Premiere of “And now?” by Rene Pollesch in Berlin

UAnd then you walk along the nocturnal streets of Berlin, Torstraße, Rosenthaler, Auguststraße – and read the slogans of the newly opened restaurants: “Contemporary Pizza”, “Vegan Burger Culture”, “Natural Superfood”. Ahead, the light blazes from the brightly lit Apple Store Cathedral, as if the energy crisis were taking place on another planet. The displays flash, the advertising works – a young couple stands in front of it devoutly and points to their longings. And now? What is to come? How is it all going? Story? Dialectic? Revolution?

“And now?” is the name of the latest theater etude by the old theory hare and new Volksbühnen director René Pollesch. It is about two skilled workers from the Schwedt Petrol-Chemical Combine (PCK) who, on a mild summer evening, are rehearsing a critical didactic play called “Horizonte” for the company’s workers’ theatre. Surprised by the night watchman (with real worker theater experience: Franz Blei), they soon start talking about the influence of electronic data processing on interpersonal relationships and the danger of a philistinism that blocks off entire streets just to get a sense of freedom while inline skating after work to get.

No trace of self-provokation, of contradiction. So what to do in a society “that has become the fridge”? That’s what Lutz and Klaus, the two Schwedt workers in their overalls, sitting on their white plastic chairs with cigarettes in their hands, are asking themselves. Agitprop, that was once. Today only the most serious moral happening is possible. Or the ironic retrospective.

With a bit of badminton

Everything that Martin Wuttke as Klaus and Milan Peschel as Lutz say that evening, everything they wolf down shards of thought or chew up as bits of history, serves only one, eternally unattainable goal: to chatter against the senseless silence, because “at the The best way to listen is to listen.” The claim of the hour and a half evening is the constant response. No question may remain unanswered, no opinion uncommented. Right from the start, Wuttke and Peschel appear as a talkative bar couple, as two aging colleagues who explain the world to each other, sometimes with declaimed party doctrines, sometimes with a bit of badminton – and they don’t do that badly at all. Above all, the beginning and the end (the middle sags somewhat cybernetically) are carried by an entertaining mixture of real-life sentimentality and theoretical claim.

The three from the Schwedter gas station: Franz Beil, Milan Peschel and Martin Wuttke


The three from the Schwedter gas station: Franz Beil, Milan Peschel and Martin Wuttke
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Image: Apollonia T. Bitzan

Peschel encourages Wuttke, who is sometimes a bit too self-sufficient, in a collegial manner, sends him across the leisure area of ​​the PCK factory that Anna Viebrock has rebuilt with a swimming pool and grandstands, lets him run up rhetorically, makes him laugh while he is speaking, hugs him against his will . Because: “Anyone who thinks against himself knows that there is a residue that is not torn apart by thinking” – again and again small short pleas on the value of the dialectic emerge from the wavy surface of the private discourse, they seem like secrets, secretly smuggled in between all the material and what was communicated, the “dog-eared notes”.

It's served: Milan Peschel, Martin Wuttke, Franz Beil


It’s served: Milan Peschel, Martin Wuttke, Franz Beil
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Image: Apollonia T. Bitzan

In truth, this is the key message of this fun-filled evening: Let’s not lose our love of ambiguous things! The renunciation of any allusion to day-to-day politics is striking and downright provocative. Everything here is meant to be historical or timeless. The historical framework is made clear several times: In 1968, the author Gerhard Winterlich wrote the play “Horizonte” for the Schwedt Arbeitertheater, based on Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, which was adapted for the Volksbühne by Benno Besson and Heiner Müller the following year. Schwedt and a mild midsummer night’s dream – that sounds almost sarcastic today, when thousands of workers in the damaged city in eastern Germany fear for their jobs at that very PCK plant because their refinery is directly affected by the oil embargo.

As if the Berlin capital theater weren’t interested in the true fate of the workers there, instead only using them as film figures for a small, entertaining retro show with a flurry of flashbulbs and Louis de Funes film music. You can definitely blame the evening and imagine – also retro-style – what Pollesch’s predecessor Frank Castorf would have used the material for: probably for brutal criticism of the Federal Republic.

We are never contemporaries!

But Pollesch’s Pointenparalando can also be viewed and received in a more friendly way – namely as a tireless search for the lost penny. And this penny still means to him: pathos means tragedy, means theater as it once was. Basically, as Wuttkes Klaus explains with disarming naivety, everything is already in the past when it comes into the world: the sentence has already been thought, the gaze has already been cast, the light is always faster than the picture. “So we are never contemporaries”.

Pollesch’s theater evenings are like the last smiling look in the scratched mirror of a wardrobe deserted by all the stars and starlets – a small, playful en passant with beautiful music and a few theoretical criticisms in between. Without microports, without cryptocurrencies. Instead: three actors, a prompter and the certainty: “You have to deal with so many things.” She doesn’t help when walking through the nightly consumer mile. Only the question from the beginning remains and drives: “And now?”

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