29 May 2019

Ein Bericht für eine Akademie

It's been three years since I have been to the Maxim Gorki Theater: the last time was when I saw Erotic Crisis. That was a very daring and confrontational piece. And I suppose three years later, the Maxim Gorki Theater hasn't changed. It still produces daring and confrontational theatre. Just like this one.

Ein Bericht für eine Akademie (A Report for an Academy) is a piece by Oliver Frljić, a very confrontational Croatian director. Look up his name online and you'll find articles describing how his works have shock value. And sure enough, Ein Bericht für eine Akademie did not disappoint. This is a piece that's probably can only be produced in cities like Berlin. You won't get this up and running in more conservative locales.

Let me talk about the elephant in the room first. There's lots of full frontal nudity. Two of the three male actors go fully naked at some point. One of them even goes to the audience fully naked and interacts with the audience. You should have some humour and courage with you.

Perhaps the story lends itself to such grotesque episodes quite well. It is after all taken from a short story by Franz Kafka, about an ape named Red Peter, who has learned how to behave like a human, and reports to the university of his transformation. You can only imagine how one can push this story to the absurd.

And yes, the performance itself was pushing things to the extreme. I was sitting on the third row, so things were quite up close and personal. There were actors eating fruits and vegetables the way an ape would eat them. And there were times in which I myself was getting confused whether I should laugh or I should be horrified. Seeing an actor stuffing her mouth with avocado and tomatoes, only to slowly spit it out while saying a prayer dedicated to extinct animals gave my brain an aneurysm.

The performance was also very left-wing. It hits on the issues of immigration, tying it to Franz Kafka's own experience as a Jew in Germany. Perhaps the social vibe of Jews being different, being like apes that were somehow pretending to be humans, was already in the air. And this issue was tied to the current immigration issue that is facing Germany since 2014. I could imagine some far-right supporters walking out as well.

In any case, after two hours, I must say I did enjoy myself. Yes, some people walked out. At quite appropriate times even. But then again, it's the Maxim Gorki Theatre. I was quite expecting it to be shocking. It's messed up, but in a good way I must say.

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