Ghosts (Gespenster)

based on August Strindberg / Henrik Ibsen / Heinrich Heine
Director / Set Sebastian Hartmann
Music Ben Hartmann, Philipp Thimm
Video / Stage lighting Rainer Casper
Video animation Tilo Baumgärtel
Dramaturgy Claus Caesar
Edgar Eckert
Felix Goeser
Gabriele Heinz
Markwart Müller-Elmau
Linda Pöppel
Katrin Wichmann
Almut Zilcher
Ben HartmannLive music
Philipp ThimmLive music
nachtkritik.de
Frauke Adrians, 24.02.2017
Hartmann's set design underscores the hopelessness of an infinite loop: a rotating ramp leads upwards, but ultimately nowhere; the figures in an apparently quaint Romantic painting in the background do not reveal their faces; the village houses projected on the walls look nightmarish on closer inspection. The evening also has some acoustic highlights, sometimes very loud, as well as a waltz for cello and e-guitar that wittily evokes a marriage crisis. But the evening only becomes truly enthralling when the actors play their scenes to the point of rage [...].

The director gives the ensemble this freedom more and more often as the play progresses. The battle, which is not only verbal, between the captain (Felix Goeser) and his wife Laura (Katrin Wichmann) is Strindberg at its best, and funny to boot. And the mother-son finale with Zilcher and Eckert is so terrifyingly overstrung that the audience veers between pity and disgust, a sense of superiority and concern.

It's true: unresolved paternity, as well as legally endorsed paternal authority, are problems of the past in western Europe, while syphilis – which will end up killing the son as well as the father – is rare in Europe nowadays, and very rarely fatal. But similarly disastrous family constellations to those in Strindberg and Ibsen are timeless and cannot be eradicated. That gets to the core of Sebastian Hartmann's dramatic collage [...].
Hartmann's set design underscores the hopelessness of an infinite loop: a rotating ramp leads upwards, but ultimately nowhere; the figures in an apparently quaint Romantic painting in the background do not reveal their faces; the village houses projected on the walls look nightmarish on closer inspection. The evening also has some acoustic highlights, sometimes very loud, as well as a waltz for cello and e-guitar that wittily evokes a marriage crisis. But the evening only becomes truly enthralling when the actors play their scenes to the point of rage [...].

The director gives the ensemble this freedom more and more often as the play progresses. The battle, which is not only verbal, between the captain (Felix Goeser) and his wife Laura (Katrin Wichmann) is Strindberg at its best, and funny to boot. And the mother-son finale with Zilcher and Eckert is so terrifyingly overstrung that the audience veers between pity and disgust, a sense of superiority and concern.

It's true: unresolved paternity, as well as legally endorsed paternal authority, are problems of the past in western Europe, while syphilis – which will end up killing the son as well as the father – is rare in Europe nowadays, and very rarely fatal. But similarly disastrous family constellations to those in Strindberg and Ibsen are timeless and cannot be eradicated. That gets to the core of Sebastian Hartmann's dramatic collage [...].
Berliner Morgenpost
Katrin Pauly, 26.02.2017
Director Sebastian Hartmann sets little store by narrative linearity. He has picked out a few sections from the three texts and reassembled them. [...]

But if you concentrate and allow yourself to be drawn into the individual scenes and visual sequences, you will experience moments of real theatrical beauty. Hartmann, who is also his own set designer, throws a dark blanket of surreality over the actors and the set. A semi-circular curved ramp spirals up to nowhere and on the walls he projects haunted houses. A romantic-looking family painting has a life of its own. The excellent musical duo Ben Hartmann and Philipp Thimm weave it all together with sound. Aesthetically, this two-hour evening is a real treat. As the scenes keep repeating themselves it also becomes more concrete, and opens up new possibilities for the actors. They make the most of it. For example, the scene in which Strindberg's captain is forced to his knees by his wife Laura, when she hints that he might not be the real father of their daughter, is played by Katrin Wichmann and Felix Goeser with a sense of profound inevitability. Almut Zilcher as Mrs. Alving and Edgar Eckert as her son Osvald also work well together. Osvald is terminally ill, then he dies. But at his own funeral he brushes the earth from his clothes. He is still needed – as a ghost for future generations.
Director Sebastian Hartmann sets little store by narrative linearity. He has picked out a few sections from the three texts and reassembled them. [...]

