The performance collective Showcase Beat Le Mot was established in 1997 and currently comprises four members. Its founders met while studying at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies in Gießen which, with its reputation for fostering critical attitudes towards representational drama, and its emphasis on the theoretical and analytical, has been a breeding ground for recent German postdramatic theatre (it has also given the world René Pollesch, Gob Squad, She She Pop and Rimini Protokoll). Showcase Beat Le Mot consists of Nikola Duric, Dariusz Kostyra, Thorsten Eibeler and Veit Sprenger (Dr. phil.), who jointly create all their own scripts, songs, dance routines, costumes and stage sets. With an output of up to four new works each year, the group is one of the more industrious on the independent scene. Showcase Beat Le Mot has conducted international cooperative projects in collaboration with the Macedonian National Theatre in Bitola (Das Leben der Cäsaren (The Lives of the Caesars), 2002) and the Von Krahl Theater in Tallinn, Estonia (Piraten! (Pirates!), 2003; EUROPIRAADID (EUROPIRATES), 2006). The performers have appeared in several music videos made by the indie rock band Kante. Since 2007, Showcase Beat Le Mot have also been working at the Theater an der Parkaue in Berlin, which specialises in drama for children and young people. It was there in 2007 that they created Der Räuber Hotzenplotz (The Robber Hotzenplotz), one of the most remarkable performance works for the six-plus age group seen in recent years. The production was invited to the Augenblick mal! children’s and young people’s theatre festival in 2009, and received the Goethe-Institut Prize at the 2007 Impulse independent theatre festival.
Showcase Beat Le Mot instinctively side with characters who are outside the law. They have celebrated the life of pirates (Piraten! (Pirates!), 2003, EUROPIRAADID (EUROPIRATES), 2006) and sent a solitary Shogun on a bloody crusade through a mythical Japan in their manga series Gomune (2003/2004). They have been Anabaptists terrorising early-modern Münster in 1534 (2010), and have ventured into the robbers’ forest as the Town Musicians of Bremen (2010). Discreetly, all these outsider fantasies also offer insights into the life of an independent theatre group that wishes to escape from the laws of the municipal theatre apparatus: They tell of the striving for self-determination, collective decision-making and non-hierarchical working processes – and of the pleasure to be had from unconventional forms of action and expression.
Outlaw myths are also used to focus attention on political topics. EUROPIRAADID (EUROPIRATES), a coproduction with the Estonian Von Krahl Theater, was a subtle allegory that highlighted the problems of speculation and the deficits of the democratic distribution of power in a Europe that is growing closer together. The wide-ranging performance musical alarm HamburgShanghai (2005) examined the recent history of China from Mao Tse Tung to the emergence of an authoritarian market economy. At the same time, Showcase evenings always unfold as expansive patchworks of self-written songs, dance routines, videos, narrative texts and occasional dialogues. In their earlier works, these assemblages of scenes often seemed rather disjointed, as if the ideas generated during brainstorming sessions had been transferred from the rehearsal room onto the stage without being tidied up a great deal. In the mean time, the group have begun to make use of narrative structures that give their pieces considerably clearer contours and make them more suggestive.
Showcase Beat Le Mot’s performance style is characterised by an easygoing dilettantism, while their material is full of gentle allusions and subliminal humour. Their dance routines, which are often inspired by butoh and ritual forms of movement, are performed ceremoniously with a certain awkward charm. The texts they write themselves are kept deliberately simple and are recited with childish accentuation rather than being spoken in an actorly fashion. It is DIY-style theatre that refrains from psychological empathy when the performers are in character. The collective idea behind their work is expanded upon in their dealings with their audience: Almost all their pieces involve food being served to the spectators, whether it is sucking pig (EUROPIRATES), sushi (Gomune) or hot dogs (The Robber Hotzenplotz). The artists regard themselves as hosts and partners in dialogue.
Showcase Beat Le Mot have never been afraid of prepubescent japes in the past. In the handicap football match Offside (2000), they wrapped actors completely in bandages and sent them out to play against each other like teams of mummies. This happening mingled elements of both a movement course and slapstick comedy, and was used in the music video for ‘Die Summe der einzelnen Teile’ (‘The Sum of the Individual Parts’) by the indie rock band Kante. It was a logical move for the group to start extending its activities into theatre for children and young people in 2007. With The Robber Hotzenplotz at the Theater an der Parkaue in Berlin, they created one of the most influential works of recent performance art for children aged six and over. Otfried Preußler’s classic story about the theft of a coffee grinder is retold with costumes made from wooden boards, all kinds of magic tricks and sing-along songs, while the performers succeed in finding an unconstrained way of talking to their young audience. During the show, the group play adroitly with the children’s knowledge of the book as they drive ahead the action in dialogue with the audience, exposing the machinery of theatrical illusion as they go. It is a highpoint of postdramatic theatre.
The Brechtian didactic play that stands at the centre of alarm Hamburg Shanghai puts forward the wily proposition that there are four kinds of theatre: 1) Theatre that has something to say and is badly done. 2) Theatre that has nothing to say and is well done. 3) Theatre that has nothing to say and is badly done. And 4) theatre that has something to say and is well done.
What kind of theatre does Showcase’s hero prefer? ‘The theatre I like most has something to say and is badly done. – Because then the message is communicated most purely.’
2011, Theater Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin
Paris 1871 Bonjour Commune
2010, Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin
Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten (i.e. The Town Musicians of Bremen)
2010, Theater an der Parkaue, Berlin
2010, Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin
Peterchens Mondfahrt (i.e. Peter and Anneli’s Journey to the Moon)
2009, Theater an der Parkaue, Berlin
Vote Zombie Andy Beuyz
2008, Kampnagel, Hamburg
Der Räuber Hotzenplotz (i.e. The Robber Hotzenplotz)
2007, Theater an der Parkaue, Berlin
EUROPIRAADID (i.e. EUROPIRATES)
2006, Kampnagel, Hamburg
2005, Kampnagel, Hamburg
2003/2004, pilot episode at Kampnagel, Hamburg
Piraten! (i.e. Pirates!)
2003, Von Krahl Theater, Tallinn, Estonia
Das Leben der Cäsaren (i.e. The Lives of the Caesars)
2002, Macedonian National Theatre, Bitola
BURN CITIES BURN
2000, Kampnagel, Hamburg
1999, Kampnagel, Hamburg
RADAR RADAR nichts ist egal (i.e. RADAR RADAR Nothing is Insignificant)
1998, Kampnagel, Hamburg
Der Ball fliegt lautlos (i.e.The Ball Flies Soundlessly)