Saturday, January 28, 2017

In hindsight, going to see political theatre about Turkey, in German, was probably too ambitious.

As a consequence, I cannot decide whether Love it or leave it! was excellent or atrocious.

Let me tell you a little about it and you can make up your own mind.

Lights up on this. A man sitting on a chair that's placed by a desk with a tray of small glasses on his lap. A woman in a shiny white dress sitting on a double bed alongside a man in a suit. The man in a suit is holding (with some irritation) a large bunch of bananas. A woman in a red outfit that I'd assumed was an air hostess (but I'm not certain this was a correct assumption as the story unfolded) sat with her back to the audience on the edge of some sort of hole. And what you can't see is a small man with long hair sat in a vest and white shorts at the small organ, stage left. Aside from the not air hostess, they are all sitting facing centre stage, holding a small glass of liquid which they occasionally stir. They sit in silence.

They sat for a long long time.

They drank their drinks and the man with the tray collected them up and sat back down.

It can't have been all that long really but it felt like an interminable time before the man in the vest turned to the keys of his instrument and started to pick out a tune.

The woman in the white dress stood and crossed the stage to the organ, found herself a mic stand, and started singing a dirge like song into it.

The woman in the red outfit stood and turned to the audience. You might see that there's a long rope dangling at her back. This turned out to be a handy noose. She tried to hang herself but more rope spooled out so no matter how far she walked across the stage, it would not permit her to choke herself. She walked faster and faster, getting more and more frustrated. The man at the organ was playing a little faster now. The two men started smashing up the stage.

I'm forgetting to tell you an important detail. You may have noticed in the photo above that there are some photos on the back wall. To my shame, I ludicrously only recognised Mustafa Kemal Attaturk, founder of the Turkish Republic. But at least I recognised him! There were other men's photos in photo frames too. The men on stage started grabbing up these photos and throwing them on the floor.

The woman in the shiny white dress started undressing to a white vest and white shorts, singing the same refrain over and over.

I looked at my watch. Seventeen long minutes had passed. I understood the show to last two hours. I felt tired.

When the stage was thoroughly decimated, the lights went out. One of the men, as his parting shot, hung the bunch of bananas onto the noose that somehow become a hook instead. These were hoisted up into the air. Blackout.

A man came on, a different man, wearing a vest and loose comfortable trousers. He spied the bananas. He stuck his tongue out, like it was the most delicious thing he'd ever seen. He tried to reach them. He could not. They were suspended too high.

He got a chair from the desk. He stood on it. He could reach the bananas. But when he touched them, he received a terrible electric shock. His whole body shook. He let go of them. He looked at them again. He stuck his tongue out like they were the most delicious thing he'd ever seen. He reached for them. He got electrocuted. This happened several more times.

A woman came on stage, the red outfit woman but now in a white vest and shorts. She saw the bananas. She stuck her tongue out. She also wanted them. The two of them tussled. One or other of them kept falling off the chair onto the floor. Neither of them managed to get the bananas.

The lights went to black.

And up again on the man in the suit who was holding the bananas in the first scene.

I'd been feeling relatively smug - angry thoughts about life being too short for this aside - until now as no-one had spoken. I'd chosen the theatre because they're renowned for smart and interesting work. They have an artistic director relatively recently in post who sounds very cool. AND they subtitle all their work in English. But I was a little worried about trying to read and watch at the same time, daft as it doesn't bother me with films. But until that point, happy days. I didn't need to worry. As it was totally incomprehensible without a single word having been spoken.

The man in the suit started speaking. Casually and confidingly, like he was chatting to his friend. I stared resentfully at the blank sub-title screens. They remained blank. He continued to speak. I got more cross. I listened carefully. He was not speaking in German. I deduce he was speaking Turkish. (A rash deduction given the number of other languages spoken in that part of the world, I know.) A few people laughed. You could tell from the manner of delivery that it was meant to be funny. I think he said something about Trump as he made his hand into a stupid fringe and the word sounded a bit like the new President's name. He spoke on and on.

I was a little bit losing the will to live.

Lights out at the end of his funny speech.

Lights up on the house restored to order. A family sit around. The father is pronouncing (in German - with sub-titles, Allah be praised) although he seems to be pronouncing a poltical treatise and the family are all staring at him blankly.

I don't mean to take a little nap but I did.

I wake up and they are all clambering out of the window.

And the rest of the show goes on in this fashion.

For TWO hours.

Sometimes they're trying to get the bananas.

Sometimes they're the family.

The little man comes on in a blue shiny suit and plays more music at the organ.

He sometimes seems to be part of the family and sometimes now.

The women dress and re-dress in steadily more traditional Muslim clothing.

Occasionally, a small man (maybe the same one) appears at the window of the house in full marching regalia carrying a tuba. He starts out humming. Then he somehow hums and simultaneously plays the tuba. They all climb out of the window after him.

The original man in the suit bares his bottom and the others lick it. (Yes, sirree.) (A few people walked out here.)

Another man (I am losing track) appears in the bloodied clothing of perhaps a freedom fighter and walks around the stage singing perhaps traditional freedom songs.

Then the tuba man comes to the window and they all climb out.

AT LAST the stage is reset for the opening scene. Except another hole has opened up in a different area of the stage and the man in the suit whose bottom they all so enjoyed accidentally falls into it and lies there for a while. Then he gets out and goes to sit on the bed, holding the bananas.

They all stir and drink their little drinks.

Someone in the audience wistfully tries to start the clapping. It does not catch on.

The 'dad' man starts reciting his early polemic in German.

Someone in the audience, I swear, shouts out "nae, bitte!" People laugh nervously.

They sit. Drink. Stir. The man collects the glasses. He retreats to his seat. He plays a small tune with the spoon on the empty glasses in his tray.

The lights go out.


Blogger imw said...

I laughed a lot at your description but suspect I'd have been climbing the wall (and Berlin is surely just the place for that) had I been unfortunate enough to have seen the show.

6:32 pm  
Blogger Neil C said...


9:46 am  
Blogger Dan Sutton said...

That is clearly a work of genius. I'm only ashamed, nay, saddened, that I myself lack the artistic sensitivity and political nouse to explain *exactly* how its genius is manifest.

12:12 pm  

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