“Worldwide Brecht – Contributions from New Delhi (India), Tel Aviv (Israel), Herat (Afghanistan)”
Yotam Gotal: „The Desert a City“
Soumyabrata Choudhury: „A Migrant Walk“
Simorgh Theater: „The Fifth Wheel„
In Hebrew and English with German subtitles
Film and discussion
>> Festival headquarter at the Staatlichen Textil- und Industriemuseum (tim)
>> live & digital: Saturday, 26.2.2022, 15.00 Uhr
Yotam Gotal: „The Desert a City“
A film by Yotam Gotal and Nitay Dagan
Yotam Gotal lives in Tel Aviv, working as a director, actor and writer. He works as a theatre producer at the “Khan Theatre” in Jerusalem. Brecht has long been a subject of interest for Gotal, who is a graduate of Tel Aviv University. The genuine spark came in 2019 with a lecture at the Ruhr Triennale festival, however. It was there that Gotal became aware of Brecht’s “Fatzer”. “It blew my mind,” he says, describing his astonishing experience. The Goethe Institute Tel-Aviv supported him in bringing “Fatzer” to the stage in Hebrew for the first time. For the Augsburg Brecht Festival, Yotam Gotal has changed the genre. His film project, “The Desert a City”, is inspired by Brecht’s “Reader for City Dwellers”. Together with actress Nitay Dagan, a film crew and two off-road vehicles, in October 2021 he hit the road, leaving the city for the Negev Desert in southern Israel.
„The “Lesebuch für Städtebewohner” poems are very urban. When I read them for the first time, a few questions came to mind. Does the urban experience Brecht portrays resonate with my life in the city? What exigent demands do they make on present day readers? What Israeli angle can I bring to these texts? Together with an innate quality of mischievousness, these questions inspired me to shoot in the desert, and try to explore a novel approach to these extremely urban poems. I have always found the multiperspectivity of Brecht’s works very inspiring. Reading Brecht’s beautiful prose, always subsumed into caustic and socially charged narrative frameworks, always stimulates me to create challenging content. In many ways, Brecht paved the theatrical way which I would like to follow.“ Yotam Gotal
Soumyabrata Choudhury: „A Migrant Walk“
Soumybrata Choudhury teaches theatre and performance studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. He is an actor, director and writer with more than 30 years’ experience of the stage. “A Migrant Walk” is both film and performance, created as a cartoon documentary of Brecht’s radio play “The Lindbergh Flight”. Choudhury takes Brecht’s optimism about progress, the myth of the newly-mobile mankind that dares to conquer the ocean non-stop alone, and juxtaposes it with the reality of the forced mobility and defencelessness of Indian migrant workers, millions of whom move from village to metropole in search of work.
Brecht’s radio play “The Lindbergh Flight” is based on the transatlantic journey of Charles Lindbergh in a primitive aircraft. At the time, such a journey seemed impossible. After Lindbergh had succeeded in his venture, however, the impossible had reached the limits of the possible. Brecht’s play expresses both a technological and anthropological sense of confidence. It corresponds to the prevailing attitude of the modern 20th century, and finds reflection in the heroic content (Lindbergh’s flight) and in the early self-concept of the genre (radio play).
Choudhury’s work questions our experience of what we imagine to be impossible throughout history, especially in the early days of the global pandemic which began in March 2020. The answer to this question is very real and without the slightest hint of the optimistic perspective that Brecht was able to invoke: today, what we imagine impossible is embodied in the image of the migrating workers who walk for thousands of kilometres, a march on foot which only occasionally uses very primitive means of transport. From now on, the migrating workers are the real-life cartoon that history creates, the same history which sat in the cockpit with Charles Lindbergh at the beginning of the long 20th century.
How are we able to depict the flow of migrant workers we imagine to be impossible in terms of the possible limits of our means of communication, when new possibilities are touted on social media every day? The impossible is consistently reduced to images, to stories and to perception, while the fundamental historical question remains unspoken: how can such a reality be conceivable having experienced the social and economic contradictions at the global level which have become so evident with the pandemic?
Soumyabrata Choudhury about his work:
Over the years, I have in my work engaged with Brecht at different levels. Almost 35 years back, I wrote a play in English, Gaius Julius Caesar — which I also acted in and directed. This play was an adaptation from a very popular Bengali production, Last Seven Days of Julius Caesar, at that time being performed all over India which was itself based on Bertolt Brecht’s unfinished novel, The Business Affair of Mr. Julius Caesar. Since then, the fundamental Brechtian principle of grounding theatrical action on what he called social gesture— which is also to consider society as an ensemble of gestures— has informed nearly all my work. In 2002, I converted Jan Kott’s famous book of essays, Shakespeare Our Contemporary into a theatrical script. As part of the script, great tragedies like Hamlet and King Lear were seen through the prisms of Brechtian alienation as well as Beckett’s absurdist dramaturgy. Shakespeare Our Contemporary was performed at the Max Mueller Institute in Delhi and supported by the Polish Embassy. Interestingly, before the performance a seminar to commemorate Kott’s work was held with intense discussions on Brecht, Kott and other modern theatre directors such as Peter Brook. For my part, I had situated this experimental text in a contemporary Indian context with the idea of staging an encounter between Shakespeare, Kott and a non- European though uncompromisingly modern theatre culture.
Being an artist in present day Indian condition is challenging for the following reasons: politically, it is challenging because the task of making theatre, a place of collective criticism and reflection is not merely suppressed but also treated as redundant by the dominant forces of society that hold state power, hence a critical political art is increasingly seen as a wastage of cultural “resources.” The challenge is to create art that is not simply utilitarian or normalising but both concrete and part of collective intellectual as well as aesthetic capacities.
The second challenge is to not let the critical attitude of art become exclusivistic, merely an affair of artist- intellectuals. In that sense it is to both make singular artistic interventions and at the same time to be true to the motto “art is an affair of the people.”
The third challenge which follows is that of making art (theatre in particular) sustainable without being determined by forms of corporate patronage which follow a neo feudal logic. According to this logic, one is simply meant to count how many individuals are “consuming” your art. The challenge for an artist today is to resist such an act of counting and its accumulative pleasure.
curated by: Auja Ghosalkar & Kai Tuchmann
Simorgh Theater: „The Fifth Wheel“
“Living without being seen” – An imperative which is a now a harsh reality for the artists of the all-women Simorgh Theatre in Herat. Since the withdrawal of the Allied troops, these young women, who are not on the list of people to be protected, have been moving from one hiding place to the next. Women artists, who have been widely marginalised, silenced and persecuted, have gone underground and studied texts from “From the Reader for City Dwellers” by Bertolt Brecht, and are depicting that which their own perspective has made possible. In this context, with the KULA Compagnie, Robert Schuster considers himself to be a transmitter between these women and the public in Europe.
Production: Robert Schuster, KULA Compagnie