But if you concentrate and allow yourself to be drawn into the individual scenes and visual sequences, you will experience moments of real theatrical beauty. Hartmann, who is also his own set designer, throws a dark blanket of surreality over the actors and the set. A semi-circular curved ramp spirals up to nowhere and on the walls he projects haunted houses. A romantic-looking family painting has a life of its own. The excellent musical duo Ben Hartmann and Philipp Thimm weave it all together with sound. Aesthetically, this two-hour evening is a real treat. As the scenes keep repeating themselves it also becomes more concrete, and opens up new possibilities for the actors. They make the most of it. For example, the scene in which Strindberg's captain is forced to his knees by his wife Laura, when she hints that he might not be the real father of their daughter, is played by Katrin Wichmann and Felix Goeser with a sense of profound inevitability. Almut Zilcher as Mrs. Alving and Edgar Eckert as her son Osvald also work well together. Osvald is terminally ill, then he dies. But at his own funeral he brushes the earth from his clothes. He is still needed – as a ghost for future generations.
Berliner Zeitung
Dirk Pilz, 27.02.2017
This evening is not just a collage; it also paints a vivid contemporary picture of hopelessness. For almost the entire play, a painting hangs on stage: it shows a solar eclipse, which suddenly turns into a film – and then back into a fixed, frozen image. At one point, Almut Zilcher stands in front of it and seems to turn into a figure in the painting. Again and again it is as if the painting is falling onto the stage and the stage into the painting. Art as a revenant of reality, reality a replica of the play.

Hartmann's actors lend their characters an appropriately dark, glistening diffuseness. In her portrayal of the Strindberg wife, Katrin Wichmann leaves it open to interpretation whether she is driven by obstinacy or insanity; Felix Goeser imbues his father with a mixture of defiance and desolation, while in his portrayal of the painter son Osvald, Edgar Eckert combines a delicate empathy for his character with a crude sense of rejection. Thus they act themselves into a vortex that seems to swallow up the scenes before spitting them out again.

[...] It is rare to find so much poetry and tenderness combined with such a dark force. Heine and Ibsen, Strindberg and live music, the large-format videos, the pale light, the ghostly set changes, the shimmering, always nameless characters: it all merges together into a solid entity.
This evening is not just a collage; it also paints a vivid contemporary picture of hopelessness. For almost the entire play, a painting hangs on stage: it shows a solar eclipse, which suddenly turns into a film – and then back into a fixed, frozen image. At one point, Almut Zilcher stands in front of it and seems to turn into a figure in the painting. Again and again it is as if the painting is falling onto the stage and the stage into the painting. Art as a revenant of reality, reality a replica of the play.

Hartmann's actors lend their characters an appropriately dark, glistening diffuseness. In her portrayal of the Strindberg wife, Katrin Wichmann leaves it open to interpretation whether she is driven by obstinacy or insanity; Felix Goeser imbues his father with a mixture of defiance and desolation, while in his portrayal of the painter son Osvald, Edgar Eckert combines a delicate empathy for his character with a crude sense of rejection. Thus they act themselves into a vortex that seems to swallow up the scenes before spitting them out again.

[...] It is rare to find so much poetry and tenderness combined with such a dark force. Heine and Ibsen, Strindberg and live music, the large-format videos, the pale light, the ghostly set changes, the shimmering, always nameless characters: it all merges together into a solid entity.
taz
René Hamann, 27.02.2017
Sebastian Hartmann has given it his all, and the audience is enthralled: gloominess, cold, a longing for death, parental conflicts – as we said, he hasn’t made it easy for himself. And this time it works.

[...] ''Ghosts'' is highly atmospheric. An artist and his parents. A daughter and her unanswered questions about her father. A return in the form of a visitation. The ensemble is on top form throughout, Katrin Wichmann and Felix Goeser have become an adept team; they play the Strindbergian parents; Linda Pöppel is their daughter, who is prone to madness. Markwart Müller-Elmau is good in a scene as the pastor who has to assert himself against the triplicate woman (Walsh/Pöppel/Gabriele Heinz). In general the action is frequently shaken up – excessive scenes alternate with stage tricks, with music, with irony and meta-references [...] – tried and tested collage theatre, which can often start to unravel into meaninglessness, succeeds here throughout.
Sebastian Hartmann has given it his all, and the audience is enthralled: gloominess, cold, a longing for death, parental conflicts – as we said, he hasn’t made it easy for himself. And this time it works.

