Tales from the Vienna Woods
By Ödön von Horváth
“I have no other goal than this: to unmask consciousness”, Horváth wrote in one of his few self-disclosures. Against the backdrop of the biggest economic crisis in history at the time, he experienced how the popular clichés in people's minds virtually unmasked themselves, were intensified in their contradiction to the surrounding circumstances, became brutally apparent – and the Viennese Gemütlichkeit turned very uncomfortable. If a man loses his job, the hero of another of his plays declares, “then love fades away, automatically”. By using increasingly brutalised and brutalising language, Horváth manages to capture his characters’ state of consciousness with almost poetic precision. Written at the end of the 1920s at the time of catastrophic unemployment, »Tales from the Vienna Woods« is a key work of modern drama. The central figure is Marianne, who is looking for a role in life. Like many of Horváth’s female figures, her life is marred by dependence on other people. “Papa always says that the financial autonomy of women from men is the final step towards Bolshevism.”
But Marianne fights against her arranged engagement and tries to do what her feelings tell her, which means liberating herself from the construct built for her by her father, the owner of a toyshop called “King of Magic”, and her fiancé Oskar, a butcher. Apparently the marriage is meant to save the ailing “dolls’ clinic”. As things take their course, Marianne says of herself: “Now the slave breaks her chains.” Long before 1968 and #MeToo, we hear the sentence pronounced in 1929: “My body belongs to me.”
Heike M. Goetze won the Körber Studio Junge Regie prize for Young Directors for her Zurich diploma production of Juli Zeh’s novel »Spieltrieb« (»Gaming Instinct«) in 2008. She has directed plays e.g. at the Schauspielhaus Zürich, Schauspiel Hannover, Schauspielhaus Bochum, and was invited to the »Radikal jung« festival and the Mülheimer Theatertage. This is Heike M. Goetze’s first production for the Deutsches SchauSpielHaus.