Mitch, second year, studying English Literature at Freie Universitaet Berlin
Every time I write a blog, I wonder how to start it. I know that that’s kind of reasonable as I’m starting out on what I hope is a new idea, but I find that as I write, my ideas come to me a lot more naturally than at the beginning of a post. So, here I am, starting a post again. Wondering how to start it. So I’ll start by saying how amazing Berlin is for student discounts for cultural stuff! Yay!
In my last blog, I mentioned this awesome Twelfth Night adaptation called ‘Was Ihr Wollt’ (‘What You Will’) I went to see a while ago at the Deutsches Theatre, which was beautiful in itself, with the performance being the fabulous icing on the cake. I had the feeling that it was a sort of cross between American Horror Story and Twelfth Night, partly because a whole bunch of stuff happened which was not only well-choreographed, somehow grotesque (?), but also kind of bizarre. People were shouting to each other from different set-pieces on different physical levels that moved across the stage (such as a sort of mechanical plane-treehouse hybrid thing); taking people away to be ‘tortured’ and wrapped in what looked like police investigation tape on big LCD screens; and wearing these fantastically camp, ornate dresses which fluffed around and were basically great props in themselves. Then all of this was contrasted with genuinely heartfelt performances that bordered on the subtle and hilarious all at once.
Everything being in German was actually great practice once I got used to it, and the English supertitles projected above the stage were also helpful, because having Shakespearean English in German and trying to follow it seemed like quite a challenge at the beginning, to say the least. The inside of the theatre was also very Downton Abbey and reminded me a lot of the Old Vic in my home city of Bristol, all chandeliers and plush red seats. I think that the tone of the play actually contrasted a lot with this, as I wasn’t sure what to expect from one minute to the next, which was exciting and really kept me and the rest of the audience engaged (as far as I could tell, given that everyone was roaring with laughter half the time at what I assume were culturally-specific jokes because, sometimes, I had no idea what the point was!).
I study English, so I feel like I do have to also have some open reverence for the institution that is old Shakey, because I do kind of love his plays (especially Othello). When they become something a bit different, with the kind of atmosphere which is a bit creepy and exciting, though, that’s when they really pique my interest. As cliche as it sounds, and as much as we’ve had it drilled into us as lit students not to write in generalisations or anachronisms… Shakespeare’s stuff becomes bitingly relevant when it’s adapted. Especially in German, which has its own reputation for adaptation and dubbing of media from other languages too.
This time was all of that and more, and I felt like it was definitely Berlin. That’s basically mine (and everyone else’s) response to most things that happen here: ‘So Berlin!’ Running up Schumannstrasse opposite the theatre at night, to be greeted by one of my best Berlin friends Beth (the Shakespeare-ophile) and rushing into this elegant theatre to be seated and presented with this super entertaining and super weird performance was, all in all, a great night out. For €9. Which to me seems like an absolute bargain for such a thought-provoking performance.
This was then followed by getting lost in a train station (in my defence it was huge) one stop from the theatre, where I had to switch trains, and using the combination of mine and Beth’s German to ask an elderly lady how to get to where we needed to go. All before something like 11pm on what I think was a Thursday. Totally cool, and totally odd. I don’t know why I think of it as being odd, but I guess it’s the whole being in another country thing which continually surprises and shocks me sometimes.
I’m alive and here to tell the tale a few months later though, so I guess it all worked out in the end! So until next time…