The 10 Selected Productions
A street ballad in twelve scenes by Max Frisch
Premiere 14 February 2020 (Basel)
A co-production of Theater Basel (artistic directorship of Andreas Beck, proxy Almut Wagner) and Bayerisches Staatsschauspiel/Residenztheater (Munich)
Stefan Bachmann stages Frisch’s drama as a highly musical horror trip with powerful imagery, giving full scope to the suggestive power of the theatre.
- 1 h 40 min
- In German with English subtitles
- Monday, 17 May 2021
- 3sat-recording from Residenztheater (Munich)
A bank clerk bludgeons a janitor to death: with no reason, no motive, just like that. This murderer and his “senseless” deed totally derail the general prosecutor whose job it is to bring the charge. In a mad rush, he leaves his well-ordered existence and becomes an axe-wielding murderer, initiating a bloody movement against the socio-political status quo. Stefan Bachmann takes the subtitle of this “street ballad” at face value. The multifaceted live music, a cast who are clearly going all out and Olaf Altmann’s congenial spatial positing create a nightmarish maelstrom that sees the story of “Count Oederland with the axe in his hand” as timeless while at the same time evoking countless highly topical associations.
Theatertreffen-juror Sabine Leucht about the production
A general prosecutor is catapulted from his bourgeois existence by an unfathomable case: An upright bank clerk has committed murder with no other motive than an internal feeling of unrest, which will go on to have ever more turbulent repercussions in Max Frisch’s “Graf Öderland (Count Oederland)”. Among Frisch’s oeuvre, this “street ballad in twelve scenes” is the play most open to interpretation. Fragmented and full of abrupt twists, it was quickly rejected by the theatres and loved by its author like a problem child.
Stefan Bachmann has now turned prosecutor Martin’s rampage into an enthralling piece of theatre of images, where all the play’s riddles and fragments find their natural place in a nightmarish dramaturgy. While Frisch still took a petit bourgeois milieu as his starting point and outlined settings including a prison cell and a governmental palace, Bachmann’s narrowing of dream, reality and subconscious is given a stage that is as abstract as it is expressive. In Olaf Altmann’s gigantic vertical funnel, the characters are trying in vain to find a foothold and crash again and again. This also goes for prosecutor Martin, played by Thiemo Strutzenberger as an annoyingly cheerful murderer-saint who will destroy everything that gets in the way of his infantile crusade for self-realisation – be it the institution of marriage, the law or morality. He becomes both the myth of “Count Oederland wielding an axe” and the leader of an illustrious freedom movement. Finally, however, he realises that this makes him all the more qualified for the very system driven by functionality and efficiency that he had tried to escape.
How splendidly this parable from the 1950s suits our present times, where countries are ruled by Borderline-patients and confused conspiracy-windbags have chosen “freedom” as their battle-cry (which, admittedly, had not yet happened at the time of the premiere) is pretty much self-explanatory in this production, which harvests its images and distorted physiognomies chiefly from the history of film. Between expressionist silent-film-quotes à la Nosferatu, Tim Burton’s spookiness and Tarantino’s splatter, the show finds its own language for the monstrous that is only concealed by the thin varnish of civilisation. Thanks to its splendid live music and increasingly ballad-like spoken song, this precisely choreographed production develops a strong maelstrom and shows how quickly alienation and a weariness of civil society can shift into aggression. Not only at the fringes of society but also at its centre.
Stefan Bachmann Director
Olaf Altmann Set design
Esther Geremus Costume design
Sven Kaiser Composition
Roland Edrich Lighting design
Sabina Perry Body work
Barbara Sommer Dramaturgy
Thiemo Strutzenberger The Prosecutor
Barbara Horvath Elsa / A Gendarme / The Aged State President
Simon Zagermann Dr Hahn / A Convict
Linda Blümchen Hilde / Inge / Coco
Steffen Höld The Murderer
Klaus Brömmelmeier Mario / A Gendarme / The General / Mrs Hofmeier
Moritz von Treuenfels A Guard / A Concierge / The Commissioner / A Student
Mario Fuchs The Father / A Boy / The Minister of the Interior
Julius Schröder The Mother / The Driver / The Director
Sven Kaiser Musical director
Tobias Weber Electric guitar
Cornelius Borgolte Bass clarinet / Clarinet
Julia Bassler Violin / Electric violin