Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus
Director: Blanche McIntyre
Writer: William Shakespeare
Cast: David Troughton, Patrick Drury, Nia Gwynne, Martin Hutson, Marcello Walton, Hannah Morrish, Jon Tarcy, Kristin Atherton, Sean Hart, Tom Lorcan, Anthony Ofoegbu, Stefan Adegbola, Joseph Adelakun, Tom McCall, William Bliss, Amber James
Seen on: 9.8.2017

CN: rape and a whole lot of violence

Plot:
Titus (David Troughton) returns home after waging a brutal war which cost him his children. He finds that he is expected to take over as emperor, which he’s actually not interested in doing. What he wants is to exact revenge on the Goth queen Tamora (Nia Gwynne) and her three sons, all four of them his prisoners. But revenge only brings more revenge.

This production of Titus Andronicus uses a modern setting for Shakespeare’s bloodiest play and at times this falls into the category of trying too hard. Given that the play itself also isn’t really my thing, this made for mixed feelings during the performance.

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Angels in America

Angels in America – Part One: The Millennium Approaches and Part Two: Perestroika
Director: Marianne Elliott
Writer: Tony Kushner
Cast: James McArdle, Andrew Garfield, Russell Tovey, Denise Gough, Susan Brown, Nathan Lane, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
Seen on: 20. and 27.7.2017

Plot:
It’s the 80s and the AIDS crisis is in full swing. Louis Ironson (James McArdle) just found out that his boyfriend Prior Walter (Andrew Garfield) is infected and he doesn’t know how to deal. Joe Pitt (Russell Tovey) also isn’t able to deal: as a Mormon and a Republican and married to Harper (Denise Gough), he can’t possibly be gay, can he? Joe and Louis both work for Roy Cohn (Nathan Lane), a lawyer who may enjoy fucking other man, but that doesn’t make him gay. But Roy’s health is also on the decline.

Angels in America is an affective and effective play, and this production feels monumental. It weighs heavily – as is only right for the topic matter.

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Ivan Groznyy [Ivan the Terrible] (1945 and 1958) + ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester and Wiener Singakademie / Frank Strobel

Ivan Groznyy [Ivan the Terrible, Part I] (1945) and Ivan Groznyy. Skaz vtoroy: Boyarskiy zagovor [Ivan the Terrible, Part II: The Boyars’ Plot] (1958)
Director: Sergei M. Eisenstein
Writer: Sergei M. Eisenstein
Cast: Nikolay Cherkasov, Lyudmila Tselikovskaya, Serafima Birman, Mikhail Nazvanov, Mikhail Zharov, Amvrosi Buchma, Mikhail Kuznetsov, Pavel Kadochnikov, Andrei Abrikosov, Aleksandr Mgebrov, Maksim Mikhaylov, Vladimir Balashov, Vsevolod Pudovkin, Semyon Timoshenko, Aleksandr Rumnyov, Pavel Massalsky, Ada Vojtsik, Erik Pyryev
Part of: Film and Music Cycle in the Konzerthaus
With music by Sergey Prokofiev, played be the ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester, sung by the Wiener Singakademie, conducted by Frank Strobel
Seen on: 23.6.2017
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Plot:
In the 16th century, Archduke Ivan (Nikolay Cherkasov) crowns himself Tsar of Russia and sets himself the goal to unite Russia under one rule. Not everybody is taken with his plans and Ivan always has to watch his back – also among the people of his court. There his aunt Efrosinia Staritskaya (Serafima Birman) is plotting against him, hoping to put her own son Dmitri in his place. But also his marriage to Anstasia Romanova (Lyudmila Tselikovskaya) costs him support. But Ivan will do anything to achieve his goals, no matter the cost.

Ivan Groznyy is a monumental two-parter and an absolutely affective and effective piece of propaganda. It’s worth seeing – especially on the big screen, when you got a huge orchestra and choir on stage to (under)score it. The film is too big to do anything on a small scale.

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Salomé

Salomé
Director: Yaël Farber
Writer: Yaël Farber
Cast: Isabella Nefar, Olwen Fouéré, Ramzi Choukair, Lloyd Hutchinson, Philip Arditti, Paul Chahidi, Theo TJ Lowe, Raad Rawi, Aidan Kelly, Shahar Isaac, Uriel Emil
Seen on: 22.6.2017

Plot:
In a Roman occupied Judea, Salomé (Isabella Nefar) doesn’t have much room to maneuver, despite the privileged position that comes with being the niece/step daughter of Herod (Paul Chahidi), who is a little too invested in her for comfort. When Iokanaan (Ramzi Choukair), aka John the Baptist, is arrested, Salomé is intrigued and seeks to talk to him.

The play Salomé is an attempt to retell the story of Salomé from a less misogynist perspective. It’s an attempt that I appreciated in many ways, even if not everything about it works as well as it should.

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Superheldinnen [Superheroines]

Superheldinnen
Director: Bérénice Hebenstreit
Writer: Bérénice Hebenstreit, Andrea Zaiser, Barbi Marković
Based on: Barbi Marković’s novel
Cast: Katharina Klar, Nadine Quittner, Seyneb Saleh
Seen on: 19.6.2017

Plot:
Every Saturday, three women come together in a Viennese café to pool their powers and send good vibes to the people who deserve and need them. They have strict rules for that which means that they’re able to keep working together, even though they couldn’t be any more different. In fact, the only things they seem to have in common are that none of them were born in Austria, and that they all have powers. But on this particular Saturday, all three of them have some kind of deviation from their usual procedure in mind.

