Oliver Bukowski

Critical Mass

“For incomprehensible reasons, the employment office will remain closed today. A motley crew gradually assembles outside the door. Citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany from the widest possible range of social strata are waiting for the doors to open. The rejected Professor of Ethics stands dumbfounded alongside a long-term unemployed person, a young schoolgirl alongside a Russian immigrant. They have diverse biographies and attitudes to life, they come from somewhere else and, if they can even put it into words anymore, they want to go somewhere else. But one thing they all have in common is that unemployment is pushing them to the fringes of society. The place that sooner or later is supposed to change their situation is locked up and so for the moment the group that has come together involuntarily cannot think of anything better to do than to wait together.

What is going on among those people outside? Oliver Bukowski asks this question in his new work that has been commissioned for the Deutsches Schauspielhaus. The title Kritische Masse (Critical Mass) is its programme. The people waiting form a kind of protest camp, have a party, drink, chatter, hope, despair, love and hate each other and try to fight for a common cause. They are definitely critical, but what is the point of their criticism? To improve social living conditions or opportunities for individual development? Does the plight that has been pinpointed have something to do with capitalism or should the whole system be abolished? What is more important? A shirt for a little boy or a battle uniform? And above all, who is even listening to one’s protest when one is not a train driver whose protest can bring the whole country’s transport system to a standstill? It is not easy for the Critical Mass to become a Revolutionary Mass.
(Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg)
Views on the play:
‘The Critical Mass' is a group of people on Hartz IV benefits who have gathered in front of the closed doors of the employment office. A spirit of resistance rises up among the waiting crowd. It would be good to have a bit of revolution now. Or should they go and have a barbeque first instead?

The play, consisting of many short scenes and involving 16 characters, sketches out a social panorama from a perspective seldom taken in the theatre. - Botho Strauss from below, if you like. There is Gerit Steinke, for example, who is heavily indebted and likes to pass the time in Prada stores, not because is can afford to buy herself something, but because she is still treated like a human being there. Or Majo-Hajo, the barkeeper (…) who pays for a round of drinks for the whole group although his bar is actually already bankrupt. Or the 'writer‘ Martin Nickel, who seeks literary inspiration in vain in letters taken from the bag of his mate Stucker, a temporary postman. Or lone mother Jessica, who perhaps has found the love of her life after all in Miersch, a down and out (but no, she has not). In the end, they will all protest – and, of course, fail miserably.“
(Wolfgang Kralicek, Mülheimer Theatertage 2009)
Technical data:
Premiere: 19 February 2009, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
Director: Sebastian Nübling
Number of performers: 8 men, 7 women
Rights: Kiepenheuer Bühnenvertrieb
Translations: Theaterbibliothek