A play that moves. At first glance, a simple story, yet after a while, I realised, not so simple after all. The themes of Bernhard Bilek’s play “Trümmerherz” are age-old: love, jealousy, friendship, heartache, and also: sexual attraction, longing, deception, violence, gender, the spoils of war, society. There are so many layers in this story by Bernhard Bilek, it keeps going around in my brain. I had the privilege of photographing a final rehearsal before the premiere and can therefore share some photos from the performance.
I was left in awe of the overall design and choreography – the actors emerge from the dark of the minimalist stage in beautifully matched pastel colours, skirts swaying, silky sheen on the men´s outfits, where masculine somehow meets feminine. The “boogie-woogie” is stylized, with the actors moving in slow motion, sensually, to the haunting music by Nadine Abado. The acting is fantastic, the characters are real, believable. The script is brilliant, chronicling personal stories of the post-war era in a particular milieu in Vienna (let “Prater” be a hint) through short scenes that weave back and forth through time, in an almost cinematic way.
Without providing too many spoilers, a bit about the play´s content: Rudi lives in a small apartment in Vienna with her widowed mother. Her father was killed by the Nazis as a communist resistance fighter. Now she is losing her sister Mitzi, a second mother figure to her, because Mitzi is moving to America with an occupation soldier. Rudi is torn between two suitors, one – apparently – more honest and well-meaning than the other. But are things what they seem?
“Trümmerherz” is based on biographical episodes of the author Bernhard Bilek’s grandmother. The production deconstructs theatrical, gender, socio-political and historical discourses that have had an impact from the 1950s to the present day.
The women are strong in this story, a mother who scolds, but who also supports, a sister who sticks up for her sibling, a young girl who is easily seduced by a womanising charmer but who nevertheless finds her own way. The men are conflicted characters, neither saint nor villain, with feelings they are not sure of. As a viewer I wanted to take sides, but could not, in the end, nothing was as clear as it seemed at first. Broken hearts, still beating, on all sides.
I loved the total work of art that this staging turns out to be, and for those in Vienna and able to follow a play in German, I really strongly recommend it.
Apart from the play itself, I was also invited to join an Instawalk with Instagramers Vienna that explores the milieu (“Praterleben“) in which the play is set.
The InstaWalk took us to the Prater, which is also of central importance in the play. The InstaWalk partnership between Instagramers Vienna and WERK X-Petersplatz focuses on exclusive access to a current theatre production and thus background information and history on the themes of the play. The area around Petersplatz 1 is included in the dramaturgy of the InstaWalks, which are led by the tour guide Patrizia Reidl. Birgit Wagner, WERK X communications expert provides tips and tricks to ensure that the joint photo walk is also visually captured in the best possible way. Afterwards there is the possibility to watch the respective performance (free of charge). Tour and performances are in German.
About the play:
Staging: Martina Gredler
Composition and live music: Nadine Abado
Equipment and costume: Moana Stemberger
Choreography: Daniela Mühlbauer
Director and production assistant: Alexandra Fierascu
Text, production and communication management: Bernhard Bilek
The play´s director Martina Gredler and the author Bernhard Bilek founded the Wiener*innen Wahnsinn association, which sees itself as a “project platform for women, queer and non-binary defined artists”, with a focus on Austrian contemporary history after 1945 from a queer-feminist perspective View; “Trümmerherz” is their first joint production.
Premiere was on Thu 12 May 2022, other performances on 14 May, 15 May, 19 May, 20 May and 21 May at 7:30 pm (in German)
All photos © Karin Svadlenak-Gomez
P.S. I have to say it – “free advertising”, I am not getting paid by anybody to write this.