[...] ''Ghosts'' is highly atmospheric. An artist and his parents. A daughter and her unanswered questions about her father. A return in the form of a visitation. The ensemble is on top form throughout, Katrin Wichmann and Felix Goeser have become an adept team; they play the Strindbergian parents; Linda Pöppel is their daughter, who is prone to madness. Markwart Müller-Elmau is good in a scene as the pastor who has to assert himself against the triplicate woman (Walsh/Pöppel/Gabriele Heinz). In general the action is frequently shaken up – excessive scenes alternate with stage tricks, with music, with irony and meta-references [...] – tried and tested collage theatre, which can often start to unravel into meaninglessness, succeeds here throughout.
Deutschlandfunk
Michael Laages, 25.02.2017
This unique production is not so dissimilar from a pop, rock or jazz ''Best Of'' album: Sebastian Hartmann concentrates only on the dramatic highlights from his source texts [...] The special power of this collage construction lies not only in the way in which things are brought together, mixed up and placed side by side. Over and above this, Sebastian Hartmann has also developed the play with a great deal of imagination for his ensemble. [...]
Edgar Eckert, the ''real'' son Osvald in the arms of his ''real'' mother Almut Zilcher, is in the end covered in buckets of earth. Then he crawls free, everyone brushes the sandy remains from their hands and go and take their final bows – the evening is full of such nice surprises. 
This unique production is not so dissimilar from a pop, rock or jazz ''Best Of'' album: Sebastian Hartmann concentrates only on the dramatic highlights from his source texts [...] The special power of this collage construction lies not only in the way in which things are brought together, mixed up and placed side by side. Over and above this, Sebastian Hartmann has also developed the play with a great deal of imagination for his ensemble. [...]
Edgar Eckert, the ''real'' son Osvald in the arms of his ''real'' mother Almut Zilcher, is in the end covered in buckets of earth. Then he crawls free, everyone brushes the sandy remains from their hands and go and take their final bows – the evening is full of such nice surprises. 
neues deutschland
Hans-Dieter Schütt, 27.02.2017
The production takes key scenes from Ibsen and Strindberg and repeats them several times with different actors. The aura unfolds associatively, not narratively. Pulses run high. But then – they form the energetic climax – moving moments of psychological expressiveness. [...]

Hartmann co-opts the texts – he doesn’t ingratiate himself. He deletes parts. The insides are ripped out and assembled into something new. The result alternates between untidiness and secrecy, between absurdity and symbolism. He dismantles and connects elements together. [...]

It is dangerous to try and catch a falling knife – but this is exactly what Hartmann seems to be doing, when he metaphorically interweaves the normal with the abnormal, thereby creating tension. The result is always uncertain. However, it is precisely this lack of resolution which can be thrilling. He regularly interrupts the atmosphere by allowing stage-hands to come on stage or actors to step out of their roles – they look forward to a cigarette break or want to go and get something to eat. Certainty and confusion, extroversion  and introversion, sociability and solitude, Freud and suffering, light and darkness – all of these fill the same space.
The production takes key scenes from Ibsen and Strindberg and repeats them several times with different actors. The aura unfolds associatively, not narratively. Pulses run high. But then – they form the energetic climax – moving moments of psychological expressiveness. [...]

Hartmann co-opts the texts – he doesn’t ingratiate himself. He deletes parts. The insides are ripped out and assembled into something new. The result alternates between untidiness and secrecy, between absurdity and symbolism. He dismantles and connects elements together. [...]

