's not just the performers who work up a sweat.


We experience something more thought-provoking in the exemplary journey of a refugee family that we are taken on in the theatre piece SIMPLE AS ABC #7 THE VOICE OF FINGERS by Thomas Bellinck and Said Reza Adib. The basis for this is fingerprint identification, which was already used in the days of the Chinese Empire. The narrative begins with the story of the Englishman Sir William J. Herschel, who used fingerprints for the first time in the Indian colony in the 19th century. As a "data subject", the father in this refugee family has to give his fingerprints over and over again, to the point of absurdity, in order to be identified in every country he passes through. The stage is constantly "planted" with red tulips as a reminder of his homeland. The tediousness associated with the alternation of flight, deportation and renewed flight is recorded by a child's voice counting down the days.


The performance SHE WAS A FRIEND OF SOMONE ELSE by Gosia Wdowik deals with the struggle for the right to abortion in Poland. Exhausted and burnt out by her activism, the protagonist only passively takes part in the action on stage. She is motionless and too weak to move herself. Her Telegram chat, in which she desperately tries to recruit fellow campaigners, is shown in multimedia, interviews with her are shown on video and many other women are shown in portrait format on a large screen with a split screen, talking about their own experiences with abortion.


The performance THE MAKING OF PINOCCHIO by the Scottish living and working partnership Ivor MacAskill and Rosana Cade deals with MacAskill's transformation into a boy in comparison with Pinocchio and explores the question of what is "real". The development of trans people is presented in a humorous and multi-perspective way. Live film transmissions merge with film recordings, parallel to the audience address. We simultaneously see the play on stage with the distortion of dimensions in the monitor. The constant tracking by the camera means that the view of MacAskill as a person is constantly changing. The confusion of visual observation gives us a sense of the complications of the transformation process.


The puppet theatre WHITE STORYTELLER by The Party Theater Group immerses us in a tragic story in an amusing way. The narrator's personal perspective sheds light on the White Terror perpetrated by the Kuomintang government on the population of Taiwan in the 1950s. A monologue conversation with his deceased father brings back his childhood memories of his (foster) father and his sick mother. The betrayal of his foster father, the political murder of his biological father by the soldiers and the desperate suicide of his mother are dealt with on the basis of traditional Chinese hand puppet theatre. Despite the melancholy subject matter, the hand puppet theatre, accompanied by partly traditional, gruelling and partly calm instrumental music, makes it easier for us to get involved.


The performance 375 0908 2334 THE BODY YOU ARE CALLING IS CURRENTLY NOT AVAILABLE by Belarusian artist Igor Shugaleev impresses with its oppressive simplicity. To the documentary audio recording about the unrest and mass arrests in Belarus in August '21 due to the falsified 2020 elections, the performer demonstrates one of the methods of white torture (torture without leaving a trace) on his own body - a rigid posture, with his face leaning against the wall and his hands raised. This is his way of supporting his compatriots in their protest. Through his suffering of enduring sixty minutes in this position, which in reality lasts four hours, we are able to experience this sensation. Shugaleev allows the audience to do everything, yet it seems as if the spectators hold their breath and only gradually dare to do the same and share the performer's position of suffering.


With Uncertain Studio's object theatre THE COLLECTION OF TIME IN THE POLYMER AGE, we have to critically examine the use of plastic in all its forms. Using the Kaohsiung oil refinery in Taiwan as an example, we learn how local residents and employees view the issue. We see how the refinery is constructed from Lego on stage - when viewed from the grandstand, it appears small and insignificant, in contrast to the perspective filmed by the hand-held camera. For the local residents, the refinery must have been a huge smoking monster that brought prosperity to the workers, but also illness. The artists tackle this problem in a musical, poetic and playful way. Various products made from different plastic compounds are presented in fast motion, positioned in front of a hand-held camera. This multimedia presentation hits us directly - how many plastic products do we use every day?


DO YOU KNOW THIS SONG? by Mallika Taneja is a musical, interactive performance in which no one can remain a passive observer. The Indian artist takes us into her life in a mischievous way and takes us back to her past in search of her lost voice. The stage, a narrow strip between the audience seats, is crowded with small, self-tied hand puppets. At one end are a few objects, such as a puppet with a sari, cooking utensils, cloths and strings, as well as tins with the captured voice and captured stars. At the other end are a microphone, a harmonium and a loudspeaker. From time to time, the artist invites us to sing with her. As she dives back into her childhood, her recalled sound sequences increasingly become a beautiful song that she accompanies on the harmonium. In a funny and entertaining way, she dances back and forth on the "catwalk" while we dive deeper and deeper into her story. Chanting together connects and exhilarates the entire audience.