Lion Feuchtwanger’s “Success” is considered one of the most important roman a clef about Munich and Bavaria. Anyone who wants to learn something about the inhabitants of the state of Old Bavaria will still refer to this 1930 novel, whose subtitle “Three Years of History of a Province” refers to the time of the The plot is limited to the years 1920 to 1923, the year of the Hitler putsch. Born in Munich in Feuchtwanger, he provides the panopticon of a society that is united by the rejection of modernity, even if they live in very different living environments. In Feuchtwanger they all appear, bigheads, politicians, lawyers, half-world, servants, artists and libertines – Dimpfl meets Dümfl, amalgamated from various real people or invented, around a hundred characters, no psychological deep drilling.
The Jew Feuchtwanger describes the approaching takeover of power by the NSDAP, but at the same time considers it unimaginable. His book has 860 pages, it doesn’t really seem suitable for dramatization. But such a string orgy, as the director and future Burgtheater director Stefan Bachmann undertook with dramaturge Barbara Sommer, must have its appeal, especially since the poetry was also rewritten. One can always ask about the necessity of such “theatricalizations”.
Like it’s a rock concert
Bachmann is far removed from local color, he makes a bouillon cube out of Feuchtwanger’s mountains of text. A hundred and fifty minute, precisely choreographed revue, a danced musical comedy with choral interludes, a declamatory round dance in front of a minimal stage design (Olaf Altmann): At the beginning and at the end, a grid of fifteen dark gray rectangles forms a wall, in which a cell-like peephole opens only in the middle. Most of the time the performance is played on a revolving stage in the light of tall arc lamps. And the fog keeps pouring out of the ground, as if it were a rock concert. The music comes live from the Graben, moving between swing, Charleston, Gstanzl, yodelling and “Die Wacht am Rhein”.
The top-class ensemble of two women and eight men masters fourteen roles. The costumes are very Roaring Twenties, the make-up strong, the language is High German, only the Minister of Justice Klenk (Florian von Manteuffel) comes with a southern German accent, beer belly, lederhosen and jingling Charivari. Two story lines stand side by side: Museum deputy director Martin Krüger (Thiemo Strutzenberger) has exhibited unpleasant pictures, including a naked self-portrait of a woman. He was framed for perjury to get rid of him, and now he’s been rotting in prison for three long years, delivering woyzeck-esque monologues.
Meanwhile, his lover Johanna Krain (Liliane Amuat) tries to get an amnesty for Krüger on a course through the city society. In doing so, she is not squeamish, she also has affairs, but she stays on course, albeit increasingly stunned. Meanwhile, Krüger haunts the backstage as an androgynous beauty in glitter bikini and feather boa, the gender boundaries were already fluid a hundred years ago. Politically, however, the majority of Munich residents are moving in one direction, namely that of the “True Germans” under the leadership of Rupert Kutzner, which naturally means Hitler and his partisans.
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