Wenn bestatten deine Arbeit ist … Thoughts on Sarg Niemals Nie

After my very belated posts about The Bridges of Madison County and Jasper in Deadland I have yet another show to write about which is closed already. Yay, Lisanne! This time it’s a German show, a German production, you could also say Berlin-ish – because as far as I am informed this was a whole produced in Berlin: from a reading-workshop-kind of production last summer to a whole (about 90 minutes long) show this spring.

I’m talking about the show Sarg Niemals Nie which I already mentioned in one of my posts over on newmusicaltheatre.com where I also talked about the title. If you just say the title without putting too much pressure on the r, it sounds just as you’d say “Sag niemals nie” which translates to “Never say never!”, but the small additon of the r to the ‘Sag’ makes the word mean ‘coffin’, Sarg = coffin.

And this brings us to the topic of the show. It focusses on a funeral home, a family business – a while after the family’s father died. His younger (?), but very serious and slightly compulsive son has taken the lead along with the Polish maid (what a cliché!) while his brother is somewhere in India. They struggle to keep the business going – mostly because of discount undertaker businesses (like ‘McSarg‘…) and from time to time they keep themselves happy smoking a joint after a long day. Then the brother returns from India, does weird Kamasutra stuff and accidentally drops the ashes of one of their costumers into the secret dope-stash. The dope-stash is smoked and the high is as no high was before and they see an opportunity to earn money, for a small business on the side: Special dope. They kind of get caught by the police, not for the dope-dealing, but for building cheap coffins out of Ikea cupboards – in the end everything’s fine, they stop dealing, the ‘bad brother’ (who turns out to be not that bad in fact) leaves while the compulsive brother and the Polish maid fall in love.

This sounds crazy?
Well…in fact…it is.
And if you are in the mood for some craziness it’s pretty funny as well.

I saw it in one of the smallest venues of musical theatre I’ve ever seen and ever have been to – the Studio of Neuköllner Oper with about 50 seats. The stage was narrow and slightly shallow and putting something like this up in this space is an artform by itself. With a coffin as a centre piece on stage, which worked kind of like one of these magicians boxes where people get parted, a funny moment is happening when we first whitness Dakmar (the Polish maid) and David (the compulsive son) calling it a day and transforming the coffin into a couch.

But now on to the things I like talking about most: the directing. I have the feeling that when you showcase new material, even in a ‘real production’, it is so much about just showcasing the material: showing the people what kind of score we got and what kind of book. Often the directing can be ‘charming’ – but adding in something completely new is hard, or at least it’s hard to realize for audiences, in this case the writers Jörn-Felix Alt and Dominik Wagner also directed. So, for the most part is was sweet and charming – the performance started as soon as we were allowed to enter the studio, with Patrick Cieslik as David standing by the door, shaking hands and welcoming us to a funeral. That gave a nice, immersive touch.

Funnily enough I saw all of the three actors on stage before – Patrick Cieslik and Yvonne Greitzke (as Dakmar) in Stimmen im Kopf (where both of them oddly enough portayed very similar characters) and I saw them a couple of times during the latest Bundeswettbewerb Gesang, while I saw Maximilian Mann in the show his year of UdK musical-students did a while ago (maybe in 2010?), where also Jörn-Felix Alt was in. From that show I knew that Jörn-Felix Alt is a terrific dancer and his choreographies were very much how you expect a good dancer to choreograph: they were dance-y and modern-y and they could easily be spotted as ‘dance’, but sometimes I felt a little bit uneasy watching them because among all this crazy stuff going on, this hilariously crazy plot and the lyrics the dancing added another topping which maybe was too much.

Overall I had a good time seeing it (and I would have hated to not have gone – there were some problems with my reservation, the theatre had lost it…), I liked the characters and the music and eventually I’m like “Yay! Original musical theatre from Germany!” most of the times anyways. So I’m eager to see new things of that team. Or of others.

But if I may make a wish: Maybe not a comedy the next time?

P.S.: For some orientation I’ve found a video snippet of one of the songs. Enjoy.

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