Schaubühne Berlin: Breaking conversations at the slaughterhouse – Culture

The night shift for the cleaning crew at the meat factory is over. Foreman Jean, who likes to quickly put a piece of gum between his teeth before sending demeaning messages to his temporarily precariously mixed workforce, took the time to have “one-on-one conversations”. Minutes everyone, as he mumbles caringly among the chewing muscles in the form of actor Damir Avdic.

Right now, sitting in front of him is Sonia, an introverted woman in her late forties who wears big shoes and other social signs one would actually prefer to expect from a generation of 80s or older: a battery-powered cassette recorder, an elderly handbag, a deliberately unsteady step.

After hours of routine cleaning of bloodstained tiles and butchering machines resembling torture benches brought up in Berlin’s Schaubuhne with a more vivid realism by stage designer Natasha Jenkins, Sonia still has to endure an assessment of her poor little homework. She should indicate her level of agreement with statements such as: “I am organized” or: “I am full of ideas” and: “I like time pressure.”

Time pressure should be fun for employees

One doesn’t know exactly if the woman played by Julie Boy realizes that she’s sitting here — displayed in the brightest neon light and flanked by shelves and platforms with buckets of cleaning chemicals — on a plastic chair she had brought herself for the purpose of some sort of self-publishing. Jan sure isn’t amused. Under the phrase ‘I like the pressure of time,’ she defines the word ‘unworkable,’ he points out, calculated and hopeless, and he puts the face of his problem in. She must think about how she can work herself to make the time pressure ‘more pleasant’ for her in the future.

British playwright and director Alexander Zeldin delved into the environment he shows here in his production Beyond Interest. Schaubühne notes on his website that “research in the cleaning industry and in meat plants” including “special experiences as a cleaner” formed the basis of the piece; “Real cleaning staff” participated in the training process.

Alexander Zeldin, whom regular Shubuhni visitors already know from his guest show “Love” last year, is looking for a “new form of theatrical realism” in his works and for this purpose he focuses on “the smallest details on the stage”.

During breaks, they sit at the Formica table

In other words, Zeldin’s view of a micro-social world in which chiefs – as we learn – deduct toilet breaks perceived as too long from wages should certainly be unimpressive. Time and time again you can see how Sonia, the rebellious Becky (Julia Schubert), the young Ava (Heaven Tekken), who already suffers from rheumatism and is constantly counted for her work rhythm, and Michael (Kay Bartholomaus Schulz), who is always stressed, gather at a table Formica during the break. You initially watch them explicitly not talking to each other and then at some point they do. How they are played against each other with the prospect of a supposed permanent position, how they are blackmailed into undisclosed business and how the percentage amounts of coffee machines are an insurmountable obstacle to consumption.

Zeldin debuts with Schaubühne

Zeldin, who often casts additional amateur cast, had already shown “Beyond Caring” in London in 2014. Now, at the German-language premiere of the play, he’s working for the first time with social realism-tested Schaubühne’s troupe.

And that’s not the only thing that tends toward excessive clarity with its looks, gestures, and gait. But the theatrical means used by the director himself sometimes take on a seriously symbolic character. The blacks, with their instrumental soundtrack, separating the scenes (pause) from each other, call out practically with every note: “Theater!” And the price of exaggerating the drama of the evening wins over the desolate little sexual figure that Becky and Michael say just before the end on this tiled wall, which they have to meticulously clean of the blood of a slaughtered animal before and after. And so, at times, the boundary between this “new form of theatrical realism” and voyeurism becomes blurred — at least to an audience who, for the most part, never thought of losing a euro in a coffee machine or elsewhere.

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