It is dangerous to try and catch a falling knife – but this is exactly what Hartmann seems to be doing, when he metaphorically interweaves the normal with the abnormal, thereby creating tension. The result is always uncertain. However, it is precisely this lack of resolution which can be thrilling. He regularly interrupts the atmosphere by allowing stage-hands to come on stage or actors to step out of their roles – they look forward to a cigarette break or want to go and get something to eat. Certainty and confusion, extroversion  and introversion, sociability and solitude, Freud and suffering, light and darkness – all of these fill the same space.
Der Tagesspiegel
Christine Wahl, 28.02.2017
Goeser imbues the character of Rittmeister from ''The Father'', with his fantasies of omnipotence, with just the right amount of modern fragility. And the mixture of pragmatism, wit, irony and deeper meaning with which Wichmann exposes Strindberg’s misogyny through the character of Laura is done with a casualness that is rare in theatre – and never runs into the danger of completely dismantling the text. [...]

In addition to great acting, Hartmann also succeeds in delivering spectacular images. The gloom of the set which he designed himself, with a huge ramp and room for Tilo Baumgärtel's timeless, genre-crossing video projections are also reflected in Adriana Braga Peretzkis' costumes. The Strindberg and Ibsen zombies appropriately wear black and come across as revenants from a powerful genre painting.
Goeser imbues the character of Rittmeister from ''The Father'', with his fantasies of omnipotence, with just the right amount of modern fragility. And the mixture of pragmatism, wit, irony and deeper meaning with which Wichmann exposes Strindberg’s misogyny through the character of Laura is done with a casualness that is rare in theatre – and never runs into the danger of completely dismantling the text. [...]

In addition to great acting, Hartmann also succeeds in delivering spectacular images. The gloom of the set which he designed himself, with a huge ramp and room for Tilo Baumgärtel's timeless, genre-crossing video projections are also reflected in Adriana Braga Peretzkis' costumes. The Strindberg and Ibsen zombies appropriately wear black and come across as revenants from a powerful genre painting.
Süddeutsche Zeitung
Mounia Meiborg, 28.02.2017
Almut Zilcher plays a woman (Helene Alving from ''Ghosts''), who has become schizophrenic, because the chasm between appearance and reality was too big. A plausible reading. And the way Zilcher plays her role, with an uncertain smile on her lips and a slightly panicked alertness, is fantastic. The scene between her and her son is repeated, but performed by older actors – Gabriele Heinz and Markwart Müller-Elmau. The generations change, the drama remains. [...]

Katrin Wichmann and Felix Goeser show that the worst thing that can happen to a couple is politeness. Before even this habit (as Laura and Rittmeister from ''The Father'') breaks down and they descend into bitter fighting. Katrin Wichmann plays her part brilliantly – a clever manipulator and setter of traps.
Almut Zilcher plays a woman (Helene Alving from ''Ghosts''), who has become schizophrenic, because the chasm between appearance and reality was too big. A plausible reading. And the way Zilcher plays her role, with an uncertain smile on her lips and a slightly panicked alertness, is fantastic. The scene between her and her son is repeated, but performed by older actors – Gabriele Heinz and Markwart Müller-Elmau. The generations change, the drama remains. [...]

Katrin Wichmann and Felix Goeser show that the worst thing that can happen to a couple is politeness. Before even this habit (as Laura and Rittmeister from ''The Father'') breaks down and they descend into bitter fighting. Katrin Wichmann plays her part brilliantly – a clever manipulator and setter of traps.
Zitty
Friedhelm Teicke, 27.02.2017
In this visually laden family constellation with nightmarish giant projections (Tilo Baumgärtel), the hunchbacked relatives appear again and again as ghostly silhouettes in front of an eclipsing sun, an ancestral dance of the faceless undead – the blood ties with which the couple constellations (Strindberg's married couple and father-daughter conflict, Ibsen's mother- and sonconfrontation) are burdened. This is often great to watch and wonderfully performed – Almut Zilcher and Edgar Eckert depict terrifying chasms between mother and son, Katrin Wichmann and Felix Goeser, heavily warring spouses. In this visually laden family constellation with nightmarish giant projections (Tilo Baumgärtel), the hunchbacked relatives appear again and again as ghostly silhouettes in front of an eclipsing sun, an ancestral dance of the faceless undead – the blood ties with which the couple constellations (Strindberg's married couple and father-daughter conflict, Ibsen's mother- and sonconfrontation) are burdened. This is often great to watch and wonderfully performed – Almut Zilcher and Edgar Eckert depict terrifying chasms between mother and son, Katrin Wichmann and Felix Goeser, heavily warring spouses.

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