“Ophelia’s Got Talent” at the Volksbühne: Make-up for the drowned corpse

No question: Ophelia has a reputation to uphold. And a bad one at that. As a tame sufferer who first loses her mind at her lover Hamlet and then ends up dead in the water, she ranks at least in the top five of the most disliked female stage characters. And it is currently booming, when in many places it is about deconstructing the canon of drama in a feminist way.

The fact that at the start of the season in the Berlin Volksbühne it is Florentina Holzinger, who has been labeled an “extreme performer”, who takes on this Shakespearean anti-heroine, gives rise to well-founded anticipation. Who else could be trusted to really free the anemic victim cliché from its rigor mortis than the 36-year-old choreographer with her very own theatrical language of high culture event, party and stunt show – trained on pretty much everything that happened between Hermann Nitsch, Quentin Tarantino and Marina Abramović makes you think?

Rescue of Shakespeare’s anti-heroine

From Holzinger’s production “Tanz”, which was invited to the Berlin Theatertreffen in 2020, a broader theatrical public knows how it can actually work, to actually undermine worn-out stereotypes instead of – as has unfortunately been seen much more often lately – verbosely berating them and accidentally cementing them was: a show with – a Holzinger trademark – naked body suspension artists who, attached to metal hooks pierced through the flesh of the back, floated very self-determinedly through the air.

In fact, “Ophelia’s Got Talent”, as the current evening is called, follows a similar dramaturgy. While the framework there was a ballet lesson that went off the rails in the direction of a splatter orgy, it is now a crooked TV talent show that is getting out of hand brilliantly. And literally. Because in “Ophelia’s Got Talent” everything revolves around water: as a pleasantly ambivalent, fluid, flexible and expanding element; as a symbol of the origin as well as of the – keyword floating corpse – end and of course as a reference medium for all the supposedly heavily erotic sirens, undines and other water creatures that haunt cultural history.

Nikola Knežević built a huge water basin on the stage, flanked by larger-than-life aquariums. Everything is transmitted to large screens via a live camera – from weird underwater choreographies to a close-up of a live piercing to the inside of a performer who first swallows swords and then a camera.

On the one hand, the actors of the fantasy of the beguiling, but themselves strangely passive water beings oppose their extremely real physical strength and art, which repeatedly takes on gravity. And on the other hand, they casually misappropriate all conceivable stereotypes, including male stereotypes, around the big metaphor of water. For example in “Sailor’s Dance”, a large ensemble step number that increases to Schuhplattler and far beyond: danced by women who, in their nudity, en passant, simply by their presence, the category “body norm” – along with Age, ability or body mass index – simply overturn it.

(Next performances from September 17th to 19th and on September 25th and 26th)

What is taking place here is not simply the much-vaunted deconstruction. It’s not about the ancestral, dusty parts (at best) lying on the stage floor in their individual parts. Rather, Holzinger counterposes this with his own images in the most unmissionary matter-of-fact way. The most entertaining is certainly the grandiose helicopter number, in which the women twirl around an airplane hanging from the rigging floor, to collective copulation and a final orgasm.

Florentina Holzinger gives the Volksbühne a gigantic party at the start of the season. And one that is completely with itself in the best sense of the word and is therefore extremely infectious. At the end, the entire auditorium stands and celebrates: After the Pollesch-Hinrichs evening “Are you okay?” “Ophelia’s Got Talent” is the second real hit since Pollesch started as director at the Volksbühne. She can use it.

By Editor

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