Among the spikier choices at this yr’s Theatertreffen, the annual pageant of drama in Berlin, is a play whose dramatis personae could ring acquainted. There’s an offended ballet director, a feminine reviewer who offers his present a vital mauling and an adjoining dachshund. Their paths converge in the identical lurid means as occurred in actual life final yr, when the top of Hanover State Opera’s ballet firm, Marco Goecke, attacked dance critic Wiebke Hüster with canine excrement in response to a unfavorable overview.

Die Hundekot-Attacke (“the canine poop assault”) is conceived by Dutch firm Wunderbaum and devised by an actors’ collective from Jena. The play has a plot that incorporates a group of actors from Jena devising a provocative play primarily based on a real-life hundekot-attacke, in a determined bid to attract critics to their provincial theatre – a giant thought from a small-town ensemble.

On the face of it, it’s a win for regional drama – Theaterhaus Jena, within the Thuringian province, has by no means earlier than been chosen to characteristic within the pageant’s 10-strong lineup (this yr chosen from 690 exhibits). However on condition that the programme is compiled by seven main critics from the German-speaking world, is that this a traditional case of schadenfreude inside the vital business?

Not precisely. The place the manufacturing may need fallen into cheaply capitalising on final yr’s controversy, it as a substitute steers an intelligently self-interrogating path, and is entertaining alongside the best way. The skinny-skinned creatives of theatre are delightfully pilloried, the rehearsal and writing processes despatched up – there’s even a mock-audition for a dachshund.

Alongside that’s severe commentary on the place of criticism, fragile masculinity, violence in opposition to ladies, the hierarchical constructions on which Germany’s theatre business is constructed, and the psychological impression of unfavorable criticism on the artist. (One director within the present turns into an almost-stalker of a critic who has given him a horrible overview.)

It’s a curious flip within the poo-gate drama, and results in considerate reflections. Barbara Behrendt, who critiques theatre for radio broadcaster Deutschlandradio, says that the incident, paradoxically, turned a “welcome start line” for a much bigger dialogue, not simply concerning the opinion-shaping energy of the critic but in addition gender dynamics. “Lots of people on the time thought it was a case of a misogynistic asshole attacking a lady, and the way the main target must be that, slightly than any questioning of what the critic had stated in her overview,” says Behrendt.

‘Theatre and criticism can’t dwell with out one another’ … Theaterhaus Jena (left to proper): Hannah Baumann, Linde Dercon, Nikita Buldyrski, Leon Pfannenmüller, Anna Okay Seidel, Henrike Commichau, Pina Bergemann, Walter Bart. {Photograph}: © Joachim Dette

Die Hundekot-Attacke’s director, Walter Bart, feels that whereas everybody was speaking concerning the real-life incident after it occurred, the conversations weren’t straightforward or easy, and so “we thought theatre could be the very best place for it”. And the corporate requested themselves some severe questions on whether or not humour could possibly be inserted into such a narrative. Goecke was investigated by police on expenses of prison assault; proceedings in opposition to him had been dropped and he made a cost to a non-profit affiliation. The collective knowledgeable each Goecke and Hüster of the undertaking on the outset, however then felt it was vital to maintain a distance and go their very own means creatively, says Bart.

Linde Dercon, who options among the many ensemble solid of six, says it was written particularly with the world of dance in thoughts. There are transient diversions into Black Swan territory, which skim throughout the abuse of energy, but in addition an extended, fantastically spoofy dance, carried out as a play inside the play, which brings excellent bodily comedy on the finish.

Anna Okay Seidel, one other solid member, says the play intentionally switches sides conceptually between the artist and the critic, and resists coming down on both one definitively. It does acknowledge the pragmatic necessity of criticism although. The collective within the play want the critics to show up, and know that unfavorable critiques are a part of the metaphorical handshake. Something, for them, is healthier than not being talked about.

Maybe it’s the similar in life as in artwork. Exhibits at Theaterhaus Jena sometimes appeal to a few native reviewers, says Bart, however this one drew double figures, with critics from far afield turning as much as the unique run. “Theatre and criticism can’t dwell with out one another,” says Bart, “and an excellent critic is important, particularly now that [newspaper] reviewing house is getting smaller and smaller.”

Die Hundekot-Attacke is at Theatertreffen, Berlin, on 20 Might and at Theater Frascati, Amsterdam, 22-23 Might.


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