The Entertainer

by John Osborne
Music by John Addison and others
Translated into German by Helmar Harald Fischer
Adapted for the Deutsches SchauSpielHaus Hamburg

Premieres 14/02/2015


Running time: Two hours, 40 minutes, no interval

In »The Entertainer« Osborne described the decline of the English Music Hall, and with it a particular form of variety entertainment. He saw the Music Hall as symbolising a specifically English way of life and entertainment culture which stood for English society as a whole. The play takes place at the time of the Suez Crisis which was seen in England as a national humiliation. In its performance history »The Entertainer« has since become a universal piece about loss.

Christoph Marthaler takes the play out of its historical context and focuses on present-day occurrences of loss and break-downs. It deals with a group of people who live in precarious conditions and seem to have fallen out of time. No longer in demand, they turn their situation into a form of entertainment. They are a theatre family of entertainer-actors who perform in live shows before audiences in variety theatres across Europe. Most of these theatres have experienced better times and are now in social decline, producing vast amounts of entertainment accompanied by vast amounts of gin and music. Somewhere outside of Europe wars are being fought, but unlike in the England of Osborne’s time, they – Europe’s misfits – no longer feel involved. Their existence is stripped to a minimum, but their racist conscience allows them to still feel slightly superior to their African or Turkish neighbours.

Variety entertainment shapes the evening. In the deserted entertainers’ stage appearances, numbers, and songs one senses the lives and existential states of these people who keep on trying again and again, not being able to give up. The characters in Christoph Marthaler’s »Entertainer« are not located in an apartment, but in a theatre – on and in front of a stage – and we don’t quite know if their bizarre gin-soaked dialogues might not just be part of a show, possibly for television.

In 2015 Christoph Marthaler has been awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in the theatre section at the Venice Biennale.

Photos © Matthias Horn