Dhe two pieces with which the Schauspiel Köln opened its season, “Warten auf Godot” by Samuel Beckett and “Die Hermannsschlacht” by Heinrich von Kleist, have something in common. There is almost nothing, just a single word, a name whose ancient sound creates a poetic local color: mandrake. In Beckett’s case, the poisonous nightshade plant adorns the picture that Wladimir paints of the consequences of the double suicide proposed by Tarragon. What makes hanging in Vladimir’s short clinical lecture attractive is the prospect of a final functioning of the mechanics of the male genital organ. The removal of the traces should be a matter of nature. “Mandrake grow where it falls.”
Feuilleton correspondent in Cologne and responsible for “humanities”.
The belief in the magical power of the plant is linked to the fact that one believed to perceive a resemblance to the human body in the shape of its roots. For this human resemblance, Vladimir provides a scientific origin legend: Because they grew from human seed, “they scream when they are uprooted”.
Kleist has a mandrake in the list of people. The incarnation of the poisonous plant is completed in the wise woman of the Germanic forests, the born pharmacologist. You met the Roman general Varus when he got lost in the forest. He can ask her three questions. Where does he comes from? “Out of nowhere.” Where is he going? “Into nowhere.” Where is he? “Two steps from the grave, hard between nothing and nothing.”
Where Varus inevitably falls into the trap set by Hermann, no matter where he turns his steps, death in “Waiting for Godot” does not materialize. Maybe Godot is supposed to embody death, but one cannot know that because in the end neither Godot nor death appears. Vladimir and tarragon true distance, always two steps away from the gallows. In the second act, the action starts all over again without the protagonists having gone through the cycle of death and rebirth. The verification of the theory of mandrakes is missing.
Nothing dies in the theater
When Jan Bosse staged “Waiting for Godot” in Hamburg in 2004, he turned the two tramps into entertainers in the old people’s home and the tree into a microphone stand. In his Cologne production, the tree is again a prop for musical accompaniment, which Carolina Bigge provides as a one-woman orchestra. The linkage of the striking mechanism has blown leaves. The second act begins with a revelation: It’s amazing how the climbing ivy has developed since the beginning of the evening, although there is no break. The audience sits on the stage in the play’s Mülheim depot, the ensemble makes it uncomfortable in the auditorium and organizes gymnastics exercises in the sloping waiting room.
White tarpaulins cover the red upholstered seats, and when the packaging material is removed, it becomes apparent that the foliage grows in width. So the leaves did not die off, as Vladimir suspected in the first act. In the theater (Pozzo replaces “the street” with “the theater” in the Cologne version) nothing dies, everything is preserved here, even a classic without a plot. It is unthinkable that Vladimir and Tarragon as gallows birds could make the exit. There are nooses lying around, but a tree that stands like a man is missing to complete the deed.
As evidenced by his name, Kleist’s hero is man and man in one person – Roland Reuss therefore insists on the spelling “Herrmannsschlacht”. The German state is justified in the play by a femicide: the dismemberment of a woman makes the unification of Germans possible. Hermann had the body of a girl allegedly raped by a Roman cut into fifteen pieces and sent to as many tribes.