Gypsy in Her ‘Natural’ Surroundings

I had been a little worried that I wouldn’t find the Red Rose Club. Turns out: You couldn’t miss it, because: RED LIGHT! 🙂

Anyways, when I arrived it was exactly 7:30pm (which was caused by a lack of ATMs around the venue) and director of the production, Martin G. Berger, stands half outside half inside. Well, you rushed here, right?, he said while I was locking my bike.
He looks a little bit like the pimp’s little brother in these surroundings.

I run up the few stairs, pick up my ticket and get rid of my jacket. I take a few steps into the room and find a spare seat – since I’m one of the last ones to arrive the place is already jam-packed. The bartender is an old fashionly dressed woman who looks kind of like what I’ve always imagined a mama of a drag club to look like.

I begin to sweat – people who ride their bikes everywhere might know this, you’re not sweating right away but a few minutes after to actually arrived at your destination – and I wonder a) if other people will notice and b) if they’ll think I’m embarrassed by the environment.
And then I wonder – who else of my fellow audience members also is a whorehouse-first-timer? I recognize the faces of three other audience members and I remember the pianist from Bundeswettbewerb Gesang (next question: It looks like Bijan (Azadian, the conductor and pianist) isn’t wearing any pants – is he wearing pants? – Yes, he was). Anyways, in addition to the audience there are five girls, dressed like the prostitutes you can spot around special locations in the city…they do a little bit of small talk and from time to time they take someone downstairs to – as I will experience myself during the show – watch video interviews with ‘real’ prostitutes working in these very rooms we sat and watched the videos. I – as a single visitor – am ignored for quite some time, I am looking around, listening to what the two musicians are playing and watching the slides on the various flat screens promoting the girls working there.

Suddenly I hear a very soft singing. Those five girls are whispering ‘Let me entertain you’ in the ears of those whom they were talking to just seconds ago. It’s kind of exclusively for those near these girls. I sit very close to one but nonetheless the sound only creeps into my ears. Then Louise enters, talking about her job, being a stripper.

I didn’t know Gypsy beforehand (I know, what a shame!) and I had definitely to do some research afterwards. I remember reading castlists much longer than this one: Three people playing three characters (plus the girls) – Mama Rose, Louise and Herbie. Of course things, songs, were cut and some plotlines we only got to know through what the characters told us – which gave this whole story a very interesting turn of un-credibility, especially since we learned right in the beginning that Rose, but also Louise are not the most sane people you could imagine. We are taken on a bumpy road trip into this story with contemporary changes about talent shows (the in Germany rather well known Dieter Bohlen who became famous for the insulting statements he made as a judge on the German version of American Idol) and a letter about the current situation of sex-workers and prostitutes by Alice Schwarzer et. al. In short: In this very authentic (which we can only assume, because we actually don’t know if it’s REALLY a whorehouse or just a very well played trick…) location, we get a story which kind of is very well fitting into this setting.

And we as the audience are very close to what happens. The sound of the tapping right in front of me actually hurts my ears, when the Herbie fell right in front of me I was wondering (for only a second) if it had been my leg sticking in his way that made him fall, and more to the end Rose sings and sings and get angry and angrier and suddenly grabs my face, singing directly into my face. We get a sense of what happens and not only that, but we get to feel it. Someone falls and he grabs the knee of an audience member. The beginning looks exactly like something you could imagine as a ‘regular’ bar fight.

What I’m trying to state here: In this production we don’t get a steady idea of what is ‘real’ and what is ‘fake’ (heavy duty words over here, uh?). Every time after a unsual event (the mother getting crazy, tieing Herbie to the pole – by the way, this production also features one of the most impressive (loudest) exclamtion of the German word Stripstange which sounds hilarious and means pole) they put up the façade of people working and having a business to keep up to. They do weird stuff and then get their act together again, cleaning the bar, reciting Dieter Bohlen’s meanest statements.

We get as bi-polar as they are. We watch them in a way we watch other peoples’ drama in bars and we get sucked in as kind of voyeurs and that is what makes it so irresistable. And this construction somehow works even though we know they are actors, singers, people pretending to be other people, all the time – that’s out of question from the moment Nini Stadlmann (who, by the way, is great) as Louise tells us to ask her Mama for drinks.

We can’t get out because –  even if we wanted to – they are so ‘in our faces’ all the time.

Some words about the three people playing the three main characters: yes, Yes, YES! The already mentioned Nini Stadlmann, Katja Brauneis and Franz Frickel were great and ecstatic and – again – they totally made their characters fit into this location.

All these turns and cuts and additions made this production somehow relevant to society, and also to the kind of weird society we are stuck with in Berlin.

And I am very much into theatre productions that are relevant to a kind of reality of life.
And even more into those also being musical productions.
Because somehow you don’t see them very often.
That’s why you gotta love them more.

For some hard facts about the cast and creative team head over to Musicalzentrale or the production company’s website.


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