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Cappuccetto Rossoen

In his play Cappuccetto Rosso (Little Red Riding Hood), which was premiered in 2005 at the Salzburg Festival, René Pollesch again has his tried and trusted actors from the Prater at the Berlin Volksbühne (Sophie Rois, Christine Groß, Caroline Peters, Volker Spengler), whose own identities in real life merge indivisibly with their roles or, more accurately, their existences in the play, reflect on the most varied facets of representation, whether it be in everyday life or Germans’ efforts to come to terms with their past.

As so often in Pollesch’s work, the actors find themselves in a rehearsal situation, this time for a version of Ernst Lubitsch’s famous film classic To Be or Not To Be entitled The Nazi Shickse. Sophie Rois plays Maria Tura, the Polish stage star whose story is told in Lubitsch’s original film. She has lost her “magic” – the intuition with which, until recently, she was able to effortlessly play roles in commercial historical films about Germany’s Nazi past or the terrorism of the Red Army Fraction. Now she hopes for a miracle that will enable her to fill her film and theatre roles with “authenticity” again. However, Pollesch is taking aim at precisely this brand of fake, representational authenticity: actors always bring associations with earlier roles to their characters, above all those to which a particular clichéd image attaches. For instance, in Cappuccetto Rosso, the techniques of cabaret are used to discuss whether the famous Austrian actor Tobias Moretti should have an Alsatian at his side as Hitler’s Alsatian bitch Blondie when he plays Hitler in Speer and Hitler – The Devil’s Architect, Heinrich Breloer’s drama documentary about the friendship between Adolf Hitler and his architect Albert Speer. If he does, every member of a German-speaking audience will automatically think of Moretti’s role in the television series Inspector Rex, in which he roamed Vienna solving crimes in the company of a police Alsatian. The role of the Alsatian is also analysed, for when it is being played by a poodle you cannot escape the feeling you are watching Goethe’s Faust, in which Mephisto first appears in the shape of a poodle. However, the Alsatian and the poodle can only play themselves because they will only ever be themselves. By contrast, as an actor, Moretti is always seen against the background of his two roles and their meanings, one – Hitler – with negative associations, the other – the nice policeman – with positive associations.

Tobias Moretti actually appeared in the main role of a different production at the 2005 Salzburg Festival directed by Martin Kusej. As Sophie Rois announces in Pollesch’s play, Kusej attempted, among other things, to dispel the clichéd images of the pairing “Alsatian and Tobias Moretti” by making the actor appear with a second Alsatian.

In this puzzle about the indivisibility of reality and theatre or film, Pollesch proclaims the impossibility of representing history unambiguously and truthfully. According to Pollesch, this is exactly what the commercial film industry claims (falsely) to do: a film industry that has dedicated itself to the supposedly realistic representation of German history. He demonstrates once again that the production of theatre and film, in other words the depiction of life as an art form, does not function if it fails to take account of the living and working conditions of all those involved in the representation.

Responses to the play:

“It is said there are dramatists who would not be too upset if it turned out no one was performing their plays in a hundred years time but, on the contrary, would see it as a disadvantage if their texts had a timeless impact because they would then run the risk of failing to connect with the present. René Pollesch is one such writer […].

For a decade, he has kept the theatre world in suspense with a series of highly personal pieces, most of which can never be repeated because they reflected their social coordinates with such total precision as they conjured up our everyday reality. […]

Apart from this, Pollesch’s play, which is interspersed with illuminating digressions on the consequences of asides in porno films – so fatal because they destroy the illusion on which the performance rests –, puts forward an uncompromising critique of the theatre as a locus of social pseudorelevance that systematically ignores its own increasingly neoliberal production conditions and, instead, all the more enthusiastically imports and representatively exploits material drawn from the problems of other, peripheral social strata. […] With uninhibited, pithy wit and without ever claiming to be an exception himself, Pollesch puts his finger in the true wound of contemporary representational art, its denial of the uncircumventable conditions of its own existence […].”

(Silvia Stammen, Mülheim Theatertage 2006)

“At first glance, the play is just about the theatre business. But – as ever in Pollesch’s work – it is actually about the world that surrounds it, about which he unburdens himself of in great torrents of words. Pollesch wants nothing to do with a theatre in which what happens outside is only depicted symbolically. It makes him cringe when actors merely slip into their roles. His work goes to the heart of the matter. Pollesch turns the actors in his performances into subjects. Giving orders and repeating themselves, they reach out to the audience, rapidly making contact with it because immediate experience is being conveyed, because the globalisation and deindividualisation from which none of us can escape are being addressed.

If this play is not just a theoretical sociology lesson consumed by disgust at a world that now consists solely of purchasers and sellers, it is due to the fact that Pollesch regards laughter, not tears, as the best way of making an impact on audiences. Larded with sometimes cheap, provocative punch lines and loaded with a tremendous density of memorable phrases, the play makes full use of the classical learning of the educated middle classes and pop culture in virtuoso fashion.”

(Bernhard Flieher, Salzburger Nachrichten, 26 August 2005)

Technical Details


24.08.2005 Salzburger Festspiele, 1.10.2005 Prater (Volksbühne Berlin)

Regie René Pollesch
Personenzahl 3 F, 1 M
Rechte Rowohlt Theater Verlag
Hamburger Str. 17
21465 Reinbek
Tel. +49 40 7272270
Fax +49 40 7272276
Übersetzungen Theatre Library


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