These are raw times. The gap between rich and poor is brutal, hordes of begging people of all ages roam the streets. And especially for women, life in this religiously charged, violent society does not look rosy. Most men would only laugh at a word like “equal rights”, a London doctor has compiled a list of 70 diseases that only women can get – as a punishment from God, of course. Even in marriage they have practically no rights. According to common understanding, a man may “beat outlaws, traitors, heathens, his servants and his wife”. Welcome to Elizabethan everyday life.
Ian Mortimer describes it all in his fine book The World of Shakespeare, which is always a worthwhile read before embarking on the summer theater season, when the great author’s immortal love affairs have their premieres. These comedies full of charades and confusion, which usually take place in some forest and often end in multiple marriages. All’s well that ends well?
As is well known, the plays, which are peppered with frivolities and rudeness, also took place in front of an audience that indulged in few romantic illusions and above all wanted to experience cracking fun in the Globe Theater – while a house further away in front of paying spectators: inside chained bears fought against dogs.
As little as there is reason for nostalgic glorification of Shakespeare’s times, the theater maker had one advantage over the present: the Globe, built in 1599, did not have to fight for its place. In any case, there is no record of Shakespeare having to deal with leaseholds, zoning plans and county governments.
This distinguishes him from Christian Leonard, the man who will one day be awarded the Theater Merit Cross, which is yet to be introduced, if he has at some point managed to realize his lifelong dream of a Globe Berlin that has been bought in all its glory.
The history of all previous failed attempts would fill a book of its own. As of now, next year the Globe, which Leonard bought years ago in Schwäbisch Hall and transported to Berlin in individual parts, is finally to be set up on Charlottenburg’s Sömmeringstrasse. We’ll see.
For the time being, the season opening will be celebrated again on the “Open-O-Bühne” under the motto “Farewell and Departure”, the rudimentary wooden circle that is already there near the Spree. Premiered as “As You Like It”, not to be confused with “Twelfe Night, Or What You Will” – the play from which the famous quote is taken according to which the whole world is a stage and all people are only players.
In the direction of Anselm Lipgens and the version by Christian Leonard, the heroine Rosalinde (Lisa Riesner) breaks up with her friend Celia (Sophia Bauer) and the fool Zwackstein (Mick Morris Mehnert) after some quarrels at the court of the Duke (Matthias Horn). the Ardennes forest, where she acquires a sheep farm and disguises herself as a man named Ganymede. Which leads to turbulence.
Not only shepherdess Phoebe (Gina Christof) falls in love with him/her. Even Rosalinde’s lover-to-be Orlando (Jannik Rodenwaldt), who follows her and plasters the whole forest with love poems, doesn’t recognize her lover. So it definitely needs a few more story unraveling loops before the final quadruple marriage.
Lipgens’ production uses the entire wooden game round in a thrilling way, also boasts musically and is surprisingly entertaining. There is no doubt that the Globe ensemble really deserved its historic round house.
Location difficulties with Shakespeare are widespread in Berlin. The Monbijoutheater in Mitte is currently struggling for its summer season after years of upheaval, after changes of operator and fights with the district office (“And they’re playing! Coming soon…” announces the homepage bravely). While the Shakespeare Company Berlin had to vacate their traditional place in the Schöneberger Südgelände Nature Park.
There, the locomotive hall – traditionally the rain shelter for the open-air troops – is being extensively renovated and converted into a cultural venue. However, the company has found a very suitable alternative venue at the Insulaner, where the full Shakespeare program will be offered this summer and in the years to come. In a newly built wooden semicircular theater, a “Wooden U”.
“Much Ado About Nothing” was the first to be seen, directed by Thomas Hollaender, the story of the buddies Don Predro, Benedikt and Claudio, who return to Messina after winning a battle. Just to plunge into a very confusing love intrigue and matchmaking game involving the governor’s daughter Hero and his niece Beatrice. The latter, like Benedict, is actually very convinced of being single (which, considering the Elizabethan times, is not surprising).
The battle of words between the two is one of the highlights in every “Much Ado About Nothing” production – as well as in this one based on a version by Martin Molitor (Beatrice: “It’s better to hear a dog barking for a crow than a dog Man whispering about love”. Benedekt: “Good attitude. That will save many a man the fate of having you scratch his face”.).
The audience – which, unlike in the covered theater of the Shakespeare Company and the transitional Globe, shows no signs of a pandemic and is full – enjoys it. Probably not least because this type of folk theater, with its directness and its unscented humor, best conveys a feeling for the rough times the plays actually come from. And why doubts gnaw at every happy ending.