Because my German is not good enough to follow a whole play in that language, I decided to buy the original English text of Mark Ravenhill’s pool (no water), which happened to be the play performed in the Bayerische Staatsschauspiel on my free day in Munich. This was very convenient for my intent of seeing a play in Germany. I have been following the work of so many German directors in opera and felt like watching them “in their own field”, so to say. As for Ravenhill, I had seen some scenes on TV from the Brazilian staging of Shopping and Fucking some years ago and that was all.
I have to confess that reading the play was hardly an eye-opener. It seemed to be an interesting study about the old question whether art and the artist are the same, written in a rather innovative manner – no previously defined characters, just lines in which narration and action are intimately intertwined. I do not know how the play was staged in England – but I imagined very limited scenic elements and naturalistic almost Brechtian acting. But German dramaturgs can go really beyond that.
What striked me at first is the treatment to the text. I am used to staging of comporary works reverently respective to the text in which directors adopt a rather self-contained way. Director Florian Boesch, however, treated Ravenhill’s text as he would have treated Shakespeare or Schiller, in the sense that he proposed his reading of this text. I’ll explain myself – instead of trying to cleanse himself of his view in order to reach the core of the author’s vision, he rather added his own symbolic universe to to the written text. All I can say is that the experience proved to be – at least for me – illuminating. Boesch’s germanic view of Ravenhill’s play granted it the universality it could miss in the original version (also, the German translation brought a slightly more sophisticated register of speech to the text).
Pool (no water) is a nasty story about the visit of a group of artistic losers to their former colleague who has become famous and acknowledged and their sadistically vindicative response to an accident she suffers during their staying at her villa. Boesch goes beyond the nastiness and finds the raw cruelty and cynicism of the text – in a way only Germans could do. As conceived by Boesch, the whole staging could be descibred as a destructive allegory of the text. The minimalistic setting is progressively tranformed into an almost infernal chaos – every piece of prop is destroyed, torn apart to shattering effect. Something similar happens to the cast. In the end, they have exposed themselves, either stripped or covered themselves with ridicule, red paint or self-derision – all that performed with clockwork precision. It is indeed amazing the verbal and gestural expressive accuracy of these actors. I do not know if this is the usual standard of theatrical acting in Germany, but I haven’t seen that for a while, compared to the kind of “cinematographic” kind of acting seen in the other side of the Atlantic. No offense to Ravenhill – but I would really like to have the opportunity of seeing actors such as Michael von Au, Ulrike Willenbacher, Michael Tregor or Sophie von Kessel in a play by Ibsen or Strindberg, for example.