Presented by Max Mueller Bhavan in association with KHOJ International Artist’s Association
translation: Rajesh Tailang
Cast (in alphabetic order): Jitender Kumar, Mandakini Goswami, Manish Choudhari, Sujith Shankar Supriya Shukla
Physical preparation & Instruction - Rashid Ansari
Direction and Design: Zuleikha Chaudhari
On a hot summer night in a Berlin apartment house, the mythic and unexpected nightmares of five tenants twist into a dreamscape that is part fantasy and part urban thriller. The world of Arabian Night is described in spare and provoking terms. Rather than being overly philosophical, this play keeps us grasping at the experiential details of everyday life. These details have an easy tendency to morph into the surreality of dreams.
The Arabian Night by Roland Schimmelpfenig succeeds in evoking the muggy and heavy heat of the Orient that turns each movement into a titanic effort and drives the unleashed spirit back into the abyss of the unconscious. Fear and desire are no longer speechless. They well up in pictures out of Thousand and One Nights. For this dream-dance in the form of a classic drama, Schimmelpfennig has created five characters (two women, three men) and a high-rise building. Hans Lohmeier is a caretaker in search of water damage and a woman, who is probably moulded from the picture of his former wife. Fatima Mansur and Franziska Dehke share an apartment on the seventh floor. Fatima expects her Lover Kalil. Franziska is not aware of the lover, as every evening, an attack of sudden fatigue puts her to sleep on the couch. Before that, she always takes a shower, and is watched through the open window by Peter Karpati from his flat in the block on the other side. Franziska observes the observation. The play is a study in the phenomenon of observation. The characters mainly use monologues to express what they observe. Their own actions become visible in the objective description of an observer, distanced, obviously, firmly embedded in the context of the observers. Everything becomes an object for the observer. When they meet, they rarely converse; most of the time fragments of their inner monologues clash with each other. Their worlds are single cells, filled with stories and events, incapable of integrating with other perspectives. Through an imperceptible process of diffusion through their seemingly impenetrable cell walls, Schimmelpfennig creates a cosmos of unreality. It emerges step by step, camouflaged as a dramatic dialogue, through a factual description of the events.
Karpati feels strong enough to visit his distant shower-girl in her flat. At the same time Kalil is on his way to Fatima. He gets stuck in the elevator, while Karpati takes the stairway. Fatima, who has heard Kalil's scooter and wonders about his continued absence, takes the stairs down and meets Karpati. Lohmeier decides to check the water pipes on the seventh floor. Therefore Karpati and Lohmeier both approach the open apartment door with the sleeping Franziska inside. Schimmelpfennig generates suspense through a kind of cinematic editing technique. How do Karpati and Lohmeier behave in the presence of a sleeping female body? What kind of sleep is Franziska sleeping? She knows of Karpati and is invisibly interconnected with Lohmeier as well. Will Fatima and Kalil find each other after all? Will the caretaker take care of the defective elevator?
One after the other, they all arrive in the apartment. They see each other, touch each other, pause, and still remain in their own specific reality. Franziska imagines herself as the blonde favourite wife of a sheik. Lohmeier is with his wife on a cruise through the Bosporus. Karpati is a spirit caught in a Cognac-bottle. Only Fatima understands. When she finally arrives back in the apartment she sees Kalil with the naked Franziska and wants to stab him. She hunts him through many apartments and across many beds. Lohmeier discovers in Franziska the reincarnation of his wife. Karpati drops from the balcony in his bottle, and while flying around, reports on the events in the lower-level apartments. Dripping with perspiration, we are startled out of the dream, which is now over. However, all senses are still numb from this dark ride.
Roland Schimmelpfennig (*1967) worked as a freelance journalist and author in Istanbul before studying direction at the Otto-Falkenberg-Schule in Munich in 1990. After graduation, he joined the Munich Kammerspiele as assistant director. Since 1996 he is a freelancing playwright. In 1999/2000 he worked as dramatic adviser and author at the Schaubühne in Berlin. Schimmelpfennig is one of Germany's most important voices in contemporary theatre.