Get this, dear worst-reader. While I was walking through its front doors, which seem to be in a perpetual state of renovation, discard and renewal for the last couple of years, my better half asked me when was the last time I saw a play at the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus. Wow, I thought. It has to be at least a decade. Or what about fifteen years? But then I tried to think of the last play I saw there. As I write this, dear worst-reader, I can’t remember the most recent play I saw there. Shame on me, eh. I can remember vividly one of the first plays I saw there. It was Waiting For Godot. That must have been, if my worst-memory serves me correctly, ca. 1991. And it was outside of the iconic building, in the now under construction courtyard. It was a magnificent production. But I digress.
Yeah, it’s been a while. With that in worst-mind, my better half bought us two 2nd row, right in the middle tickets, for Danton’s Death by George Büchner. And while I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen a play at this particular venue, I do remember the fact that this viewing of Dantons Tod would place it at the top of my most viewed plays list. Indeed. This would be my third viewing of Dantons Tod. The only other plays that come close are Hamlet, Waiting For Godot, Endgame, Street Car Named Desire, all of which I’ve seen staged at least twice. Which begs the worst-question. Will I see Danton a fourth time? Or. Oh how I’m due to see Godot again.
Critics weren’t fond of this staging of Dantons Tod, a few of which I read after seeing it. And although I try not to play worst-critic, I thought it was a perfectly acceptable staging including all the text manipulations (re-write), character and gender role changes (re-write) and a bit of flamboyant ensemble pseudo-dancing that included the excessive dispersion of fake blood and other gore, which made it, at times, to the 2nd row. Then again, this is a play not only about the main characters of the French Revolution but also about collective terror and self-inflicted madness. With that in worst-mind, there is one small thing I cannot accept about the staging of this brilliant piece of art.
While mentally preparing myself to enjoy such a viewing in a pretty cool theatrical venue, I couldn’t stop knowing/thinking/hoping that this staging would include something as relevant as yellow vests. Half way to the intermission of a three hour production, there was not one yellow vest to be seen. Once we returned to our seat after the intermission (bier for worst-moi and a glass of white wine for my better-half), there was still no yellow vest. WTF!
As I may or may not have worst-said in this worst-blog, I am a Francophile. Not only that, but I am also a Neo-Jacobin1. How the hell can anyone stage such a play at such a time and not include, in one form/style/way or another, a fcuking yellow vest? It’s bad enough that most of the world’s press doesn’t cover what’s going on in France but is it also necessary for a theatre director who is making/re-writing what is probably the most profound theatrical analysis of the world’s greatest social and political revolution–that even tops the revolution of my beloved & missed united mistakes of #Americant–and not include at least some minor reference to what is obviously connected to that revolution to this day? One of the most profound things about the French, about being French, is how they are able to connect to their history not only through nationality, borders and language but also through a culture of unyielding distrust of government, authority and power. France today, IMHO, is the only remaining beacon of hope against the likes of #Trump, #Brexit, hate and collective fear-mongering. And that’s coming from an expat #Americant that’s been living amongst fcuking automaton Germans (The Borg) for the past thirty gottdamn years. Come on Armin Petras!
Indeed. This is a very acceptable production and a grand effort on the part of the director (re-writer) Armin Petras, including the guillotine-like stage-build by Olaf Altmann. Not only that but Danton (Wolfgang Michalek) made me cry (tears of joy), Robespierre (Lieke Hoppe) and her mane made me wish for more of a female Robespierre, and I really enjoyed the brief but utterly self-indulgent integration of Toussaint Louverture (Ron Iyamu)–who is not even in the original play, hence re-write by the director. Also, at the link below Toussaint Louverture is accredited with being “a former slave” when in fact he is the black Jacobin of history’s only black rebellion against slavery which took place in Haiti, 1791. You can read about Toussaint Louverture, by-the-buy, in The Black Jacobins by CLR James. Yeah, I’ve been meaning to worst-write something about that one. In the mean time, here and here is a bit more about my love/admiration for all things French and/or French Revolution. And so. Enough of worst-writer as worst-theatre-critic.
Go see a play, dear worst-reader. I’m so glad I did.
- Neo Jacobin, according to worst-writer, is a Jacobin who has learned from the mistakes of the reign of terror but adheres whole heartily to the annihilation of monarchs, ridding the world of unearned wealth, i.e. aristocracy and pseudo-aristrocacy and, where applicable, eating the fcuking useless rich. ↩︎