Volksbühne Berlin am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz


The Masculine Must Pass
The native cures himself of colonial neurosis by thrusting out the settler through force of arms, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote on the struggle for independence in the French colonies of Northern Africa, Algeria in particular, in the 1960s. Key moments in this interplay of rebellion and brutal suppression were the 1945 riots in Setif and, following years of violent conflicts, the Paris massacre in 1961, which left almost 300 people dead in the heart of the Fifth Republic. For the French philosopher this anti-colonial project, supported by the FLN in Algeria, was the model for an emancipatory, solidarity-based socialism that seemed within reach right in the then non-aligned nations between Belgrade, Cairo, Accra and Jakarta. Sartre advocated violent overthrow and trumpeted a 20th-century “Jacobinism”. In his famous preface to Frantz Fanonエs book The Wretched of the Earth he writes: “For in the first days of the revolt you must kill: to shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time: there remain a dead man, and a free man”.

Goethe's Faust character develops – under Mephistopheles' influence – from an intellectual mind fallen into doubt and despair to a global player and businessman, becoming the prototype of a totalitarian economic world ruler and colonizer whose power is spanning the whole planet. In the end, of course, he will fail, in analogy to the disillusioned scholar who is so deeply dissatisfied with the lack of perspective in his work that he would rather die. His pact with the devil is nothing short of a decision for individual egotism and lack of responsibility towards the rest of the world. For Faust, the pact offers an alternative to suicide providing the gateway to modern market economy principles where private vested interests are the drivers of social development. This kind of Me-First-Above-Anything-and-Anyone-Else scientological attitude becomes his Creed. Faust uses the devil's work for rejuvenation and starts off as a hedonist. He first seduces, then quickly abandons the innocent Gretchen from his neighbourhood; later on he makes the devil beam him back to the times of the Trojan war as he lusts for Helena, the most beautiful woman in the world, whom he first blackmails and then gets married to. Just when good fortune and happiness seem here to stay, their son Euphorion, the eternally fortunate one, dies in an accident, and it is after that accident that Faust develops his true “Faustian” personality. From now on, the only thing that counts is work. He plunges himself into business, wins on power and multiplies the effects a hundredfold by having others carry out his plans. He turns into a modern entrepreneur, a manic workaholic despising to “lie quiet in bed”. True to the original logic of value creation he dries up the ocean to gain land on which hard-working people shall live happily ever after. It could be a utopian communist empire like the GDR was meant to be - or is it plain neoliberal capitalism that not only exhausts people but also systematically blocks out the Mephistophelian question “Why all this drudgery?”

Goethe frames the whole thing as the end of an illusion: the labourers building the dike and the future, who, for blind old Faust still represent hope and a glimpse of “the lovely moment”, are, in fact, the Lemures digging his grave...

The masculine principle of living an active life and efficiency-oriented thought proved highly promising in the early days of capitalism. It seemed a self-evident legitimization. It was, however, flawed from the very beginning. It was an illusion, blind and doomed to failure. The operating logic of neoliberalism has always suffered and will continue to suffer from the same defects. Greedy and expansive in its demand for increased performance and new sales markets, the logic has nevertheless spread across the planet. And there is little evidence of alternative projects based on solidarity. Violence and terror, the instruments of liberation as Sartre liked to think, are in the hands of fundamentalists and narcissists hoping to escape the anonymity and contingency of their existence. These characters are, however, merely the flipside of the coin, and they are operating out of the very metropolises from where the Faustian control once started out. With right-wing nationalism on the rise, and the much-vaunted self-regulating mechanism called the market's “invisible hand” on the decline, capitalism is regressing into the phase of barbarism, like Rosa Luxemburg predicted. Extra-economic coercion and force transform markets into markets of violence and war economies. Instead of the free play of forces and the purifying effects of a market open to all, it is the law of might is right that ensures the functioning of society. The Mephistophelian principle of negation to which Faust, the modern businessman, has subscribed is the very principle of political economy. The spirit of perpetual negation is part of “the power that would always wish Evil and always works the Good”, which was what fascinated Goethe, himself an expert in economics. His position seems ambivalent, though. Goethe sees no alternative, which is why he called the play a tragedy. Faust's alliance with Mephistopheles, the latter a cynical striver for success who can afford to tell the truth, has led to a dead-end –colonisation becoming self-colonisation, pressure to grow, territorial expansion.

Frank Castorf's take on Faust is a sophisticated interpretation, an act of liberation recreating Goethe's radical experiment with form using the aesthetic means of the theatre to seek a way out of the fatal construction of the tragedy. Castorf traces a yearning for absolute love and beauty – the antipodes of the capitalist drive towards efficiency – in the text, as he blends poetry, history and transcendence into the reality of the stage in complex ways. It finally leads to Paris, the city of longing and of the eternal womanly soul, to the metro station Rue Stalingrad. The combination of ingenious theatre aesthetics and historical knowledge accumulated from past experiences give birth to a veritable Volksbühne-Faust at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. It's a mammoth project by confident actors and artists who have trained for 25 years to make it possible. For one last time (?) they will come together to climb Mount Faust. The Masculine is transitory and must pass. The Eternal-Feminine, however, is all-uplifting, drawing us on and upwards.

