Faust Chroma + Enigma Emmy Göring and Nico Sphinx

Niebelheim, Christchurch Arts Centre, Christchurch

26/03/2008 - 04/04/2008

Production Details

Fritsch Fest:  Faust Chroma, Enigma Emmy Göring and Nico Sphinx of Ice

Wednesday 26 March – Friday 4 April 2008

NOTE:  Werner Fritsch is a prize-winning playwright, filmmaker and novelist whose works are widely produced, performed and published in Germany.  He will be attending the first week’s performances and will be available for a discussion with the audience after the shows.  

Faust Chroma

Goethe’s Faust is to Germany what Shakespeare’s Hamlet is to the English-speaking world: the greatest play, by the greatest author, creating the greatest national role. Faust is the prototype German character, always striving, never satisfied, who therefore makes a pact with the devil. In the 20th Century, Faust’s narrative was compared with the German nation’s pact with the Nazis.

The most famous productions of Faust in the last century were directed by Gustaf Gründgens, who also played the devil (Mephistopheles). Hermann Göring, the designated successor of Hitler, had appointed Gründgens as head of all the state-run theatres in the Reich.

Faust Chroma begins with Gründgens’ 1963 death in his hotel room in Manila, Philippines, and his roles – both in theatre and life – flash before his eyes.  Fritsch reinterprets Gründgens as the guilt-ridden but defiant Faust who is visited by his alter ego, Mephistopheles.  In the Free Theatre production, scenes from Faust interplay with scenes from Gründgens’ life to explore how, in modern times, performers have taken the place of politicians and politicians have become actors.  As with the chameleon, changing colours is the key to survival and power in our time.

Directed by Peter Falkenberg.  .

Schedule:  Faust Chroma
University Theatre, Arts Centre, 8pm
$20 / $15 – Tickets from Te Puna Toi, Arts Centre, phone 365 3159
Friday 28 March
Saturday 29 March
Thursday 3 April
Friday 4 April

Enigma Emmy Göring and Nico Sphinx of Ice

Enigma Emmy Göring and Nico Sphinx of Ice are two monologues by Werner Fritsch about two very different German blondes who, nevertheless, have something in common: they have both been traumatised by the recent German fascist past. Emmy Göring was the wife of Hitler’s designated successor, Hermann Göring. Nico, a former model, became famous when Andy Warhol made her a singer for Velvet Underground.

Emmy is an enigma as, in the 1970s, she reveals her continued loyalty to the fascist cause when reflecting back on her life while under anaesthesia in a dentist’s chair. She regards herself as the good, sweet girl her parents brought up.

Nico, by contrast, is bitter and cold. Also full of drugs, she remembers her childhood under fascism but especially her lovers and collaborators – Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, and above all Jim Morrison, whose music features throughout.

Directed by Peter Falkenberg.  Text by Werner Fritsch.

Schedule:  Enigma Emmy Göring and Nico Sphinx of Ice
Nibelheim, Arts Centre, 8pm
$15 / $10 – Tickets from Te Puna Toi, Arts Centre, phone 365 3159.
Wednesday 26 March
Thursday 27 March
Tuesday 1 April
Wednesday 2 April

See www.freetheatre.org.nz for more information about these productions and the company, Free Theatre Christchurch.

Startling productions with two faces

Review by Lindsay Clark 30th Mar 2008

For students of contemporary theatre and indeed anyone seriously prepared to step aside from conventional performance work, these pieces are an interesting prospect. They are not for everyone but neither do they give off the whiff of indulgence sometimes associated with non-commercial productions. A further opportunity to explore these fresh-faced plays is provided by the presence of the visiting playwright/ filmmaker himself and  his willingness to engage in discussion after the performances.

The festival has two faces. The first presents 2 solid monologues in the Nibelheim basement. Running at 2 hours with interval , these are shaped from images and memories spilling from the lives of two famous German women. Both are set on a small, revolving stage, turning throughout the spiel  at the same walking pace and creating a sense of disequilibrium for the audience. Sometimes this condition worked to advantage, sometimes not.

Enigma Emmy Goring, is built around the visit to her dentist by the saccharine Emmy, 23 years an actress, eleven of them married to Hitler’s designated successor Hermann Goring. The trauma of Nazi Germany is narrated in tiny, telling details. Stretched out in a thoroughly gruesome chair, surrounded by unpleasant looking implements and  sometimes receiving horribly realistic treatment from the softly spoken Doctor Bosl, she drifts in and out of coherent reminiscence. At times the free fall of the language made me suspect that she was ad-libbing but it felt entirely in character.

Given the static position from which she is working, Marian McCurdy as Emmy gives an indelible performance, all the more creditable since she must metamorphose into a  contrasting pop star character in Nico Sphinx of Ice after the brief interval.

This  role is shared between two back to back actors and charts a childhood under fascism, Nico’s involvement with Velvet Underground and music greats. Shot through with drugged and dreamy images, it is mostly delivered from behind closed eyelids, pale faces coldly disengaged from us and strangely vulnerable.

Over in the University Theatre’s intimate space, the feverish hell of the Faust legend (one hour and forty minutes without interval),is played out by the company on other nights. Faust Chroma is an unsettling and complex account of the dying actor Gustav Grundgens, favourite of Hermann Goring and four times creator of the Mephisto role. In this piece, the man – an unrepentant Faust character – and the satanic alter ego created by his  actor self, battle it out in a fluid compilation of remembered politics and power.

Visually the production is startling, making full use of high platforms to create multiple playing areas.  Footage of Grundgen’s film role, projected on to transparent gauze curtaining the dying man’s bed, gives us frightening double images – huge faces mouthing over reduced human forms. The characters in Grundgen’s world are chameleon creatures, often human puppets, in a dark landscape of the mind.

The ensemble performs with high energy, framing the central Grundgens character, presented by Ryan Reynolds, with committed purpose and physical assurance. The pure voice of Emma Johnston in the role of Gretchen is electrifying.

Special mention must be made of the musician (also listed as God), Chris Reddington, who works as one with his stripped down piano, inhabiting the instrument and creating sound as integral to action and word as breath, providing a coherent flow to sustain the sometimes bewildering torrent of presented work on stage. 


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