Radical take on modern Germany

Der Untergang der Nibelungen

The Beauty Of Revenge

GOЯKI

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The Nibelungen were the keepers of a treasure which bestowed unparallelled powers and riches on them. In the Middle High German Nibelungenlied it is written how in a whirlwind of boundless passion – love, hate, greed and revenge – they destroy each other, and the treasure. In their contemporary version of Friedrich Hebbel’s mid 19th century revenge tragedy which he based on the medieval epic, director Sebastian Nübling and the actors of Gorki (German Theatre of the Year award 2014) catapult the story into our modern times. Now the world is not dominated with swords or tanks, but with the strength of its economy, the power of its technology and the success of its car industry. And so we are confronted with Germany relentlessly racing towards the next catastrophe in its ill-fateful history.

programme

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The German theatre company GOЯKI make their debut at the Holland Festival performing Der Untergang Der Nibelungen – The Beauty of Revenge. The play is inspired by the famous old-German mythical story about the downfall of the Nibelungen, the Royal House of Burgundy. Using Friedrich Hebbel's text (written in 1861) director Sebastian Nübling and his eleven GOЯKI actors give the age-old, quintessentially German story a modern twist. In a whirlwind of boundless passions – love, hate, greed and revenge – the Nibelungen ultimately destroy themselves. In the 13th century, the heroic saga – dating from the 5th and 6th century old-German oral tradition, partly based on historical fact, partly on mythical fiction – was put to rhyme in the epic poem the Nibelungenlied. Both Richard Wagner and J.R.R. Tolkien, amongst many others, used the story as inspiration for their finest work: Wagner for his four part masterpiece Der Ring des Nibelungen (1853-1874) and Tolkien for his The Lord of the Rings (1937-1949).

The Nibelungen is the name given to those who are the keepers of a legendary treasure, the cursed Rheingold. In the saga, the treasure transfers from King Nibelung and his sons to the hero Siegfried. After Siegfried's death the treasure falls into the hands of the royal house of the Burgundians. The epic starts with an unlikely victory and two improbable weddings. When the young hero Siegfried, in possession of supernatural powers, slays the dragon Fafnir, the legendary treasure of the Rheingold is bestowed upon him. As a reward for his bravery, Siegfried is given the hand of Brunhilde, the last of the daughters of the old gods, in marriage. But he rejects her, for he has his eye on Kriemhild, the sister of Gunther, King of the Burgundians and Siegfried's brother in arms. The men arrange an ill-fated agreement. If Siegfried manages to win Brunhilde's hand for Gunther, he will have permission to marry Kriemhild. But the women refuse to play along. Brunhilde is not interested in Gunther, and when Kriemhild inadvertently spills the beans about Gunther's and Siegfried's secret bargain, the game's up. The situation escalates into a myriad of secrets, misunderstandings and political scandals spiralling out of control. Siegfried is blamed for everything. After Gunther's loyal vassal Hagen has killed Siegfried, Kriemhild marries king Etzel and goes to live with him. The drama culminates in Kriemhild's terrible revenge on Hagen and her own family. The Nibelungen, guardians of the cursed treasure, know they will all be destroyed.

Through Friedrich Hebbel's explosive revenge drama, Sebastian Nübling and the GOЯKI ensemble explore recent German history as an insane, unstoppable suicide attack. Since World War II, Germany has still not learned to change its ways. Using the strength of its industry and economy, its political power and its conservative Western ideology, the country still wants to dominate the world. There is no room for new insights, new approaches to life, new ways of thinking or working. The consequences are disastrous.

The company have developed this basic idea into a wildly original play, featuring strong physical acting around a beaten up Mercedes Benz, sadomasochistic elements, slapstick and cartoonish exaggeration - elements which are also reflected in Eva-Maria Bauer's set and costume designs. The archetypical über-German hero Siegfried is portrayed by the Turkish-German actor Taner Şahintürk, dressed like a pimp in tracksuit bottoms with golden dollar signs. The male actor Till Wonka plays Brunhilde as a blonde transsexual donning fishnet stockings and a leather mini-skirt. In all its grotesque exuberance Der Untergang Der Nibelungen – The Beauty of Revenge delves into the dark, but very human desire to relentlessly race to destruction – a satirical commentary on the violent character of German history.

