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Ode to Life

by Rüdiger Schaper - Der Tagesspiegel
November 18, 2006

Spielzeit Europa: Opening with “Young@Heart”

Once again, the attempt to think big for the big house of the Berliner Festspiele: Brigitte Fürle the new artistic director of the “Spielzeit Europa”, a Viennese, counts on big names. And it wouldn’t work any other way. Stéphane Braunschweig, Robert Lepage, Robert Wilson and Isabelle Huppert – followed by Pina Bausch in January. There is no lack of innovative, performance based, deconstructivist theatre in Berlin. It would make no sense if Fürle tried to compete with the Hebbel am Ufer, the Radialsystem or the Sophiensäle, which will celebrate their tenth anniversary tonight with a big party. For smaller productions the Festspiele still have their small stage. “Alles wird gut” (Everything is going to be all right). The Latvian artist Monika Pormale, stage designer for Alvis Hermanis, has turned the façade of the theatre into a gallery; people hug each other, hold on to each other on the huge pictures by photographer Burkhard Peter. Art and promotion are almost indistinguishable. The pictures advertise human warmth. The pensioners from “Young@Heart” from Northampton/Massachusetts do the same – except more powerfully and beautifully. A chorus, whose members are between 71 and 93 years old. Their program is called “Road to Nowhere” and is not quite new anymore, but this American opening has brought “Spielzeit Europa” such heartfelt applause as the Festspielhaus has not seen in a long time. People sit, sing, tell something, seem a little lost and apparently have all the time in the world. It looks like a Marthaler-evening, except not as artistically forced. The old people hijack music that was never theirs. Beatles (“A Day in the Life”), Bruce Springsteen (“Dancing in the Dark”), Willie Nelson (“On the Road Again”), Talking Heads: not only that the original heroes of pop are turning on seventy. Now the old fanfares of youth sound like the wisdom of old age. What a drag it is getting old: Mick Jagger does not perform this line live anymore. With what fervor and how pointedly these senior citizens belt out rock classics! Somehow one feels lacking and deceived when faced with their “revolutionary” pathos! Eileen sitting in a wheelchair sings softly “Ruby Tuesday”. Tear drops start falling in the auditorium. They flow freely during Dylan’s “Forever Young”, the closing number.

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