Harriet Maria&Peter Meining

Harriet & Peter Meining © Peter Meining
Harriet & Peter Meining © Peter Meining
Harriet & Peter Meining © Peter Meining

Harriet Maria and Peter Meining are artists, a married couple and the founders in 1995 of norton.commander.productions (ncp). This label stands above all for multimedia theatre evenings, often featuring film, live music, live edited video, and text collages. In 2010 ncp won the George Tabori Prize, when it was awarded for the first time by Germany’s Performing Arts Fund. The prize is awarded in recognition of "extraordinary and continuous ensemble work" that "contributes to the advancement of the performing arts".

Born in 1967, Harriet Maria Meining studied at the Hochschule für Bildende Kunst in Dresden, where she was a master class student from 1999-2001 under the painter, graphic artist and film-maker Lutz Dammbeck. Among other things, she was awarded the City of Dresden’s Art Promotion Prize.

Peter Meining was born in 1971, studied drama in Paris and then, until 1993, at the Staatsschauspiel in Dresden.

Co-producers of ncp were Hellerau – European Centre of the Arts, HAU (Hebbel am Ufer) Berlin, Forum Freies Theater (FFT) Düsseldorf and Mousonturm Frankfurt.
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Harriet Maria&Peter Meining: Portrait

Nowadays many theatre productions use multimedia, though there is hardly any director or group who does so quite so consistently as norton.commander.productions (ncp). Harriet Maria Meining has a background in the visual arts while Peter Meining is an actor by trade; together, this couple who live in Dresden genuinely get the arts dancing on stage – and in this case, the word Gesamtkunstwerk is very fitting. To create this “total art work”, they take full advantage of the treasure trove of popular culture available to them and have a particular liking for fairy tales and other familiar horror stories such as “Frankenstein”. For the Meinings the world offers a wealth of possibilities; they blend texts, sounds and images which at first glance do not appear to have much in common, yet are often firmly anchored in our collective memory.

ncp theatre reflects a great deal on itself and its forms, and does so consistently and single-mindedly – and, incidentally, loosely in keeping with the title of one of its plays: “Naive Fragen – Komplexe Antworten” (i.e. Naive Questions – Complex Answers). The theatre created by these two artists, however, is first and foremost hot-blooded, full of powerful images, composed of collages, deconstructed and often as loud as a heavy metal concert or as fast-paced as a video clip. At the same time, it also manages to be politically wide-awake with its finger firmly on the pulse of social debate. Turbo-capitalism, for instance, is a theme that Harriet Maria and Peter Meining, both of whom were born in East Germany, have tackled more than once, for example in “Hans im Glück” (i.e. Hans in Luck) and “Das Kalte Herz” (i.e. The Cold Heart). In the latter, the main character no longer wants to feel any sympathy, so he has a stone implanted in his breast, with disastrous consequences. “The Wolf Boys” touches upon the subject of abuse: we ourselves are the monsters from our nightmares, homo homini lupus est.

Yet ncp’s plays are never sentimental or schoolmasterly: their edges are rough, their moods are dark and their collage technique alludes to their themes without wishing to guide us, the audience, to any particular conclusions. No consecutive story is being told here and no characters are painted out; instead, the audience is constantly kept on their toes, as it were, while a film interlude gives way to a song of strength or a quotation from Heine or Benn segues to a variety number.

Soon, the Meinings will once again be combining their love of fairy tales with their interest in music-based productions and the character of the big bad wolf: Berlin’s Theater an der Parkaue, an offshoot of the Staatstheater aimed at younger audiences, has commissioned Harriet Maria and Peter Meining to stage an adaptation of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter und der Wolf” for children aged five and above (to be premiered in November 2010) in celebration of its 60th birthday. It is thought that younger audiences would also enjoy the ncp theatre’s “cinematic suggestive power”.  

