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Faust

The Masculine is but transitory
 
“The native cures himself of colonial neurosis by thrusting out the settler through force of arms”, Jean-Paul Sartre commented on the struggle for independence in the French colonies of Northern Africa, particularly Algeria, in the 1960s. Key moments in this mesh of rebellion and brutal suppression were the 1945 riots in Sétif and, following years of violent conflict, the Paris massacre in 1961, which left 300 people dead right in the heart of the Fifth Republic. For the French philosopher the anti-colonial project, supported by the FLN in Algeria, served as the model for an emancipating, solidarity-based socialism that finally seemed within reach in the then non-aligned countries between Belgrade, Cairo, Accra and Jakarta. Advocating a violent overthrow, Sartre trumpeted a 20th-century version of “Jacobinism”. In his famous preface to Frantz Fanon´s book The Wretched of the Earth he writes: “For in the first days of the revolt you must kill: to shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time: there remain a dead man, and a free man”.

Goethe's Faust character evolves – under Mephistopheles' influence – from an intellectual soul fallen into doubt and despair to a global player and businessman, thus representing the prototype of a totalitarian economic world-wide ruler and colonizer. He will, of course, fail in the end, in analogy to the disillusioned scholar he was, so deeply dissatisfied with the lack of perspective in his work that he'd rather die. His pact with the devil is nothing less than his choice for individual egotism and lack of responsibility towards the rest of the world. For Faust, the pact offers an alternative to suicide; and it is the gateway to modern market economy principles defining personal, vested interests as the drivers of social development. This quasi-scientological Me-First-Above-Anything-and-Anyone-Else! becomes his Creed. Faust uses the devil's work as a rejuvenating treatment and starts off as a hedonist seducing the innocent Gretchen from the neighbourhood, only to abandon her quickly. At a later stage he has the devil beam him back to the times of the Trojan war since he’s lusting for Helena, the most beautiful woman in the world, whom he first blackmails and then gets married to. And just when good fortune and happiness seem here to stay, their son Euphorion, the infinitely fortunate one, dies in an accident. Only then Faust turns into the truly “Faustian” person. The one thing that counts from now on is work. He plunges into business, wins on power and multiplies the effects a hundredfold by having others carry out his plans. He turns into a real entrepreneur, a manic workaholic despising to “lie quiet in bed”. True to the original logic of value creation he sets out to dry up the ocean in order to gain land on which hard-working people can live happily ever after. This land might be the utopian ideal of a communist empire like the one the GDR was to represent - or is it neoliberal capitalism itself exhausting us and systematically blocking out the Mephistophelian question “Why all this drudgery?”
In any case, the whole programme is framed as the end of an illusion: the labourers building the dike and the future, who, for blind old Faust still represent hope and a glimpse of “the lovely moment”, are, in truth, the Lemures digging his grave...
In the early days of capitalism, the “masculine” principle of living an active life and efficiency-oriented thinking proved highly promising. It seemed to legitimise itself. It was, however, flawed from the very beginning – for it was an illusion, it was blind and doomed to failure. The operating logic of neo-liberalism always suffered and will continue to suffer from the same defects. Greedy and expansive, pressing for increased performance and always searching for new sales markets, this logic has spread across the whole planet. There is scant evidence of alternative projects based on solidarity nowadays. Violence and terror, those instruments of liberation, as Sartre liked to think, are in the hands of fundamentalists and narcissists hoping to escape the anonymity and contingency of their existence. These characters are merely the flip side of the coin causing instability in the metropolises from where the Faustian domination over people and space once started out. With right-wing nationalism on the rise and the much-vaunted self-regulating mechanism epitomized as the market's “invisible hand” on the decline, capitalism now regresses into the phase of barbarism, as Rosa Luxemburg predicted. Extra-economic forces are transforming markets into markets of violence and war economies. Instead of the free play of forces and the purifying effects of a market open to all, it is the law of might is right that ensures the functioning of society. The Mephistophelian principle of negation, to which Faust as a modern businessman has subscribed, has become the principle of political economy. The spirit that negates is “part of the power that would always wish Evil and always works the Good”, which is what fascinates Goethe, himself an expert in economics. His attitude, however, is one of ambivalence. Goethe saw no alternative, which is why he describes the piece as „tragedy“. Faust's alliance with Mephistopheles, a cynic striving for success who can afford to tell the truth, has led to a dead end – to colonisation and self-colonisation, pressure to grow, territorial expansion.

Frank Castorf's take on Faust is a sophisticated interpretive act of liberation. He recreates Goethe's radical experiment with form by using the aesthetic means of the theatre to seek a way out of the fatal(istic) construction as tragedy. Castorf lays bare themes of yearning for absolute love and beauty – the antipodes of the capitalist drive towards efficiency – as he merges poetry, history and transcendence with the reality of the stage in complex ways. Which will inevitably lead to Paris, the city of desire and of the eternal feminine, to the metro station Rue Stalingrad. Aesthetic cool and theatre smarts acquired and accumulated by historical experience will give birth to a Volksbühne-style Faust on Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. It's a mammoth project made possible by theatre-savvy actors and artists, many of which having a 25-year training for this. Now, for the last time (?) they will be gathering to climb Mount Faust together. The Masculine is transitory and must pass. The Eternal-Feminine, though, is drawing us on and upwards.

[Sebastian Kaiser / Carl Hegemann]


Duration: 6h 50min, one break
 

  

With: Martin Wuttke (Faust), Marc Hosemann (Mephistopheles), Valery Tscheplanowa (Margarete und Helena), Alexander Scheer (Lord Byron und Anaxagoras), Sophie Rois (Die Hexe), Lars Rudolph (Doktor Wagner), Lilith Stangenberg (Meerkatze Satin), Hanna Hilsdorf (Homunculus), Daniel Zillmann (Monsieur Bordenave, directeur du Théâtre des Variétés), Thelma Buabeng (Phorkyade), Frank Büttner (Valentin), Angela Guerreiro (Papa Legba und Baucis), Abdoul Kader Traoré (Baron Samedi & Monsieur Rap rencontrent Aimé Césaire) and Sir Henry (Der Leiermann)

Director: Frank Castorf
Stage: Aleksandar Denic
Costumes: Adriana Braga
Light Design: Lothar Baumgarte
Camera: Andreas Deinert, Mathias Klütz
Video Editing: Jens Crull
Video: Maryvonne Riedelsheimer
Music/Sound: Tobias Gringel, Christopher von Nathusius
Boom Arm: Dario Brinkmann, Lorenz Fischer, William Minke, Cemile Sahin
Dramaturgy: Sebastian Kaiser

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