Für alle reicht es nicht (There's not enough to go round)
by Dirk Laucke
by Robert Koall
The new play by 27-year-old Dirk Laucke deals with borders, the GDR, fortress Europe and Germany twenty years after the peaceful revolution. It tells of illegal Chinese immigrants, Czech whores, rootlessness ‑ and tank driving. So when, in June 2009, a BBC reporter asked Dirk Laucke for a good place to discuss his new play, he suggested taking a ride in a BMP tank. It's surprisingly easy to do. For only ten euros, the Heyse brothers offer a tank tour in the Brandenburg countryside near Fürstenwalde, not far from Berlin. The Heyses have combined their farmland with a dozen old tanks to create their "Tank Fun Driving School“. Their homepage calls it "Germany's biggest men's playground“ and streams a selection of short films showing old East German army tanks roaring around the Brandenburg moor land, ploughing up the ground. From time to time, a tank smashes a caravan into smithereens. Tank fun. But that's not the point. Neither in real life, nor in the play. It's really about Heimat. Or the loss of Heimat and how cruel that can be. For his play, Dirk Laucke, the son of a GDR army tank commander, has created the character of Heiner. In Für alle reicht es nicht (There's not enough to go round), Heiner is an ex-GDR army tank commander. November 1989 was a turning point in his life. His wife turned her back on him and the GDR. He lost his job and the control over his drinking. His life became a blur. Now, he's got a grip on it again. He's given up the booze and holds on tight to three things – his farm, his tank and his dream:
"When the business takes off, there won't be any more grass or bushes here. Tanks leave nothing behind, when the business takes off, that'll all drown in the mud that I've always so loved. Preheat the engine early. What am I saying - the engines. People will be queuing up. Then after the T55 Martina, there's the T55 Manuela, the T55 Jürgen, Mirko, Micha and and - - I can't remember the name of my granddaughter just now. It'll be a fleet of tanks. And the roaring early in the morning at six will be just like it was many, many years ago. What's her name. People will be queuing up to get the chance to drive a tank. That's got something to do with Heimat. And they will be queuing up in front of the flag because they want to experience that feeling again. Heimat. And the people born afterwards, like my little granddaughter, what's her name, because they know it must be awesome to race 30 tons of steel through the mud. And because they know how awesome it must be to have something like a Heimat, something that no longer exists.“Heiner's dreams are interrupted by the arrival of Jo and Anna. In their main job, they are petty smugglers taking cigarettes and forged brand goods across the German-Czech border. In their job on the side, they quarrel and dream of the "big one“. And the big one seems to have just dropped right into their laps. They have found a driverless truck on a country road near the border. A truck packed with smuggled cigarettes. And with two dozen illegal Chinese immigrants. Can they leave the truck with Heiner until they've decided what to do with their find?
Jo is in his mid-thirties, a man with no history who comes from the west and spent his childhood in a home. Since 1989, he's been running around the east, which never turned into the El Dorado he'd hoped for. He's known Anna for a few years. When the GDR collapsed, she dropped out of her world and has never arrived anywhere since. Anna has three issues. One in her head, which may have always been there. One in her heart because she can't get a life. And one in her leg. In 1989, she planned to jump onto a train heading for the west through Hungary. She missed the carriage step and was badly injured.
Heiner wants both of them to vanish, taking their truckload of "chinks" with them. Firstly, it's somehow illegal and, as a prospective businessman, he can't risk that. Secondly, he's expecting a visitor – his daughter Manuela, who he very rarely sees, is on the way with his granddaughter, who he sees even more rarely. And Manuela is soon the fourth person turning up on the tank farm. She's around thirty and vaguely radical and left-wing. She's a political activist, part of a kind of demo-jet set, leading an unsettled life close to that of a traveller.
In this way, Dirk Laucke gathers together the characters he needs to present his panorama of mislived lives against the backdrop of Heiner's tank farm. In his outline of Für alle reicht es nicht, Dirk Laucke wrote: "The figures all have fragmented biographies. They have an acute problem in the present yet, at the same time, can't get away from the past. And so the same old crap is fought over on the back of the current situation.“
Dirk Laucke gradually reveals that past, the "old crap“. Using flashbacks and re-narration, the characters' past lives are sketched in and their biographies slowly intertwined with each other. Here, the actor playing the daughter Manuela also slips into the role of her mother, who left Heiner all those years ago. At the same time, she plays her own daughter, Heiner's granddaughter, and so covers all three generations of women. Jo indulges in childish daydreams. Anna uses bitter sarcasm to disgorge her past. This approach creates a variety of perspectives on the situation of the four uprooted characters who have lost their old lives and are desperately looking for new ones. But locked into this process, they completely overlook the people slowly suffocating behind them in a stolen truck, people who are doing just what they are doing – looking for a new life. A gruesome message.
Laucke's figures are not speechless – quite the contrary. The words pour out of them; they simply overflow with so much undigested and unsaid. Their language sounds as if the author had merely eavesdropped on life, but in fact it is all carefully structured and composed. For example, when Heiner quarrels with his wife Martina in a flashback:
|You can't go over there.
You can't treat me like shit, Martina.
Sober up first.
Little Manuela sat glumly in the corner between the door and the wall unit. Martina was packing.
Fear, Comrade Lieutenant.
How are you going to do it.
I'm visiting my mother. And this time you won't stop me, you submissive pig.
And the kid.
I've got permission.
Surprisingly, given the harshness of how the figures in Dirk Laucke's play deal with each other and life, his characters are far from cold. He does not betray or judge them. He knows how they have become what they are. He not only shows them in the ugliness of their wounds and scars, but also in the beauty of their dreams and desires. They have not given up on themselves – they still want to carry on. But one senses that their hopes will never become reality. Anna will never lead a normal life. Jo will never be rich and famous. Manuela will never save the world, and she will always harbour within herself the memories of a lousy childhood. And Heiner will never have a "tank fun driving school".
Heyse, the real tank driving teacher, became a bit suspicious when he realised he was sitting in one of his tanks with a young playwright and a BBC reporter and what they experienced would flow into the material for a play. But as Dirk Laucke said: "Actually, it's about guys like you. People with a dream.“ – "You've really got to be a dreamer to do something like this“, Heyse answered proudly, and wiped the mud off his face that had splattered all over him while driving the tank. "Some people think this here is muck. As far as I'm concerned, it's healing earth.“
"Für alle reicht es nicht" is premiered in October 2009 at the Staatsschauspiel Dresden as the German contribution to the "After the fall. Europe after 1989“ festival. In a project initiated by the Goethe Institut, playwrights from a range of European countries have created works dealing with the social changes following the political upheaval in 1989. A selection of the productions is being shown in October 2009 in the Staatsschauspiel Dresden and in Mülheim an der Ruhr.
Robert Koall is Head of Dramaturgy at the Staatsschauspiel Dresden.