Hallelujah (Ein Reservat) by Christoph Marthaler

Having earned a highly respected reputation for inventive and distinct productions, director Christoph Marthaler was awarded the Hans Reinhart-Ring, the highest honour in theatre in Switzerland. His new production is showing now at the Berliner Volksbühne. Centered around classic country tunes, the piece is random and abstract. The cast are relatively amusing, with added expression provided from a number of playful costumes. When singing together, they articulate beautiful harmonies all within that wonderful country-western style. Solos by Norwegian singer/actress Tora Augestad are a particular highlight of the performance as she charms the audience with her exquisite voice.

Set designer Anna Viebrock aims to achieve an illusion of a parallel world with elements of hope, longing, loneliness and phony freedom. Under Marthaler’s direction, this imaginary reserve appears to control its occupants creating a Freizeitzwangslager (leisure labour camp). The actors are frequently compelled to execute repetitive movements for no apparent reason, such as running around in circles over the fantastically creative stage with various levels of elevation. Viebrock takes inspiration from the closed and forbidden Spreepark in Plänterwald – with a large bridge, ticket booth, giant dead dinosaur and more placed on a rotating platform, the stage certainly provides an eyeful.

While parts of the performance are entertaining, most of the music is enjoyable and it is visually very compelling, the whole thing goes on for about 45 minutes too long. With a strange start that bewilders and successfully attracts the audience’s interest, the middle part become energetic, lively and engaging. Unfortunately towards the end of the piece, the music and momentum has a drastic diminuendo becoming dreary and resulting in a loss of attention from the audience. Regardless of this, Hallelujah (Ein Reservat) is worth a watch, especially for a fan of country and western or for the non-conformist who enjoys particularly random theatre with no particular storyline.

Hallelujah (Ein Reservat) is showing at Volksbühne until 3rd March 2016. For more information and ticket information, click here.

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