The Raum + Zeit collective has been commissioned by the Munchner Kammerspiele to stage "Ghosts – Erika, Klaus and the Magician" for the screen.
Where there is much light, there is also much shadow: Svetlana Belesova as Erika Mann Photo: Heinz Holzmann/Munchner Kammerspiele
The subtext is a tragic story. It tells of a woman who was once revered as a style icon of modernity and androgyny and esteemed as a sharp-tongued cabaret artist against Nazi Germany: Erika Mann. In old age, however, she becomes the jealous guardian of the family peace, defends a villa full of books against intruders of the present, digs into the letters of Thomas Mann, her father, and Klaus Mann, her brother, and can no longer get out of both their shadows. At least that’s the story of the play "Ghosts – Erika, Klaus and the Magician," which premiered on Stream Wednesday night. It was developed by the Raum + Zeit theater collective for the Kammerspiele in Munich.
Before it starts, the new artistic director Barbara Mundel makes an announcement: How excited they are to develop premieres for the stream, that’s a new challenge. Previously, the Kammerspiele had offered theater in store windows, but because too many people came to watch, that was banned. You can still hear that when it starts and four actors are seen in glass showcases.
But they quickly step out of their mannequin life. Every now and then, the black-clad cameramen flit through the picture, capturing the live game for the stream. This doesn’t bother much, rather that a few times the connection breaks and syllables are swallowed.
A symmetrical construction
Nevertheless, it is easy to follow the text written by Lothar Kittstein of the Raum + Zeit collective and directed by Bernhard Mikeska. It is exciting and emotionally charged because, first, you have good actors in front of you and, second, the soundtrack by Knut Jensen charges the whole thing with nervousness. A young brother and sister (Katharina Bach, Bernardo Arias Porras) visit the aging Erika Mann (Svetlana Belesova) in 1969 in the villa above Lake Zurich and want the rights to film "The Siblings" by Klaus Mann. A symmetrical construction, created to mirror the times in each other. Erika Mann is dismissive and does not want to get involved in the seductive arts of the young people.
The fourth character is an older gentleman in a gray suit (Jochen Noch), in whom one can see either Thomas Mann, Luchino Visconti, who filmed Mann’s novella "Death in Venice," and their protagonist Gustav von Aschenbach. Either way, the man in the suit is moved by a homosexual desire that cannot show itself without shame and humiliation.
Hmm. Quite a lot of references. Quite a lot of cultural hype. Much has already been written and staged about the Mann family, its many artists and the family’s circumstances. Often the interest of the present was more clearly in the figures. For example, when the French director Ariane Mnouchkine adapted Klaus Mann’s "Mephisto" for her Theâtre du Soleil in 1979, Gustav Grundgens’ fellow traveler role still provoked historical discussions, and the androgyny of the siblings Klaus and Erika was even more a sign of encouragement that the present sought in the past.
Heated emotional chambers
Now, on the other hand, one does not really know why one is again drawn into these chambers of feelings heated up by incestuous heat. For the Kammerspiele, which also wants to deal with its own history under the artistic direction of Barbara Mundel, there is admittedly a motive: "The Siblings" by Klaus Mann was premiered here in 1930 and, as one learns in the play, was cancelled again due to the outraged reactions of men in loden coats in a city teeming with National Socialists. The performance also takes place in the hall newly named after Therese Giehse; the famous actress had founded the anti-fascist cabaret "Die Pfeffermuhle" with Erika and Klaus Mann in 1933. But this level is only touched upon in the production.
Theater in a stream is better than no theater at all, also so that the artists can continue working. I open the window beforehand and do squats to get oxygen into my brain, and put a beer on ice. In the end, the way to the TV couch is too close, the crossing of space and time on the way back is missing, which gives the echo a chance.