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Production design from »Baracke« in Berlin: Pictures from an exhibition – and a family constellation

Photo: Thomas Aurin

In the world premiere of the play »Baracke« by Rainald Goetz, two people on stage discuss how stupid it is to always shout »Yes, of course« with cheerful pseudo-consent, just to keep anger at bay. For this reason alone, it is perhaps appropriate to say right away about the premiere of »Baracke« on Friday evening at Berlin's Deutsches Theater: There are very beautiful, funny scenes to be seen, clever, even great lyrical sentences are said – but I haven't quite understood what exactly is being negotiated here and why.

"All violence emanates from the family" is the theme of the play, which combines the right-wing terrorism of the so-called NSU and the everyday horror of human relationships, according to the program booklet. The slogan itself also appears as a scene heading in the play. The author Goetz says that it "collects testimonies, tries out interpretations, records conflicts" and "defends itself against unambiguity".

On stage are two men and a woman in motorcycle clothing, who at times can be identified as doppelgangers of the NSU terrorists Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos. A couple in Biedermeier clothing embodies typical German parental hard-heartedness. A congress of people in underpants discusses the purpose and insanity of family ties in wonderfully lofty sociological German. A picture of Francisco de Goya is rolled in and ridiculed by computer technology, beats used with great timing boom every now and then.

Actors as walking chocolate bars

Very casually, director Claudia Bossard lets the cool, lanky actress Mareike Beykirch rap down the titles of famous Rainer Goetz books at a small desk and fidget with her legs. Between the young woman played by Beykirch and a handsome, shaggy-haired guy portrayed by actor Jeremy Mockridge, Bossard stages an almost tabloid-like relationship dispute ping-pong.

There is a lot of laughter in the premiere audience. Also about the battles of words that parents have about the implementation of their wishes, about the stress of the household and about the hardship phases of childcare. There is a lot of giggling when the actors and actresses dress up in the spotlight as walking chocolate bars from Twixx to Kitkat. The Haydn melody of the German national anthem can often be heard.

A discourse-association haunting at night in the museum is shown here. It is an exhibition space, perhaps an art installation within museum walls, in which the piece takes place. The bare hall is furnished with steel, partly picture-hung walls, a bright red staircase with a red door, loudspeakers and a glass cage. Strictly speaking, however, the play takes place in the mind of the writer Goetz.

The Big Picture of Couple and Human Relationships

There are very gracefully formulated thoughts floating around, for example on the "only felt questions" about the coming together of two people: "Not said / and hardly thought," it says, "how is the alliance / of sexual union evaluated / in terms of love / future, attachment, meaning / what does it mean / to sleep together / in the moment in which it happens and what afterwards / for you / for me."

It's about the big picture of couple and human relationships, the rearing of children, the usually gender-based violence. The cruelty that parents inflict on children through cold silence is poignantly described: This is even worse "than the famous scenes when the father came home late at night and came up to you swaying in the corridor because something wrong had happened for which you were supposedly to blame, the sister was beaten up just like you, the older brother, the wheezing and wheezing and dull crashes when you were thrown against the wall like a sack of flour."

The actors and actresses in Berlin speak all the lyrics of the play in the same professional, ironic entertainer's tone – as obvious or complicated as they may be at first glance, as banal or profound, as touching or academic as they may seem when read. Unfortunately, this sometimes makes this two-and-a-quarter-hour evening of theatre quite boring.

More on the subject

  • Change at important theatre in the capital: Expansion of the coaching zoneBy Wolfgang Höbel

  • New play by Rainald Goetz after a 21-year break: Four hours of brutal confirmationBy Dirk Kurbjuweit

  • Rainer Goetz premiere in Berlin: "They do it, they do it"By Anke Dürr

  • Most prestigious literary prize:Rainald Goetz wins the Georg Büchner Prize

In his plays and books, Goetz has dealt with the terror of the Red Army Faction and the terrorist attacks of September 11, as well as the US response to them. He is 69 years old, is highly regarded as one of the country's most important writers and is still a pop idol for many older people today. Is it mean to take the friendly lack of attitude, the not-too-interested service provider mentality with which director Bossard, born in 1985, takes his text as a sign that Goetz means less to her generation than to those born earlier? At least that's how it seemed to me on the night of the premiere.

But the even more important question of what exactly the play and the performance have produced that is really enlightening and new about the connection between the murders of a German terrorist trio and the horror construction of the family – unfortunately I cannot answer it even after the cheerfully approving final applause of the audience. Incidentally, Rainald Goetz's text once speaks of the "happiness of not understanding".

»Baracke«, Deutsches Theater Berlin, next performances on 26 September and 1, 8 and 13 October.