Boy’s don’t cry. For Falk Richter, this mantra of masculinity is the root of toxic behaviour that has led us into a crisis of macho proportions: AfD, Trump, Bolsonaro, Orbán. Strong men rule the world. In his third production for Gorki following 2016’s Small Town Boy and 2017’s Verräter, Richter explores the impact our fathers have had on our lives with a diverse and masterful ensemble. Emre Aksızoğlu tells of his Turkish father’s ruthless discipline in his assimilation as a German, while Benny Claessens speaks of his distanced relationship with his now deceased father, showing a depth not often seen in the actor’s usual (admittedly side-splitting) audience rants. Falk Richter’s own relationship with his father provides an overarching structure to the emotional, two-hour, music-filled performance: at 18, Richter senior was drafted into the Second World War, in the post-war boom he was a business man. The trauma of war would haunt him throughout his life and impact his ability to talk about his feelings or accept his son’s sexuality. This is Richter at his most personal, but the political conclusions he draws are no less damning. Toxic masculinity has proved a fertile breeding ground for far-right ideology. Today, the soldierly values that emotionally destroyed Richter’s father are enjoying a dangerous renaissance. For all the talk of manning up, we should think about manning down.
In My Room | Directed by Falk Richter. Maxim Gorki Theater, Mitte. Feb 7 and 19, with English surtitles.