Anna Maria Mühe’s theater debut in the comedy on Kurfürstendamm – Kultur

On Sunday evening there was a premiere in Berlin at a new venue, which is officially called: Komödie am Kurfürstendamm im theatre at Potsdamer Platz. Or, as Berliners say, Komödieamkurfürstendammimtheaterampotsdamerplatz. This is the newest alternative quarters of the Comedy on Kurfürstendamm, who will probably be homeless until the end of 2024 due to renovation or new construction and, after an interim period in the cozy Schillertheater, will now be a guest in the Theater am Potsdamer Platz, this uncharming giant musical theater building by Renzo Piano, where the Berlinale rages every February. 1,800 spectators fit in this tower of one hall, which is another 600 more than fit into the largest German theater, the Hamburger Schauspielhaus.

A stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice” was given to an almost full hall, which, so that one would immediately know that it is a modern version, is called “Pride and Prejudice *or something” – in the English language original “Pride and prejudice* (*sort of)”. The play is by Isobel McArthur, a Scottish actress who starred in the Glasgow 2018 premiere. It’s currently popular on German-speaking stages, which is probably due to the fact that the cast is purely female, and that’s very contemporary, not to say trendy. Because the theme of the piece, with all its verve and situational comedy, is rather conservative. Not to say historical. A mother of five previously unmarried daughters of marriageable age wants to marry at least one daughter as quickly as possible so that the family property, which has something to do with inheritance law at the time, can remain in the family.

Five female servants act out the novel. What does that do to us? – Hmm.

The naturally stupid, newfangled question of what that does to us can only be answered with “hm” with this material, which by the way does not reduce the quality of the novel in any way, because man is, even if that is easily forgotten, in the able to refrain. But a novel can’t just remain a novel these days, it has to be filmed, linked or staged in order to still be considered relevant. In terms of sustainability, this is of course exemplary. Nothing new actually needs to be written at all, since existing material can be used at any time and then modernized as desired. It would be incredibly exciting if Empress Elisabeth of Austria, known as Sisi, could be examined more closely in this way.

To give the more than 200-year-old Jane Austen story a modern twist, the author resorted to the trick of having the novel’s plot retold by female servants who slip into the various roles. Or shall we say: in the most important ones. Of the 119 characters named in the novel, 18 appear in the play. So women also play men on the stage, servants also play nobles, it goes haywire in terms of identity, and that alone often has a certain explosiveness today. One of the servants stands out because she slips into only one role: she embodies Elizabeth, the smartest of all marriageable daughters, she is the identification figure, the heart of the play, so to speak. In this secret leading role, Anna Maria trouble can be seen in Berlin. It is the theater debut of the 37-year-old.

"Pride and Prejudice *or something" with Anna Maria trouble: There is a lot of singing in this piece, mainly hits from the seventies and eighties.

There is a lot of singing in this piece, mainly hits from the seventies and eighties.

(Photo: Franziska Strauss)

To delay what it was like on Sunday evening in the Komödieamkurfürstendammimtheaterampotsdamerplatz and to explain it at the same time, let me first describe the ambience that was so uniquely Berlin. A mixture of sparkling and piey, of currywurst and Jil Sander, in a literal sense, because you could see Jil Sander, who was in the audience, eating a currywurst during the break. There were a lot of familiar faces there, for whom you didn’t always immediately have a name ready. Katja Riemann not only stood out because of her beautiful white suit. Right from the start, the atmosphere was so exuberant, it was as if there was free champagne in the delicatessen department at KaDeWe. In general, the relationship between this theater and its audience can only be described as love. Grown over decades and through memories of many happy evenings spent together, probably forever fond of each other. Incidentally, Katharina Thalbach was often responsible for these evenings, who made unforgettable productions here, including, still on the repertoire, “Murder on the Orient Express” with herself as Hercule Poirot. She was also among the spectators on Sunday evening.

The light in the hall went dark, the gigantic red velvet curtain opened – and “Pride and Prejudice *or so” began, directed by Christopher Tölle. The five actresses appeared, all in white maid’s robes. The experimental arrangement was briefly explained – that they were housemaids who would now slip into the different roles of Jane Austen’s novel, whereby they would also sing more often – and off we went. Although the novel was greatly abridged below, it was reproduced relatively faithfully. There were suitcases of clothes on the stage labeled with the real first names of the actresses. Constant costume changes mean constantly changing personnel, it all happened wonderfully quickly and energetically, but the room remained quite static: a square stage on the stage in front of shiny black musical tinsel. Every now and then the stage was turned on the stage.

The staging is non-feminist and a little old-fashioned – but everyone has fun

It would be boring to retell the plot now, and that is perhaps a bit the crux of this play, which does nothing other than retell the plot of the novel, greatly abridged and served with travesty. A statement by the artistic director, Martin Woelffer, states that this is about female self-determination and economic dependency. Sounds good – but if you hadn’t accidentally read this explanation, you would never have guessed it. Because even if Isobel McArthur’s template should aim in a feminist or socio-economic direction, this staging is surprisingly unfeminist. Downright old-fashioned. A mother who wants her daughters to marry off. Daughters who want to catch a man. The smartest, sarcastic daughter who takes two tries to get her happy ending. Of course there should still be such mothers and daughters today, and there is no doubt that people still get married, but there is something strangely alien to the present day that a big city theater should present this how-do-I-make-my-daughters-a-husband-story completely without a double bottom, told without irony. The finale was sung by Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 song “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” which is about girls just wanting to have fun.

In any case, the ensemble seemed to have a lot of fun, which also spread to the audience – and that’s something you have to manage in such an intimidatingly huge musical theater. One would have wished for a somewhat lighter role for Anna Maria trouble for her stage debut. Always being smart and sarcastic is not the most rewarding task. The other four had more opportunities to shimmer simply because of their variety of roles and threw themselves into the slapstick with verve, with Mackie Heilmann having the biggest laughs as beautiful daughter Jane / devious soldier Wickham / Lady de Bourgh. For a play in which there is a lot of singing – here mainly hits from the 70s and 80s, presumably aimed at the target group, since the director was only born in 1980 – it might have been even nicer if the actresses could all have sung better, oh, but what’s the point of this critical attitude? A string trio played in the foyer before kick-off, a soprano sang during the break, both of which were almost lost in the lively chatter of the guests, but contributed to the character of the event. The evening was balmy, the mood solemn. Nobody went to the theater here anyway, you were attending an event.

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