Volksbühne Berlin am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz
Currently no performances. Coming back soon.

Ein schwaches Herz

based on the novella by Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky

Everyday Life without Public Holidays


It's like the famous frog in a glass of water. If you put it in hot water, it will jump out at once. If the water gets slowly heated however,...
Fyodor Dostoevsky's novella „A Faint Heart“, written in 1849 at age 28, is about two guys, and one of which wanted too much. They're called Vasya and Arkady, and they are lower-rank public servants. Young enough to be still called teenagers, they share a flat. They love each other like friends do. Vasya has also fallen in love with another. With Liza. Liza's been maliciously abandoned by her fiancé, who was removed to another post in another town, and along came another woman joining him… shit happens. Same old story… Vasya offers Lisa comfort. At first it is only Lisa who does the weeping. Then it's both of them. A little later they are engaged. To lead a happy life is all that Vasya – who is born with a physical handicap – wishes for. To live in harmony in all conceivable constellations. With Liza. And with Arkady in their love triangle. And with the mother-in-law. Plus the son of her. Can a man bear all this happy togetherness? With no friction whatsoever? Out of fear and gratitude... and on the other side the rental rate is increasing! And oh! the measly salary a scrivener gets! Even on New Year's Eve Vasya is determined to pull himself together. Everyone is in a festive mood, but Vasya is going to work, he will conquer sleep. Or maybe he won't. And slowly, very slowly – Dostoevsky is a bloodhound when it comes to psychological complexities - the pressure increases… The friction with reality decreases. Vasya writes and writes without a break. Windmilling his arms, he is writing words in the air, writing ghosts. He becomes a ghost himself. Fear takes possession of him... Fear of the military service looming ahead. 25 years of service every firstborn has to do for Czar and country. But also fear of his boss, Julian Mastakovich. And the boss, standing for the typical capitalist, is not even applying pressure. On the contrary: He offers help; he wants Vasya to distract himself a little bit. Vasya, however, is on the verge of collapse, his perception is veiled in white noise ... Arkady cannot rush to his rescue; all he can do is go around looking very touched. Until the very end when, inevitably, an ambulance is needed.


Hope is a brief interval. And the production is, of course, not over here. Logical rigor and unambiguous statements – that is not what the art of theatre is about! On the stage, you can make no mistake. Under the condition, of course, that you do it right. You lay out detours, take the long way… First thing is role reversal and play-acting. And Marfa, the maid, becomes Koka, the inventor, while Liza becomes Sina, the famous actress. Somethingis looming here. A rainbow relationship between Sina and Koka, the latter of which is tinkering with her time-machine in a prefabricated plattenbau building in Moscow. Michail Bulgakov’s piece “Ivan Vassilevich” is shining through Dostoevsky. After “Molière” nothing mattered any more. He could write whatever he wanted. Perforce. Even the rather light screwball comedy was banned, productions and performances were prohibited. In the 1930s under Stalin, that was. And 30 years later the Mosfilm director Leonid Gaidai had an idea. He took Bulgakov’s theatre play – published for the first time in the 1960s – and blended it into the series of comedies he produced. Koka became Shurik. Since then 60 million people have seen the film in the cinema – not counting in the myriad of viewers of the regular reruns on TV! Until today, ”The Diamond Arm” and “Kidnapping, Caucasian Style” as well as other legendary films by Gaidai are popular cultural assets and a source of well-known quips and quotes in the Russian speaking post-Soviet culture. The films seem like an apotheosis of a different human race. They’re like a vanishing point giving death, the millions of victims, and Stalin something like historical meaning by using Shurik’s naïve but likeable smile. This is like whitewashing the utopia, and getting rid of the bad weather and the cold at the same time. The sun always shines in Moscow! The streets are spick and span, clean as a whistle.

