Grotesque images and sardonic humour: pain and affect in German drama
Source TitleDouble Dialogues
University of Melbourne Author/sVarney, Denise
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsVARNEY, D. J. (2005). Grotesque images and sardonic humour: pain and affect in German drama. Double Dialogues, (6), pp.1-8
Access StatusOpen Access
Deposited with permission of Double Dialogues
In Art and Pain 1 2003 I discussed language that injures and causes pain. I looked in particular at ‘injurious speech’ and ‘linguistic vulnerability’ in German dramatist Heiner Müller’s play Germania 3 Ghosts at Dead Man. I suggested that in Germania 3 speeches uttered by dramatic personas mimicked the operations of hate-speech in the social sphere, with the addition that the effects of the speech are also shown. I suggested that Müller’s writing transforms a painful history into the discursive practices of the theatrical text and that the play’s impact and its importance reside in symbolic accounts of the pain and suffering of modern German history.This paper turns from language to images that evoke a painful history. In particular, it considers theatrical images whose effect is to call up or hail the real or metaphoric pain that circulates around historical events. These images belong to the symbolic or semiotic order but also, as I hope to show, the affective domain where feeling is provoked alongside cognition. Pursuing the theme once again through the work of Heiner Müller, the paper considers his direction of Bertolt Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, which opened at the Berliner Ensemble on 3 June 1995. The Berliner Ensemble, as many know, was the theatre founded by Bertolt Brecht and Helene Weigel in 1949 in East Berlin, and which became the flagship theatre company of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). In the lead role of Müller’s production was the talented and articulate Martin Wuttke, whose menacing and utterly compelling Arturo Ui prowled, pranced and preened across the stage for the duration of the performance. The production marked a return to form for the Berliner Ensemble, which had been beset with artistic, financial and leadership problems throughout the early years of reunification. Its critical and box office success stamped Müller’s artistic authority on the Ensemble for what would be the brief but dazzlin period of his leadership. The work lives on, as it should, with Arturo Ui remaining in the Ensemble’s repertoire today, with tours abroad including to France, Italy, Portugal, South America, the United States and India.
KeywordsPerforming Arts and Creative Writing
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