postcards from berlin #22 [stealing the show]
LENZ (r. rupprecht) @ deutsches theater
there’s not much sexier than virtuosity.
i’m not sure how to really assess this show on a dramaturgical level cause either a) it lost me in the middle, or b) the main performance actually distracted from the production. i’m not sure if that’s a bad thing either.
it’s a tricky text anyway. büchner didn’t really finish his novella fragment, which reads like a hallucination on its own. (a hallucination about a guy having hallucinations written by a guy who may have been having his own hallucinations?)
lilja rupprecht takes the text and smashes it up against a few other narratives (jim jarmusch’s dead man). i’m not sure if it adds or detracts much other than the fact that seeing white people dress up in indigenous costume obviously tweaks something stronger for a north american, while germans apparently have zero qualms about it (this is the third show i’ve seen in 2 months in which a headdress is supposed to carry a strange warm cozy childish connotation—it’s this tradition of winnetou books and how they’ve shaped the german imagination).
at the centre of the production is ole lagerpusch as lenz. wiggling, writhing, dousing himself in water, clay, paint, standing on his head. and no less acrobatic vocally. guy’s got some serious technique and he’s pulling no punches here. it may even be that he over-offers—it’s hard to guess what might be left in his skill set that he doesn’t put on the table here. but as a young actor carrying a 2-person show in a claustrophobic space you’re going to be looking to fill that room with all the energy you’ve got for 100 minutes.
i come down on two sides of this.
on the one hand it makes me think of whole cohorts of actors who talk about being “director-proof” which is basically about mistrust. that if they lose faith they’ll just cut the director out of the loop and mediate their own relationships with the text and the audience. which offends me in principle but then i’ve seen some of those shows where the actors has rescued themselves and i’m grateful for having someone give me something to watch for a few hours.
on the other hand i think it’s an actor’s job to offer the director everything they’e got and it’s a director’s job to meet that head-on and help to shape it, to move passed being impressed or delighted with the torrent of offers and curate them with a mind to ‘what the show wants’—whatever that is. sometimes a great actor steamrolls over a director who’s not sure what to do with them. and i don’t think it’s necessarily the actor’s fault.
which isn’t exactly what’s happened here. rupprecht’s concept is pretty sound, if maybe a few too many ideas, and she’s built the piece around this performance. it’s not that lagerpusch is doing anything wildly out of line with the story, he’s just so fucking engaging that his performance gets to be more interesting than lenz’ story. which isn’t easy to do, cause the chronicle of lenz’ mental breakdown, suicide attempts, and messianic delusions is also pretty fascinating.
in büchner’s text though, we’re reading it more for büchner than for lenz. it’s büchner’s sucker punches when he turns phrases, his meandering prose, his own particular insights into a figure who wanders off into the mountains hoping to escape his own head. he’s mostly working from pastor oberlin’s accounts to fill in lenz’s subjective experience. and here we get an actor doing that again, but this time we’re not watching for lenz, nor even so much for büchner, but what lagerpusch can make out of the suggestions that are offered for him. and so what if he steals the fucking show? i didn’t have a bad night at theatre.
for more on the show click here.