Photo by Arno Declair
We’re back at the Schaubühne. At a performance of Hamlet. With Lars Eidinger. During which he does what he often does. He asks for the lights to go up, creating a communal space in which to engage with the audience in improvised exchange. It’s about querying audience roles as passive text receptors; about breaking down hierarchies, getting us creatively involved in spectacle.
There’s a group of some seven likely lads sitting about two rows below us. They’ve been agitating for a while – muttering, laughing, checking their mails, cat-calling. Hamlet has his eye on them and when the lights go up, he asks the ring-leader down onto the stage. Said lad, Siggi, introduces himself and his mates as actors and proceeds to make a fool of himself by mis-attributing “All the world’s a stage” to Hamlet (it’s from As You Like It, pea-brain) and stumbling over the old King’s stage grave. Case (and idiot posturer) dismissed.
But Siggi doesn’t respond well to humiliation. Mutterings continue and when one of his gang shouts out “Yuk, gay porn!” when Hamlet nuzzles a crotch or two, I’m seriously tempted to stand up and shout: “Shut the fuck up.”
I’ve always wanted to do this in a public place. Sadly, I miss my chance. And so do the rest of us. Instead, as the heckling continues, we cross our arms and resort to well-worn expressions of revolution and protest: whispering shhhh and pushing knees into the back of the agitators’ seats. In the end, it’s up to Hamlet to ask for the lights to go up again, offering the aspiring thesps free-drinks at the bar if they’ll just piss off, seeing as they’ve nothing substantial to contribute. They rise as one man and traipse off, cheering loudly.
We clap. But meekly. Our loud whistles and stamping are reserved for the final curtain. Because by then, the danger’s passed. The hot young numbskulls have taken the S-Bahn back to where they came from. Probably not anywhere off Ku’Damm. In the meantime, we’ve followed Hamlet – or was it Lars – to the ramparts of chaos, peered over the edge – and what? Returned from the brink.
Note the collective and apologetic we. Lars, if you’re reading this: you deserve better. This is Charlottenburg, for Pete’s sake. Anybody who gets the bon Bürger to even flirt with anarchy for a couple of hours deserves a medal. Solidarity in crisis is the least we can offer. There’s no “to be or not” about it. I will be up on my feet next time, shouting “Shut the fuck up!”
Lars is pretty tall. He’ll protect me.