[OPE-L] (arts & entertainment) "Kapital: Volume One" -- the play

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Thu Nov 09 2006 - 08:29:25 EST


Collective puts Marx's Das Kapital on stage

Jess Smee in Berlin
Thursday November 9, 2006

There is no wedding, no romantic interest and no
plot to speak of. Instead the reader of Karl
Marx's epic work, Das Kapital, is treated to a
lengthy treatise on the division of labour and
capitalist modes of production, offered up in
long, convoluted sentences.

Yet none of this has deterred a German theatre
group from achieving the seemingly impossible:
bringing the huge classic on economic theory to
the stage.

Not since Proust was serialised has a dramatist
faced such a gargantuan task - turning catchy
topics such as "the production of absolute
surplus value" into a crowd puller.

To that purpose, the stage of the Düsseldorfer
Schauspielhaus is bedecked with bookcases and a
bust of Marx. Eight people - selected from among
the few who have read the book from cover to
cover - tell their own stories, creating a
theatrical collage where Marx forms the common

The play, Kapital: Volume One, is the brainchild
of Rimini Protokoll, a collective of young German
directors who have made a name for themselves in
"documentary theatre".

In Kapital, the participants make up a diverse
bunch. There is a staunch Marxist who rails
against Coca-Cola and the evils of consumer
society, a socialist singer from the former
communist east Germany, and a blind call-centre
worker who dreams of going on Who Wants to be a

In an unusual take on audience participation,
every theatregoer gets a bound book - Volume 23
of the Collected Works of Marx and Engels.

Reading the complete volume aloud, with analysis
to work out what is being said, would mean a
theatre audience having to sit and watch for an
entire year. But the Rimini Protokoll directors
have kept their version to the more manageable
length of one evening.

The collective says, however, that every
performance is different, reflecting the
spontaneity of a play that was rehearsed for only
three weeks.

Rimini Protokoll have had recent sellout shows,
such as Blaiberg und Sweetheart 19, which
included former heart transplant patients
alongside people who had sought love on lonely
hearts websites.

Marx based his book on 30 years of research into
capitalist production in industrial England. The
play, which made its debut on Saturday, has left
some critics less than gripped. "Most of it
remains something of a lecture which, like all
lectures, is at times dry and boring," the
Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported.

After its Düsseldorf run the play will be shown
in Berlin, Frankfurt and Zurich.

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