postcards from berlin #4 [devising differently]
DENIAL (r. ronen) @ maxim gorki theater berlin
despite several attempts, i hadn’t yet seen one of yael ronen’s pieces at the gorki. she’s haus-regisseurin there, and has created several productions there, ranging from interpreting texts, to adapting prose narratives, to devised projects. DENIAL fits into the latter category.
#1: it’s nice to see a theatre operating with a strong mandate for devised work featured on the main stage.
#2: this is more possible here in berlin where one actually has enough rehearsal time (standard 7 weeks) to devise a work.
#3: not that canadians aren’t strong devisers, but the dominant playwright-driven model in canada has our rehearsal times at about half the german standard. our strongest devised creations come out of the vitally-important residency programs that some of the facility-based theatres have initiated more recently (i.e. theatre centre, buddies).
#4: it’s also nice to see devised work executed on an impressive design. the show had a really great 3-d projection surface made from layers of ribbon—used to best effect when the live-feed was grabbing close-ups of faces.
#5: ronen crafted the dramaturgy of the piece with a nice progression—initial stories seemed to be more or less biographical, but then as the stories progressed that was thrown into doubt, then clearly moved into fiction, but the boundary was unclear—an not explaining or addressing the reveal left me responsible for leaning in and trying to figure it out. i like being trusted to do some thinking.
#6: after a while i got bored of the rhythm of the first-person monologues and craved conflict among the cast members, rather than with external figures / memory / self. i say this as someone who kind of hates feedback that leans in the direction of "i wish it wasn't that piece but a different piece," so maybe i'll put that differently—because the audience relationship didn't transform much throughout the piece my stimulation/engagement waned. a later section between dimitrij schaad and orit nahmias managed to situate the audience in the middle of a conflict but was the only moment when i really felt implicated in an ethically-confusing way.
#7: my biggest frustration was ultimately conceptual. the progression of the scenes didn’t complicate an understanding of denial, though the stakes got increasingly higher. the underlying principle seemed to be along the lines of “denial is bad but denial is everywhere because trauma.” denial throughout the play was confined to individual cases and never really managed to transcend the particular, despite an admirable attempt to create a sense of metaphysical beauty at the end.
for more on the show click here.