War brings no salvation

Tg STAN achieves an operetta-like gaiety in a new adaptation of Thomas Bernhard.

After its successful European tour with Alles is rustig ( All is quiet ), Tg STAN again turns its attention to the oeuvre of the unsurpassed Thomas Bernhard with a production based on five short ‘Dramoletten’ ( Freispruch, Eis, Maiandacht, Match and A Doda ). The stuff of these pieces is the script: good old-fashioned literary material by one of the few writers we can assume listened to Glenn Gould or quoted Wittgenstein without snobbish pretensions.

The thread that runs through the works is the Germans’ difficult relationship with their legacy of the Second World War. Bernhard puts forward the proposition that the same intolerant Nazi still lurks behind the veneer of the economic miracle, the Wirtschaftswunder. A blunt observation, but don’t let that put you off, because Bernhard is a master of the comical. He takes the edge off the gravity of war with serio-absurd or gentle, charming humour. For example, Maiandacht explores the power of rumours about a German killed in a crash: it was his fault, but if that Turk had not overtaken, he would still have been alive. Eis shows solid citizens in all their drunken glory on the Baltic beach.

At times the long-drawn-out bungling with a folding table or with items of clothing threatens to allow the rhythm of the play to deteriorate into cheap ‘props theatre’ in which a sudden burst of laughter is designed to conceal its pointlessness. But appearances are deceptive: both the playing with the props and the irritation it arouses serve a purpose. With their grotesque dressing-up sessions between scenes the actors steer the play towards an operetta-like gaiety which serves to sharpen the scented spuriousness of the Viennese waltz with officers in full dress uniform and ladies in stays.

Knack, Wim Smets, March 23rd 2005