Suddenly Koka’s machine is cranking up, cosine, sine, and blinking little bulbs – and with the help of Bulgakov’s code a Leonid Gaidai time-tunnel opens up on the Dostoevskyan carpet taking us back to the sixteenth century. Along with Bunsha the caretaker and the thief Milosavsky – himself a literary declination of Ostap Bender – Koka is catapulted to the Kremlin. Good Soviet citizens hit the historic grounds of tsarist Russia led by Ivan the Terrible… Things are going haywire. And Vasya still doesn’t know how to pay the rent… The time-machine clatters, the theatre walls are disintegrating…


Voices are heard. Noise. It's Dada. Or Bobok. Happened long before Dada. Throughout the ages people have walked into that party. They're all dead here. It's a graveyard party of the deceased. Though they're apparently granted a period of three months to finish. They can speak although they’re dead- ghosts with a mouth. True to Dostoevsky. Are they talking gibberish? A public servant swaggers about rents and job vacancies. How long ago was that? Only dull people, like this business man over there, your typical guy-at-the-bar-nursing-a-beer, used to talk like that. Then a girl's voice is heard: No, no, no... It's precisely these types, like the businessman, who will get away with it all. That's right, comments a youngster. For he is a smart and undreamy young man who invested the small inheritance he obtained from his late grandmother in a three bedroom-flat, front building. Back in the days. Ten years ago. And again, the aged mother. Only two months ago, shortly before he was driven away by the ghastly developments, he had invited guests for dinner in his newly-acquired high-end kitchen to boast with the estimated value of the flat made by a real estate agent. The gaff is now worth more than a million. Hohoho… A passionate philosopher and urban archaeologist joins in. Raising his voice he starts referring to the social processes that have taken place at the intersection between Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz and Alexanderplatz during the last quarter of a century. After the discontented and the wise in the workers' and peasants' state had voted for a participatory society with their feet in that November long ago. Tee-hee, the girl's silvery giggle is heard. That's Liza, surely? She elaborates on the idea. The freedom gained would soon turn out to be the freedom to sell off the land and ground on which the protest happened as quickly as possible. Only a few years later the territory at the feet of the television tower would be gauged and sold off for private use. It left 17 million people doing just what Arkady did: looking very touched. You smart ass, a baritone growls. But Liza has not finished yet. With some delay the project decided upon was finally implemented. The sociotope called Alexanderplatz, which for a short span of time, and only formally, belonged to everyone, will soon be built over by rows of skyscrapers owned by only a few. The stems of capital. Capital stems. Created by stunning architects. They hope to generate some ten thousand euros profit per residential unit sold from the land on which the building Haus der Statistik sits.

Is Vasya hallucinating Liza's beloved voice? A mix of languages: Белая горячка! Белка? White fever? Chipmunk ecstasy? And now Lizenka, sounding suddenly quite mature and pugnacious: And from Unter den Linden via Karl-Liebknecht Strasse another avalanche is rolling in, an avalanche of headquarters and foundation domiciles of insurance groups and media companies, the showrooms of major automotive corporations. All of them collaborate with artists in various fields; they, too, invite academics and researchers to hold public lectures on the future of our society and the world, just like those once initiated by science academies, and occasionally by theatre makers. In these companies' branches the same men and women are employed with whom I once went to university, men and women who read the same books as me, who have travelled around the planet ...And this wave is now sweeping over the theatre landscape. Are we really still the same? Liza is shaking Arkady, the scrivener, very hard. The divide is filled with a smile. The production of significative loops on THE EVE OF DEATH AND ABOVE THE THUNDERSTORMS operates ever so silently. Only one word is heard: Bobok. Bobok. Bobok. Bobok. Bobok. Bobok ...Arkady seems to have woken up to break free of the paralysed state he was in. Come on, Liza, Liza, let's go, let's make friends with all the people from all over the world, with the maximally literate, with all the guys who, stoned and hammered by drugs, beer and audibly some electronic stuff, are beaming themselves into a - hopefully only seemingly - apathetic, if not catatonic state on the 1st of May, on the labourers' own Labour Day, at the Görli. Let's unite with them and build up resistances. Let's try – maybe in doing so we will get our bodies back, and cease to be just voices...

Bobok. Bobok. Bobok. Bobok. Bobok

Bright and sobering daylight shines on the intersection of Volksbühne and Alexanderplatz, where the city as prey meets tendencies of a state as prey. The party that's been going on between all the gravestones disperses. The ghosts finally vanish. Liza has abandoned Koka and run off with Arkady. Vasya is left on his own. Nothing has helped. He keeps struggling every day, 60 hours per week, he is even ready to perform the act hey great atmosphere and fun while he's selling hamburgers. No property has fallen into his possession. He just wants to be happy, no matter what the world around him looks like. But then he thinks about the rent. Until he will finally crock up, emotionally exhausted. Until he will have gone insane “out of gratitude”. The water is heating up. The frog sits in the glass. Smiling.

Text Sebastian Kaiser, translation Bettina Seifried