small theater-great result: merlin or the wasteland

There is not that much I find about Tankred Dorst’s Merlin or the Wasteland in English sources, and I have to admit that I myself wasn’t aware of this work, which now caught me and my attention, as a piece itself and as the specific piece I saw enacted by nine young students at the Metropol theater in Munich. These students and their theater get the credit to now have been those, who made me aware of this unique theater piece. ( go and see it if you have a chance: go and see it)

all images: Merlin oder Das wüste Land (Merlin or the waste land) /
       &nbsp Metropoltheater München. (via: Metropol/ H. Lobinger);

The piece itself is worth to look it up, as it was celebrated right from the start, despite being of unusual length:

“Tankred Dorst overwhelmed both the audience and the critics in Düsseldorf in 1981 with his Merlin or the wasteland (Merlin oder das wüste Land), a spectacle of Faustian proportians that presented new challenges to directors and producers and was usually – if at all – performed in parts.” (excerpted from: Pop Culture Gemany! Media, Arts, and Life; C.C.Fraser and D.O.Hoffmann, 2006)

Peter Becker describes the piece in the 1985 edition of Dorst’s works as following:”Throughout nearly 100 scenes Tancred Dorst unveils a strange and grandiose Panopticon: Christ expels the pagan gods, nevertheless a giantess, just assisted by a clown, gives birth to the magician Merlin, a son of the devil. And in something like a Faustian pact with the people, this son, Merlin, becomes the secret director of bloody knight battles and eerily beautiful romances in a world that revives the times of the fabulous Middle Ages, which are interwoven with 19th and 20 Century scenes, past and present, prehistory and future become entangled . . Within the medieval myths Dorst discovers fresh and lively stories, devoid of any impact of heroism. Stories of growing up, from being in love, of family fights, jealousy, friendship, and also the even in the small still excessive desire for life of some people. . . . Phantasmagorical visions reminiscent of paintings by Hieronymus Bosch or which make one think of films of Fellini and Kurosawa, as well as scenes from Shakespeare.”

This is the history of the piece and usually should be enough to make one curious. But it is also due to the unique adaption of Jochen Schölch and his team.
They cut the piece down to something between 2,5 and 3 h and – honestly – I am not sure if I would not have liked to see them going on longer – though it was perfect the way it was.
But to be back and serious: it is astonishing what they manage to achieve – the facets of play and citation. The associations brought up – it is surprising what a simple theater with agile and flexible actors is able to draw from minimal sources. The shift from one scene to another is sometimes more then fluid. A white blanket – thrown over to cover, becomes the part of the new scene. Focus is not that much on the single dramatic expression, but on the story as a whole. Quick transition is essential for the stringency of narration and the breaks and cuts in history, suddenly become evident by the possibilities played out on a ‘poor’ stage.
Its is almost a reminder to the ‘luck’ of being poor – in the meaning of to come down to the point or to be able to show what is the essence of human behavior. And in something one would like to address as an unconscious incident the age of the actors seems to be so congruent with the intentions played out.

German reviews: “Merlin minimalistisch”
BR online
“Utopia und ihr Ende”
“Zauber der Selbstzerstörung”

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2 thoughts on “small theater-great result: merlin or the wasteland

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