Writing a review on Goethes Erben’s concert at the Arena Van Vletingen is quite a challenge, but I’m more than willing to take it up, if only out of sheer respect for the performance the band delivered on stage that evening. For Oswald Henke it must be no mean feat to bring the musical play “Schattendenken”, just like it’s no mean feat for a foreign audience to assimilate it. But the fact is, the more the play sinks in, the more its profundity becomes obvious.
The stage was divided into a lower level, reserved for the musicians, and an upper level, where a bed, a chair, a table and a wastebasket made up the setting for the actual play.
It’s a musical play about writership, which denounces the fact that people do not really care about art and the creative process that precedes it, but merely consume it noncommittally.
Oswald Henke plays the role of a writer who becomes conscious of this artistic exploitation. Refusing to continue his writing and even refusing to go to sleep for fear of being forced to write down his dreams, he becomes gradually more trapped within himself. Two key moments in the play certainly are the desecration of a member of the public by shaving her head, and, of course, the writer’s collapse. This might sound very dark and sombre, but the play is also interspersed with beautiful dreams and fantasies, like for example the story about a swan who gives away one of its wings to an angel who can no longer fly. And there’s the cutest song in which Oswald states that he wants to be a butterfly. Another recurrent theme is the taste of jasmine tea: “Wer weiss noch wie Jasmin Tee schmeckt?”.
One thing’s for sure, jasmine tea usually is easier to digest than this play, but that doesn’t imply that I liked it any less! It’s at moments like these that I find it a great shame that my knowledge of German is rather limited. A lot of the subtleties were lost on me, but thanks to the powerful images used, I managed to keep track of the story (or at least a story…). If the texts are even half as powerful as the images used –and I’m pretty sure they are– I really should consider taking up German language classes!
There only will be ten performances of Schattendenken and as most of them are scheduled in Germany, I’m really happy to have been able to witness this masterpiece in Belgium.
Later on, a live DVD and a bonus cd of Schattendenken will be released and Goethes Erben will also produce a real film on the subject. So, there’s plenty to look forward to!