Geisterfahrer (Ghost Drivers)

Lutz Hübner’s Ghost Drivers is a story of couples around the age of 40. Three such couples appear – the fourth casts a long shadow. The setting where the action takes place is a building with three apartments. One of the apartments has recently fallen vacant and been sold to Miriam and Johannes, who are returning to Germany after just over 20 years in Brazil. They meet Harald and Silke, and Gaby and Pitt – the people they will be sharing their lives with now. And ‘sharing’ is the right word, for, as Harald says when he greets them: ‘This isn’t just any old house with three flats, it is a way of life. It would be a shame to live here with people we only ever met when they wanted to borrow a cup of sugar. But it won’t be any problem if you want to have your peace either.’ Yet this is precisely where the problem lies. What initially begins so harmoniously – communal suppers and cheerfully boozy evenings for the men are arranged, tender friendships established – soon grows into a hardly bearable form of domination. The new people quickly realise they are being exploited to project and compensate for the old-established residents’ suppressed desires, yearnings and frustrations, yet it rapidly becomes apparent there is a gulf between the ideal and the reality. When Miriam also finds herself being persecuted by mysterious telephone calls from a woman who sobs uncontrollably, she decides enough is enough: She would like to sell the flat again. Johannes is stunned: He only left Brazil for Miriam’s sake, even though he had a good job there, while in Germany he is threatened by unemployment. But Johannes too has had disturbing experiences with the neighbours and does not want to lose Miriam, so at first he agrees to her proposal. When the two confront the other residents with their decision at the next communal supper, a struggle for the couple begins, with the parties resorting to every weapon at their disposal, including ruthless honesty.
Ghost Drivers tells of the mid-life crisis that grips people who are forced to make trade offs between how they actually want to live and reality – the compromises we get tangled up in for other people and what it is like when these compromises blow up painfully in our faces because it dawns on us they will not necessarily be rewarded. It tells of the guilt we accumulate, and the ideas, people and dreams we discard as we maintain our ability to keep on going.
(Verlag Hartmann und Stauffacher)
Responses to the play:
‘The idyll is deceptive: Jens, a former resident of the house, committed suicide on the motorway in a head-on collision […]. Harald and Pitt, who were close friends of Jens, had not been able, or had not wanted, to avert the catastrophe. The German title, Geisterfahrer, is ambiguous. Literally, it means ‘ghost driver’, but it is also the term for someone who drives the wrong way along a motorway. It can be interpreted as a singular, in which case it denotes the reckless suicide, Jens. However, if it is understood as a plural, ‘ghost drivers’, it refers to the plot’s living characters, and that fits even better. Normally, people do not drive the wrong way up a motorway with suicidal intentions. But because they are fatally convinced they are in the right. Lutz Hübner’s ‘ghost drivers’ are more narrow-minded, more inhumane and more desperate than they wish to acknowledge. […]

The satirical exposure of apparently liberal contemporaries who, at the bottom of their hearts, are in truth nothing but blinkered conservatives, has a long tradition in German cabaret. Hübner’s play stands in this tradition, but goes beyond it. Firstly, Ghost Drivers unfolds against the background of a tragedy. And secondly, the writing is not structured towards punch lines; its malignant wit functions on the basis of its very precisely drawn characters. […]
The play […] is a rare example of a contemporary German comedy that appeals to a broad audience – without paying for this by giving up the aspiration to engage seriously with social issues.’
(Wolfgang Kralicek, Mülheimer Theatertage 2009)
Technical data:
Premiere: 21 September 2008, Schauspiel Hanover
Director: Barbara Bürk
Cast: 3 F, 3 M
Rights: Verlag Hartmann und Stauffacher
Translations: Theatre Library