After all, this artist duo are old hands at the post-modern game, yet they also frequently distance themselves from irony, a technique that others are so keen to employ. Death and our fear of death is one of their main recurrent themes. An important role in the ncp universe is played by the human body in all its vulnerability, but also with all its sweating, grunting and at times vulgarly fleshy bulk. This is where ncp’s often somewhat older performers with their great stage presence come to the fore: striking characters like Irm Hermann, Lars Rudolph, Juliane Werner and Veit Sprenger, or like the musicians Nikolaus Woernle, Caspar Brötzmann and Ole Wulfers. A more lightweight actor would be blown away by this theatre.   

Thus a visit to an ncp production is an experience that occupies the mind – in that we try to bring order to the things we see and to assess them – as well as one which we perceive physically in the dazzling whirlwind of images and (live) sounds. In every production, Harriet Maria and Peter Meining take the opportunity to subject the interplay of contents and forms to new and at times highly unexpected rules.   

Sylvia Staude

Harriet Maria&Peter Meining: Productions (Selection)

After Daniel Defoe "Robinson Crusoe"
2014 ,Theater an der Parkaue Berlin

"Tanz den Tod" (i.e. "Dance the Death")
2013, Europäisches Zentrum der Künste Hellerau, Dresden

After Romuald Karmakar and Micael Farin "The Deathmaker"
2013, Societaetstheater Dresden

"X Gebote 2" (i.e. "X Commandments 2")
2012, Europäisches Zentrum der Künste Hellerau, Dresden

After Gottfried Keller "Clothes Make the Man"
2012, Theater an der Parkaue, Berlin

"X Gebote 1" (i.e. "X Commandments 1")
2011, Mousonturm Frankfurt am Main

After Sergei Prokofjew “Peter and the Wolf”
2010, within the frame of the 60th anniversary of the Theater an der Parkaue, Berlin

“The Wolf Boys. Eine Horror-Musik-Film-Performance” (i.e. “The Wolf Boys. A Horror.Music-Film-Performance”)
2010, Festspielhaus Hellerau, Dresden

After Wilhelm Hauff “The Cold Heart”
2009, Festspielhaus Hellerau, Dresden

“Kommunistenfresser oder Das Leben des Einen” (i.e. “Eating Communists or the Life of the One”)
2009, Theaterfestival Deutsche Geschichten, Leipzig and Dusseldorf

“Anders Trivial”(i.e. “Differently Trivial”)
2008, Mousonturm, Frankfurt

“FilmKampfMaschine” (i.e. “FilmFightmachine”)
2007, Mousonturm, Frankfurt

“Angst“(i.e. “Fear”)
2006,  Staatsschauspiel, Dresden

Rainer Werner Fassbinder “Preparadise Sorry Now”
2006 Theaterhaus, Jena

“Die Zone” (i.e. “The Zone”)
2006, Theater Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin

“Dostojewski Trip/ Rosemarys Baby”
2006 Theaterhaus, Jena

“Märchen: Naive Fragen - Komplexe Antworten”(i.e. “fairy tales: Naive Questions – Complexe Answers”)
2005, Mousonturm, Frankfurt

2005,  Festspielhaus Hellerau Dresden, Theater Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin, Mousonturm, Frankfurt)

2005 Theaterhaus, Jena

2004, Festspielhaus Hellerau, Dresden

“Out of Control. Eine theatrale Collage” (i.e. “Out of Control. A Theatrical Collage”)
2003, Festspielhaus Hellerau, Dresden

Rainer  Werner Fassbinder “Drops on Hot Stones”
2003, Festspielhaus Hellerau, Dresden

“Terrain! Terrain! Pull up! Pull up!”
2000, Festspielhaus Hellerau, Dresden, Podewil, Berlin, Mousonturm, Frankfurt, Forum Freies Theater, Dusseldorf, Schauspielhaus Zwickau

Additionally: Multimedia-Installations (as “Genetik Woyzeck”, 1997), Films (u.a. “Grillenburg” (2003), “This game has no name” (2001), art-performances (as “Neufünfländer”, fashion-performance with dog-models, 2009; “Was ist das Wert”, 2008)