Thursday, 27 November 2008

No Zaimoglu Report

I interrupted my punishing schedule of reading books about Berlin (see below) for a spontaneous theatre trip last night. We wanted to see Feridun Zaimoglu and Günter Senkel's play Schattenstimmen at Ballhaus Naunynstraße. Only we weren't the only ones. After a briefly disturbing dogpoo incident and a lot of standing around in the street, it turned out there were no seats free. So nothing to report there then, apart from the fact that it's a very popular show. And the audience looked pretty damn cool.

The play premiered in Cologne this spring and has also been performed in a pared-down version in Kiel. Apparently, the authors were unhappy with the Cologne production and didn't turn up to the premiere. The critics have been pretty scathing, not just about the productions but also about the material itself: too vulgar, too clichéd, too one-track-minded. It's a piece of documentary theatre based, apparently, on interviews with nine illegal immigrants to Germany. The sans-papiers are dishwashers, dealers, rentboys and prostitutes; plus an ex-au pair-turned-party girl. Racism and homophobia are rife in the monologues, but the Cologne production at least was judged too pathetic. And there were voices who wanted a more "representative" choice of individuals. I have to say, the people I've known who weren't quite legal here over the years weren't prostitutes, dealers or rentboys - but maybe that's just the company I keep. But it all sounds like fairly typical Zaimoglu-Senkel fare - the more provocative the better, playing around with stereotypes and pigeonholes and with black men's masturbation providing a lyrical intermezzo.

We're going to Bist du schwul oder bist du Türke? next week instead, which translates roughly as "Are you a poofter or are you Turkish?" There is a slight chance I may feel out of place, if it has as narrow a target audience as the title would suggest.

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