Sunday, October 21, 2012

40 Days of Birthday: Day Twenty-Nine



I forced myself out of the house this morning, though I easily could have stayed in bed and babied my cold. Our friend Athanasia was selling a few things at a Kinderflohmarkt—Children’s Flea Market—and asked us to stop by. I love Kinderflohmarkts. We’ve found so many amazing things for Lennon at them. It’s nice to buy from other families selling and, for the most part, the items are really high quality and often gently used. This would be the second time for me at this particular Kinderflohmarkt. I was first there with Athanasia back in 2009 when on vacation in Berlin, just after Nicholas and I became engaged in Paris. Back then, I purchased two incredible, old, German hand puppets: a devil and a cross looking woman. I’ve come to believe that these two characters belong to a common children’s fable here because I see them represented in puppet form at nearly every toy store. Lately, they’re used as entertainment for Lennon and carry the names Redman—we’re not comfortable explaining the concept of the devil quite yet—and Angry Lady, who always explains that she’s not really angry, she just looks that way. You can see them in action here.


The Kinderflohmarkt was crowded and parents can be relentless when bargain hunting. I was on the look out for warm play clothes for Lennon for Kita. I found a simple coat, a couple pairs of pants, and a nearly new pair of shoes. For me, and probably for Lennon, I found a vintage cylindrical cow sound box—my mother always put these in our Christmas stockings when I was little girl—and another devil puppet! This devil is much older than Redman. He’s made of cotton muslin, wool felt, and has a real fur collar. He’s also crumbling a little which made for instant love on my part. The lady wanted 3 euro for him. I talked her down to 2.50.


Tonight, I was excited to see Heiner Müller’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth at the Volksbühne. It began at 7pm, which is a signal to the audience that it’s going to be a long one. It played in a small, narrow, black box space upstairs at the Volksbühne and, with open seating, I snagged a chair in the front row—my favorite perch for live performance.

I found this piece incredibly challenging. It was in German, which is always a struggle, but unfortunately the language barrier was the least of my issues tonight. For the vast majority of the piece, the stage was dark, leaving the actors and stage nearly unseen. Rather than looking eerie, it just looked poorly lit. There was a running theme of blood curdling screaming throughout the entire three-hour production. For me, after the heart jumping shock of the first scream, it simply became a discomfort to listen to. Much of the dialogue was also shouted in guttural vocal affectations making it near impossible to understand what was being uttered. Elements I appreciated, such as the bare stage, pieced together costumes, minimal props, and a wooden cut out of a donkey representing a knight’s horse, played second fiddle in my memory to the things that concerned me about the piece.

Before I claim that I just didn’t care for the work, I need to do more investigation into director’s vision and Heiner Müller’s intention. Often I find that I reject something because I don’t understand it. I’d be foolish to do that here. I wasn’t the only one who had trouble navigating the piece, however—eighty percent of the audience had left by curtain call, forty percent left in the first twenty minutes. I was in for the long haul, for the actors’ sake if nothing else, but I was charting the events of Macbeth in my head—this version doesn’t follow the exact storyline—so I could find comfort in being almost near the end. As the lights came up and the thoroughly exhausted actors entered the stage for curtain call, you could see them laugh at how the audience had shrunk. I think this may have happened before.

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