“For Freedom!” and following performance was canceled

Here are the original report of Süddeutsche Zeitung:

He has the impression, wrote one on the Internet after the performance of Henrik Ibsen’s “People’s Enemy” by the Schaubühne Berlin in Beijing, as if “the chickens wanted to tell the ducks something”. It can happen that chickens and ducks talk to each other. For example Norwegians with Germans, Germans with Chinese and the creatures of existing capitalism with those of newly inventing socialism. That a text from the 19th century is addressed to an audience from the 21st, and the audience then turns to the actors. And that it becomes turbulent.

It may be that those in charge at Beijing end of last week were fully confident in the old Chinese wisdom that chickens and ducks do not understand each other anyway. But it can also be that the poultry suddenly discovers that it speaks a common language. And that this discovery makes those responsible so upset that they first want to pull the plug.

The Schaubühne is not a freshman in China. The ensemble has performed here more than 40 times over the past four years. The website of the National Theater in Beijing praises her as a “dream team” of the German theater world, which now enjoys a “legendary” reputation in China. The “People’s Enemy” staging of the Schaubühnen director Thomas Ostermeier states that it is of “dazzling brilliance”.

But whether one of the Beijing censors watched the play before the premiere last Thursday? Rather not. A classic, they will have thought, 130 years old, what should go wrong? Otherwise it would hardly have come to the excitement after the performance, to a crisis meeting until dawn, to the demands on the German ensemble, they should immediately remove the offensive place from the play, for the immediate stop of ticket sales. The brief News of the Beijing News said: “The play ‘People’s Enemy’ is being ‘adapted’ and the sales channels will be closed.”

Shortly before the end of the play the bath doctor Dr. Ing. Stockmann a speech to the citizens of his community. He wants to warn them about poisoned water and the corruption of the dignitaries of their place. Ostermeier used excerpts from the anti-capitalist pamphlet “The Coming Uprising”, which caused a sensation in France after the 2009 financial crisis. Above all, he lets the scene flow into a dialogue with the audience. Tobias Veit, director of the Schaubühne, says the ensemble did not know what to expect in Beijing. “And then we were flattened,” he says. For 15 minutes, the audience called up the reasons for their sympathy with the main character to the stage. “Because we are for the freedom of speech”. “Because China’s media does not speak the truth.” “Because our government acts just as irresponsibly here.”

One could read the scene for a short time in the social media, something in the Wechat account of the viewer “Jingerna erjingxiaoshi”: “I was sweating inside,” he writes. “I thought: pronouncing such things in the National Theater – are not they afraid of a ban?” For a short time, the ban actually stood in the room: the functionaries of the theater made it clear to Veit that further performances take place only if the actors renounce the dialogue with the audience. This could raise “misunderstandings”. The ensemble then advised, says Veit – and decided against a rejection: “We would have left scorched earth, and the scandal would have had a forum in Germany alone,” says the director. The actors decided to shorten the dialogue, but to mark the censored passage as such: “The audience should know that something has happened here, that something is missing”.

The spectators sympathize with the upright, who puts on the power

It has celebrated the “enemy of the people” as a criticism of capitalism and democracy. And now Ibsen’s play in China is perceived as a mirror of the circumstances. Amazing? Not really. Fraud, hypocrisy, cover-ups by the authorities and the media, a swamp of corruption, a “bottomless poisoned society”, the lone fighter for the truth, who is declared a “madman” are all too familiar to humans.

Friday evening. It’s the first performance after the near miss. Stockmann gives his speech. Then the question of the publisher Aslaksen: Who agrees with the speaker, the radical, the madman? Almost everyone in the hall in Beijing raise their hands. To assume that they do not care about the speech just given. They sympathize with the upright, who has taken on the power. Some yell. Demand: Do you even understand what he said? An older viewer can no longer hold to himself: “For the rights of the individual!” calls he. “For the freedom!” Occasional “Bravo!” Calls sound.

The actors are standing on the stage, silently. “Dear spectators,” says the physician Stockmann (Christoph Gawenda), finally, “at this point a dialogue should actually have taken place with you. – he tears open the publisher (David Ruland) – “the Mr. publisher has no voice”.

“Incredible,” says one of the viewers in the foyer of the National Theater, “100 years old – and I recognize the China of today”. His companion pulls out her cell phone. “Oh,” she says. “I better not put that on Wechat. Too tricky.”

Currently, the planned performance in Nanjing City, Jiangsu province, was canceled by “stage technical reason”:

the planned performance in Nanjing City, Jiangsu province, was canceled

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