Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Plebs sein - Plebs werden. Im Totem Winkel 2 ('Plebs be - Plebs will be. In Blind Spot 2')

Foto: Rudi Neumann

Of the various dilemmas which define our world today, the problem of ‘distance’ is maybe the most unsolvable. The idea naturally refers not only to physical distance but to perceived distance, that is, the gap between the ‘self’ and the ‘other’, which is a space manipulated for (often suspicious) ends. The same person who would never point a gun has no hesitation of sending an army into war, people who are greatly concerned about climate change feel no pressure to change their lifestyle, people without any xenophobic intent will hold preconceptions about people in far-off countries who they have never met, and with whom they don't have anything in common.

Overcoming this distance (if you like, a ‘fourth wall’) is one of the primary hallmarks of today's great theatre, and if you like an authentic stream of contemporary theatre's humanistic project. Whereas the media reinforces the distance, great theatre collapses this perceived otherness, and, for a transient moment, shows it to be what it is - constructed.

I was pleasantly surprised by Vierte Welt’s first attempt at articulating Alain Brossat’s  Im Totem Winkel, mostly because it felt like an earnest and sincere failure at coming to terms with and recounting philosophy. Philosophy has a different kind of distance - something like an elitism or removedness from everyday life, and I was surprised by the attempt to cross this. Mostly I was surprised by its lack of irony or theatricality. It was a simple, dry delivery of a dense, almost inaccessible concept. At many times it resembled a lecture. We (that is, my able guide through the German language and I), were generally in accord that this was an honest approach to difficult material. But we had an obvious question afterwards: Where exactly are the Plebs in all this?