 

Der Untergang der Nibelungen The beauty of revenge breed

BIOGRAPHIES

The German director Sebastian Nübling (Lörrach, 1960) read cultural studies at the University of Hildesheim. He started teaching before forming the Theater Mahagoni together with a group of like-minded artists. His idiosyncratic, very physical style of theatre makes him a much sought after director. In close collaboration with designers and musicians, Nübling has developed a form of total theatre fusing movement, space and sound. From 1997, he's staged productions at the Junges Theater in Basel, the Staatstheater Stuttgart and the Staatsschauspielhaus Hannover. In 2001, he gained national fame with his staging of the hooligan drama I Furiosi for the Staatstheater Stuttgart, based on the novel by Italian author Nanni Balestrini. This production won him first prize in Political Theatre at the Hambuger Festival. A year later he was invited to the Berliner Theatertreffen with his staging of Henrik Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman and voted Young Director of the Year. In 2006, Nübling directed his first opera, Carmen, with the Staatsoper Stuttgart, while his staging of Händl Klaus’ Dunkel lockende Welt (2006) with the Münchner Kammerspiele was selected for the Theatertreffen (Berlin) and the Theatertage (Mülheim). Nübling has frequently collaborated with the British stage writer Simon Stephens, having staged a number of his plays in German, including Heron and Pornography. Nübling's work has often been performed at prestigious international theatre festivals. In 2010, he staged his multi-language play Ubu (2010) with Toneelgroep Amsterdam. From the 2013/2014 season he has been director at the GOЯKI, making his debut with Sybille Berg's Es sagt mir nichts, das sogenannte Draußen, which was voted Theatre Play of the Year in 2014 by the Theater Heute magazine. Recently he developed his dance performance FALLEN with the choreographer Iwes Thuwis. Der Untergang der Nibelungen - The Beauty of Revenge is his third play with GOЯKI.

The GOЯKI theatre is the smallest of five Berlin ensemble theatres. Founded in 1952 as Maxim Gorki Theatre, named after the famous Soviet writer, this East Berlin municipal theatre became a place with a reputation for critical and dissident thought. In 1988 Thomas Langhoff directed Volker Braun's Übergangsgesellschaft at this theatre, a prophetic performance which predicted the peaceful revolution and the fall of the Berlin Wall a year later. Constructed in 1827 to house the Berliner Singakademie, the beautiful buidling was partly destroyed by bombardments during World War II and reopened in 1952 as the Maxim Gorki Theatre. At first, the works of Russian and Soviet writers dominated the programme, but soon plays by East-German writers were added. At the start of the 2013-2014 season the name was shortened to GOЯKI. Under the current direction of Shermin Langhoff and Jens Hillje the company focus on productions dealing with new developments, transitions, changes and revolts in contemporary society. Just like Berlin itself, the GOЯKI is a multicultural place and has opened itself up to all the different cultures and people who have arrived in the city in the last few decades. The theatre wants to be a home to asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants from all over the world, as well as to the people born and bred in Berlin. The theatre offers a public space which through the art of making theatre and watching theatre contributes to the public debate on how we are to live together in today's diverse world. The Gorki theatre stages classical repertoire as well as contemporary stage writing, and through its Studio Я initiative, it also offers scope for research and reflection. The company make their debut at the Holland Festival with their production Der Untergang der Nibelungen - The Beauty of Revenge.

Der Untergang der Nibelungen The beauty of revenge half breed 1 Der Untergang der Nibelungen The beauty of revenge half breed 2

Credits

after
Die Nibelungen van Friedrich Hebbel
direction
Sebastian Nübling
set & costumes
Eva-Maria Bauer
music
Lars Wittershagen
light
Jan Langebartels
dramaturgy
Jens Hillje
production
Maxim Gorki Theater
with
Mehmet Ateşçi (Giselher)
Nora Abdel-Maksoud (Etzel)
Cynthia Micas (Werbel)
Tim Porath (Gunther)
Taner Şahintürk (Siegfried)
Dimitrij Schaad (Hagen von Tronje)
Falilou Seck (Rüdeger)
Aram Tafreshian (Gerenot)
Sesede Terziyan (Kriemhild)
Till Wonka (Brunhild)
Sarah Böckner / Benita Haacke / Fée Mühlemann / Annika Weitzendorf (Das Kind)