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The 10 Selected Productions

Reich des Todes

by Rainald Goetz

Deutsches SchauSpielHaus Hamburg

Premiere 11 September 2020

The Hamburg production of Rainald Goetz’ new play turns into a four-hour foray into the American nightmare of 9/11 and global states of emergency.

Reich des Todes. Video trailer

© Deutsches SchauSpielHaus Hamburg

  • 4 h 15 min, one interval
  • In German with English subtitles

Past Dates

After-show talk and reception in honour of the artists
on 21 May at 22:55

Over a distance of nearly twenty years, Rainald Goetz looks back at 11 September 2001 and its aftermath, at the “War on Terror” and the barbarity of Guantanamo. Goetz is not interested in a documentary reconstruction of events. Instead, he sketches an iridescent genre picture of politics in a state of emergency, rich in references and invitations to association, looking far back and far ahead into history, right up to our immediate, crisis-ridden present day. In Karin Beier’s staging, the world premiere at Hamburg’s SchauSpielHaus becomes a frenzied theatre experience. Jörg Gollasch’s sinister and threatening sound world complements Goetz’s agitated language.

Please take note:
The world premiere production of “Reich des Todes (Empire of Death)” deals with topics including the abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. In this context, the production features scenes, projected images and photos of the affected persons, showing mental, physical and sexualised violence and nudity.

Theatertreffen-juror Wolfgang Höbel about the production
Dramatist Rainald Goetz proclaims a world order fuelled by mania and panic, and director Karin Beier is his willing executor. In “Reich des Todes (Empire of Death)”, the theatre sits in judgment over the moral degeneracy of the US-American government in the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11/2001 – and attempts nothing less than a historical classification of events of global politics.

That this production doesn’t waver from this very hubris for the entire duration of the performance is a considerable feat. Both author and director claim that a fall from grace of our epoch was caused by and is epitomised by characters like Donald Rumsfeld or George W. Bush. Goetz gives these men German names and Beier sends them onstage as very “German” characters, and through this device they announce our complicity in the crimes committed by the US. What we see on this dungeon-like stage, designed by Johannes Schütz, is a frenzy of video images, dance scenes and impersonated politicians, an almost Brechtian theatre of enlightenment and memory. The moment the World Trade Center was hit by planes and collapsed marks the beginning of the demolition of American democracy and humanity in general. Through devices including a Hitler-parody, the actors demonstrate the kinship between fascist brutalisation and the cynicism of 21st century power politics. The fascination of crime and the archaic scandal of violence are depicted in grotesquely aestheticised scenes of war and torture. Skirting the borderlines of bad taste, the pain of a mistreated, blood-covered individual is expressed in dance, showing the horrors of the Abu Ghuraib prison camp. Over the course of the performance, however, the realistic horrors turn more and more into abstract monstrosity. Whenever the intensity of the images on stage abates, an orchestra of voices invokes the thunderstorm of thoughts inside the poet’s head and the mortal fear in all of us. At one point, a jubilant voice seems to come straight from the mouth of playwright Goetz: “How crazy, how messed-up!” Staying largely close to the text, this production is both highly neurotic, polemic, political contemporary theatre and an immoderate, splendidly gloomy, disturbing description of our present times.

Artistic Team

Karin Beier Director
Johannes Schütz Set design
Eva Dessecker, Wicke Naujoks Costume design
Jörg Gollasch Composer and musical director /
Composer and musical supervisor for “Beschluss”, Act V

Voxi Bärenklau Video design
Rita Thiele, Ralf Fiedler Dramaturgy
Annette ter Meulen Lighting design
Christine Groß Supervision of spoken chorus “Desastres de la Guerra”, Act IV
Valentí Rocamora i Torà Physical training and choreographic collaboration
Vanessa Christoffers-Trinks Collaboration video research
Anna Werner Production management

Sebastian Blomberg Selch, Vice President
Maximilian Scheidt Pinsk, Private Secretary / Braum, Lance Corporal / Trenck, Corporal
Holger Stockhaus Dr Banzhaf, Chief Legal Officer
Lars Rudolph Thurgau, Director of Intelligence
Sandra Gerling Ms von Ade, Security Advisor
Wolfgang Pregler Grotten, President
Burghart Klaußner Roon, Minister of War
Anja Laïs Mrs Grotten, Wife / Darkova, Brigadier General
Daniel Hoevels Dr Schill, Judicial Councillor / Braum, Lance Corporal
Markus John Dr Kelsen, Chief Justice / Braum, Lance Corporal
Michael Weber Sebald, Minister of Justice / Braum, Lance Corporal
Tilman Strauß Braum, Lance Corporal / Trenck, Corporal / Atta, Prisoner
Eva Bühnen Cindy, Security Guard
Josefine Israel Eve, Soldier / Trenck, Corporal

Fanis Gioles, Yuko Suzuki Percussion
Wassim Mukdad Oud
Michael Heupel Cello
Anna Lindenbaum Viola
Camilla Busemann Violin

Samuli Emery, João Pedro de Paula, Sayouba Sigué, Valentí Rocamora i Torà

We are showing the production “Reich des Todes” in cooperation with the  46th Mühlheimer Theatertage “Stücke”.

Performing rights: Suhrkamp Theater Verlag, Berlin

Programme Brochure

for download (, 711 KB)