Stimmen im Kopf, Neuköllner Oper Berlin

On December 29th I saw my last theatrical performance in 2013 – my dear friend Gregor, a sound editor-to-be, pushed me to see the second of last (and his last) performance of Stimmen im Kopf. Every time a new group of student of the musical theatre programme of Universität der Künste Berlin is heading to graduation they get their own, new (original) musical to perform at the small off-opera house in Neukölln. It was the third of these musicals I’ve seen (and the first one I waited so long before I went….) – and they all more of less follow the same idea. They are made to show off what the students can do best, everyone get’s his/her solo and there is a massive ammount of choreography and dacing going on.

Especially for people like me, who tend to get excited about original musicals, it’s a great thing to see a complete new piece (not like these teeny-tiny bites sometimes shared with the general public at installments like Schreib:Maschine). Plus I met most of the young actors taking the stage during the Bundeswettbewerb Gesang, where a good number of them were among the finalists – although I saw them right before they went on stage during the Bundeswettbewerb and right when they stepped off of it I hardly heard them sing or watched them perform, except for Maria-Danaé Bansen who won the competition’s main category (and Dennis Dobrowolski who I saw on stage at Komische Oper Berlin in Ball im Savoy, but….that doesn’t count, because I really didn’t like the production and the part he was playing wasn’t that representable….) and I’ve never ever been in a performance in which someone I know edited the sound. Let’s just sum it up: I was rather excited.

Stimmen im Kopf (“Voices in Your Head”) follows the daily life in a psychiatric hospital – if there is such a thing. You enter it along with Babsi who brings her younger sister Nadine into treatment. Nadine ‘hears a voice’ or better – is the only one (for now) who’s able to see Daniel – sort of demonic imagination. So, we enter the hospital and one by one we get to know the other patients and the three members of the staff.

I remeber sitting there for what felt like 30 Minutes thinking “Boy, this is the longest introduction I have ever seen in my life!” and actually that’s what they did: They took their time. Time to tell the stories of their characters and time to show what the graduates are able to do on stage – I’d even go ahead and say: The story is not that important which of course doesn’t mean that there isn’t any, but somehow every single character seems to be stressed to much more than the story as a whole thing to watch. And it was a great joy to watch these characters over the course of little more than two and a half hours.
To be honest this year I was struck by the acting for the first time watching these productions (that’s why I’m stressing that in the next paragraphs, because I mostly was amazed by that). In the moments the musical sometimes (!) took to dive into the character’s stories, you could see that they did their research on various mental deseases and the life in a mental hospital very carefully. I was moved by some acting performances in particular I’d like to point out: Due to my own ‘disposition’ I loved Philipp – a highly talented young man, slightly autistic or suffering from OCD, very carefully and never too over the top played by Patrick Cieslik. I was very moved by the gender bending performance of Marion Wulf playing the role of Herbert/Cora, also very carefully displayed character with close to none family backround, breaking the rules, being destructive and very vulnerable at the same time. The same, but in a very different way applies to Karla, a ‘typical business woman’, suffering from burn-out and/or depression. She’s a little stuffy and shows a slightly posh behaviour – she seems to be not feeling in touch with the world around her (what becomes clear in her solo “Und ich schau nur zu”) though she shows not the obvious signs of a mental desease as the others do. Maria-Danaé Bansen portaying her gives the audience (and the other patients) a nerv-wrecking attitude most of time – the bigger is the surprise when she finally gives in and suddenly seems to be the complete opposite: a completely vulnerable woman.
During the performance I saw there was silence after both of the mentioned womens’ solos the audience was completely taken into the performance of these two and I was so glad nobody interrupted that bond between the story and us by clapping. (THANK YOU, audience!)

I also want to mention Venera Jakupov as the old, russian patient Frau Dermicin who basically has one line “Ich kann das machen” (I can do that), but kind of manages to take her room on stage every time – not to talk about the fore-shadowing (of the more bloody events happening more towars the end of act 2) she does during the finale of act 1 (Jakupov also plays another character, a medical officer who I really didn’t unterstand as a character other than being mean, very Trunchbull-like), Anna Pircher’s very extensive portrait of the sexually abused Jenny and Yvonne Greitzke who plays the ‘heart of the hospital’, the nurse Eva.

Music wise there was a HUGE resemblance of Leben ohne Chris (2009) by the same composer-writer-duo. Even before the very (VERY) direct quote from that piece in second act it was obvious and I heard some Next to Normal around – one time when Nadine’s fiancé Lars tries to remind her of their good times  it’s very “Henry in the second act of Next to Normal” with ‘Hey’ all over. Other than that the music is not very ‘familiar’, it is able to give the audience (and the singers) a hard time easing into it, it’s not like the catchy tunes most of the musical theatre audiences are used to, but it somehow suits the not at all normal setting of the story and for that sake works really well.

It was definetly a good decision to go and see Stimmen im Kopf for ‘observing talent’ and I wish all the best to these 12 talented actors and singers (Christian Miebach’s “Wenn die Menschen schlafen gehen”/When the people go to sleep!) and dancers (Larissa Puhlmann and Johannes Brüssau!!) – I’m looking forward to seeing these people again on the musical theatre stages around.

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