Text Sebastian Kaiser / Carl Hegemann; translation Bettina Seifried

Duration: 6h 50min, one break


With: Martin Wuttke (Faust), Marc Hosemann (Mephistopheles), Valery Tscheplanowa (Margarete und Helena), Alexander Scheer (Lord Byron und Anaxagoras), Sophie Rois (Die Hexe), Lars Rudolph (Doktor Wagner), Lilith Stangenberg (Meerkatze Satin), Hanna Hilsdorf (Homunculus), Daniel Zillmann (Monsieur Bordenave, directeur du Théâtre des Variétés), Thelma Buabeng (Phorkyade), Frank Büttner (Valentin), Angela Guerreiro (Papa Legba und Baucis), Abdoul Kader Traoré (Baron Samedi & Monsieur Rap rencontrent Aimé Césaire) and Sir Henry (Der Leiermann)

Director: Frank Castorf
Stage: Aleksandar Denic
Costumes: Adriana Braga
Light Design: Lothar Baumgarte
Camera: Andreas Deinert, Mathias Klütz
Video Editing: Jens Crull
Video: Maryvonne Riedelsheimer
Music/Sound: Tobias Gringel, Christopher von Nathusius
Boom Arm: Dario Brinkmann, Lorenz Fischer, William Minke, Cemile Sahin
Dramaturgy: Sebastian Kaiser

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FAUST from Volksbühne Berlin on Vimeo.

FAUST from Volksbühne Berlin on Vimeo.

FAUST from Volksbühne Berlin on Vimeo.

FAUST from Volksbühne Berlin on Vimeo.

Inspiration by

Akira Yamaoka - Devil’s Lyric 2
Sólstafir - Ljós í Stormi
Kow Otani - Hope
Comus - Bitten
Noël Akchoté - Tu Me Plais
Moby - Inside
Blood, Sweat And Tears - Symhony for the Devil
Gustavo Santaolalla - Vanishing Grace (Childhood)
Gustavo Santaolalla - Breathless
Vanilla Fudge - Season of the Witch
Jimmy McGriff - I’ve Got a Women
Tennessee Ernie Ford - Sixteen Tons
Takeshi Furukawa - Sentinel I
Arbouretum - When Delivery Comes
Nneka - Warrior
Poliça - Warrior Lord
Kow Otani - Resurrection
Gustavo Santaolalla - Forgotten Memories
Pink Floyd - Coming Back To Live
Jóhann Jóhannsson - Approaching The Shell
RZA - Triumph (Instrumental)
Assassin - Esclave De Votre Société
Queen Mum - Hell In Paradise
John Coltrane - A Love Supreme, Pt III – Pursuance
Booba - 4G
Antony And The Johnsons - Dust & Water
unbekannt - Blood, Sweat &Tears & When I Die Karaoke
Cowboy Junkies - I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
George London, Kirsten Flagstad, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra - Die Rheintöchter (Weia! Waga! Woge, du Welle!) aus Rheingold (R. Wagner)
Jacques Brel - La Colombe
Opernhaus Zürich 2005, Jonas Kaufmann, Elena Mosuc, Carlo Colombara, Patrick Fournellier - Gounod - Faust
El Hadj M’hamed El Anka - El H’Mam
Sólstafir - Kukl
Baroness - Rays On Pinion
Muslimgauze - Ya
Pothead - Indian Song
Thomas Keemss - Melorhythmatik
Messer Chups - Orgia of Dead 2
Kow Otani - Prayer
Ralph Stanley - O Death
[O-Ton / Ennio Morricone / Gillo Pontecorvo] - [Titel: Film – O-Töne]
The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation - Erotic Love Queen
Monster Magnet - Let the Circus Burn
Gustavo Santaolalla - Infected
Takeshi Furukawa - Panorama
Soft Machine - All White
The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble - Cotard Delusion
Arabic a Seven - Komposition von Lars Rudolph
Tool - Ions
Kow Otani - Idol Collapse
Jason Graves - The Scavenger’s Den
Jasper Van’t Hof / Wayne Krantz - Before Birth (For Joseph Beuys)
Iggy Pop - She Called Me Daddy
Tom Waits - Good Old World (Gypsy Instrumental)
Queens of the Stone Age - I Think I Lost My Headache
Blood, Sweat And Tears - I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know
Crippled Black Phoenix - Fanstastic Justice
Blood, Sweat And Tears - Lucretia Mc Evil
Thomas Newman - In Loco Parentis
Tool - Cesaro Summability
Choi Seung-hyun - A Witch [ad. From Paganini’s Caprice No 24 in a minor, Quasi presto]
Harry Gregson-Williams - Sirens
Jeff Grace - Dane’s Decision
Bill Elm & Woody Jackson - Estancia
Richard Hawley - As The Dawn Breaks
The Small Faces - Flying
The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble - Past Midnight
Nino Rota - I Clowns
The Original Animals - It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
Klaus Lage Band - Faust auf Faust
Blood, Sweat & Tears - Go Down Gambling