“Waiting for Godot” and “The Hermann Battle” in Cologne

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.”

Patrick Bahners

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.


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