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The pleasures of revenge: Michael Kohlhaas at Schaubühne

Based on an 1810 novella of the same name, Schaubühne's latest production follows the relentless pursuit of cross-border justice.

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Relentless, exhausting, exhilarating: Michael Kohlhaas at Schaubühne. Photo: Gianmarco Bresadola

Michael Kohlhaas is relentless. Just as the character – based on a version of 16th-century merchant Hans Kohlhase that appeared in Heinrich von Kleist’s 1810 novella – is relentless in his pursuit of cross-border justice, the play reflects his hellish quest with its brutal pace. Starting with the premise of a staged reading, the actors go all-out to the end, switching clothing, personas and species while posturing, pleading for clemency, fighting battles and burning villages. Essentially nobody wins, but as an audience we’re nevertheless happy to reap the spectacular rewards.

The seventh player, the combined technical mise-en-scène, is in flawless harmony with the indefatigable actors and at times also within their hands. Soundtrack, lighting, mobile phones, overhead cameras and large rear-stage projections create new spaces and moods. It reframes and spotlights intimacy, always moving the action forward. There’s even a nod to video conferencing. Dense, rapid-fire, exhausting, exhilarating. With only half-capacity houses currently possible, this season is already sold out. But expect this Covid-delayed production to return. A must see.

Michael Kohlhaas | Directed by Annabel Arden & Simon McBurney. Schaubühne, Charlottenburg

Through August 22 – some evening box office tickets may still be available