I really enjoyed Superheldinnen. It’s an absolutely entertaining mix of bitterness and humor, has a great cast and is fun in a light, but smart way.

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Lady Eats Apple

Lady Eats Apple
Director: Bruce Gladwin
Writer: Mark Deans, Simon Laherty, Romany Latham, Brian Lipson, Sarah Mainwaring, Scott Price
Cast: Mark Deans, Simon Laherty, Romany Latham, Brian Lipson, Sarah Mainwaring, Scott Price
Part of: Wiener Festwochen
Seen on: 16.6.2017

Plot:
In the beginning god created the world and with the creation of life, they also created death. And everybody has to die. But there’s also something in-between life and death that is worth exploring.

Lady Eats Apple is a fresh look at an old topic that profits immensely from the fact that it was created by disabled and neurodivergent actors, as well as its sense of humor and creativity.

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Congo na Chanel

Congo na Chanel
Director: Elisabeth Bakambamba Tambwe
Writer: Elisabeth Bakambamba Tambwe
Cast: Elisabeth Bakambamba Tambwe, Pierre Emanuel Finzi, Evandro Luis Pedroni, Sebastijan Gec, Prince Zeka
Part of: Wiener Festwochen
Seen on: 15.6.2017

“Plot”:
When Elisabeth Bakambamba Tambwe was a child, her family left Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, with the rise of Mobutu and moved to France. Today, she lives in Vienna. Now, over 40 years later, she tries to take another look at the country she and her family came from in an interactive performance that mixes dance and video installation, documentary and fiction.

There was much to like about Congo na Chanel. It’s an eccentric performance piece. But it was also a little disappointing because it didn’t, in fact, show us any images of Kinshasa.

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Hexenjagd [The Crucible] – DNF

Hexenjagd
Director: Martin Kušej
Writer: Arthur Miller (I don’t know who translated this version to German)
Cast: Steven Scharf, Andrea Wenzl, Dietmar König, Sabine Haupt, Marie-Luise Stockinger, Philipp Hauß, Irina Sulaver, Martin Schwab, Florian Teichtmeister, Barbara de Koy, Dörte Lyssewski, Daniel Jesch, Ignaz Kirchner, Michael Maertens, Barbara Petritsch, Lena Kalisch, Christina Cervenka
Seen on: 11.6.2017
[Here’s my review of the National Theater production of the play.]

Plot:
A girl has fallen ill in Salem and witchcraft is suspected. When a group of young girls led by Abigail Williams (Andrea Wenzl) starts to act possessed, things quickly run out of control and one woman after the other is accused of being a witch, apprehended and put on trial. But Abigail has her own motives and they revolve around John Proctor (Steven Scharf) who had a short-lived affair with her some time ago. John doesn’t realize the gravity of the situation at first, but as things continue to spiral out of control he finds himself more and more involved.

This production of Hexenjagd did not work for me at all. In fact, we left during the break because we just couldn’t take it anymore. Maybe that’s because I saw another production not that long ago, but I think it has more to do with the fact that the play opens with a group masturbation scene to show the “witching” the women in the play do. I felt this was unnecessary in very many ways, but mostly because it was voyeuristically sensationalizing female sexuality. The best thing about the play was the stage design that was stark and bold, but it did get a little monotone with time. With that last appeal lost, I didn’t regret leaving early at all.

Obsession

Obsession
Director: Ivo van Hove
Writer: Jan Peter Gerrits, translated by Simon Stephens
Based on: Luchino Visconti’s movie
Cast: Jude Law, Halina Reijn, Gijs Scholten van Aschat, Chukwudi Iwuji, Robert de Hoog, Aysha Kala
Part of: Wiener Festwochen
Seen on: 3.6.2017

Plot:
Gino (Jude Law) doesn’t really have a home, instead he just moves around. When he reaches a new town, he finds employment with gas station owner Joseph (Gijs Scholten van Aschat) and decides to stick around for a bit. But work is only a small reason: the bigger motivation is Joseph’s much younger, beautiful and obviously bored wife Hanna (Halina Reijn). As Gino and Hanna fall for each other, Joseph becomes an obstacle they plan to get rid of.

Just reading the plot description, I had my doubts about this play, but I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to see Jude Law live on stage. So I went for it anyway – and all of my worst expectations came true, plus even some bad expectations I didn’t know I should be having. It was a profoundly bad production.

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Discotropic

Discotropic
Director: niv Acosta
Cast: niv Acosta, Ashley Brockington, BEARCAT, Bleue Liverpool, Fannie Sosa, Jay Boogie
Part of: Wiener Festwochen
Seen on: 1.6.2017

“Plot”:
In a performance space somewhere between Science Fiction, Disco and Tropics, six black, queer performers use the combination of the remoteness of space, retrofuturistic ambivalence of SciFi and the rhythm of music and dancing to negotiate visibility and marginalization.
[It’s difficult to sum up. You can get an impression of it here. And you can find my favorite part here.]

So far my experiences with performance art have been quite mixed. I made several attempts during the Festwochen, most with mild to no success. 2017 saw a change in the artistic leadership of the Festival, bringing a fresh (outspokenly intersectional) perspective and several performances that sounded way too interesting to pass up. Discotropic was one of them, and I have to say that I am very happy that I gave it a try despite my reluctance with (and little knowledge about) performances. It was a fascinating, immersive experience that made me question my own reactions and ideas in many interesting ways.

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