Fritz Kater

Heaven (to Tristan)en

The play is set in East Germany, in a landscape that is waiting for the boom. From the heavens descends cosmic radiation that is millions of years old and produces black patches on photographic paper – otherwise, the silence is deafening. Below there are decaying cities and industrial landscapes. Across them crawl a little company of deracinated individuals.
Industrious worker ants whose nest has been smashed. They incessantly ask themselves and others what the good life would be like. One man, an effusive believer in architectural utopias, sets out on a quest, puts his social dream above his love, extricates himself from a one-on-one relationship because he is concerned with the bigger picture. Later, he will come back, fatally ill, enriched by a number of experiences that have pushed him to the limit. The people he leaves behind rehearse ways of breaking out of their hopelessness. Whether they make off into the forest to kill themselves after one last shared liver sausage sandwich (then decide not to), whether they slip into a temporary depression, fall for the illusion they have met the prince of their dreams or come up with their next absurd business idea. One man even wants to change species and become a bird.
Each of Kater’s figures is larger than normal life, they all carry round a knowledge of history and culture that enables them to cite references far removed from their own environment. In consequence, their speech switches abruptly again and again, from highly charged everyday dialogues to astounding, philosophical realisations, and dreams of progress and a happier future. Kater’s play is lavish in its use of clear symbols, sets puzzles, plays with motifs drawn from the medieval poetry of courtly love (the love-death, triangular relationships, the adventurer’s return), expands into historical spaces and deftly links apparently unconnected phenomena.
(henschel SCHAUSPIEL)

“Beyond their individual roles, the characters in Kater’s work prove to be encyclopaedically knowledgeable child prodigies, able to state with great precision the historical and mythical contexts in which their triangular love stories and tales of life on the run are to be located: As their own chorus, they quote Wagner’s ‘Tristan and Isolde’ and prove to be well informed about the fates of various physicists, as well as the significance of Tycho Brahe’s astronomical research on the island of Hven for the history of ideas. The openness of these cultural coordinates is unsettling, but there is method in the madness.
Without the mythical catalysts, one realises, the everyday social kindling from Wolfen would not flame up into poetry. In this respect, ‘Heaven’ subscribes to the premise of every realist project since Gottfried Keller’s ‘Romeo and Juliet in the Village’. Even then, writers felt provincial everyday life was only worth the literary journey if it shed light on ancient fables. Kater though, and this is where his modernity lies, has a more aggressive take on this task: The old fables no longer unfold quietly and significantly alongside events in the background, but are tried out like a set of costumes for everyone to see.
This gives the characters on the stage a new dignity. Instead of simpletons whose actions are loaded ominously with meaning, we meet skilled self-describers, who are interested in their own relationships to both classical and everyday roles. No one is just Tristan or just an ethnic German immigrant from Eastern Europe who now lives in East Germany. The characters clash with these predetermined semantic schemas as they keep switching between straightforward lecture and acted scenes. Such clashes bestow upon these characters their specific gravity. And it is this confidence about the presentation of the material that makes ‘Heaven’ far more than just a study of a particular milieu – as an exemplar of complex realism at a time of rapid cultural change, in Wolfen and many other places.”
(Christian Rakow, “Nachtkritik – Stuecke 08”)

‘Fritz Kater has written a play about Wolfen, where ORWO photographic films used to be produced and now, as in many places across East Germany, things are withering away. At the same time, he has done what he is best at, he has devoted himself to the forgotten, the lost, those without prospects. […] Where people become rubbish and the world disappears, Kater has a very big heart.”
(Peter Michalzik, “Frankfurter Rundschau”, 14 September 2007)

Technical Details:
Premiere 12 September 2007, Schauspiel Frankfurt, coproduction with the Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
Director Armin Petras
Cast 3 F, 4 M
Rechte henschel SCHAUSPIEL
Translations Theatre Library