More than watching

by Laura

Already during the warm-up exercises together with the audience it becomes clear that in "WIR SIND HIER!" by the youth theater RomaTrial from Berlin more is required than just watching. The audience gets loud under the guidance of one of the performers, is reminded of their own voice and that it is now to be used.

The actual piece begins with dance interludes that contrast with the music, which tends to be very moving and charged. The performers, however, move in a controlled manner, do not seem to be disturbed by the sound - only to then break up this solemnity again with almost slapstick-like, playful interludes. Everyday scenes of discrimination are depicted, the first Roma World Congress is shown and that derogatory terms are replaced by "Sinti" and "Roma". A speech is re-enacted that was given at the opening of the Sinti and Roma memorial in Berlin - and again and again the question is asked: "And, what did it achieve? - NOTHING." "What about Serbia and Macedonia?" is asked as the memorial is inaugurated in Berlin. A video is projected onto a screen; it is one of those educational videos familiar from history lessons that present historical facts in a consumable way. The interjection "where were the brave women?" shows again that the symbolic process of coming to terms with the past of official bodies has so far brought nothing, that it shows too little of the reality of everyday life, that it does not go far enough.

During the performance, the stage does not change - nothing leaves or appears, the props and performers can be seen all the way from the warm-up exercise up to the final applause, which also shows "WIR SIND HIER!". In my opinion, this is a sign of great strength - in the play as well as the performers, because they show themselves, bring their own traumatizing experiences to the stage, demand action, ask for ideas, do educational work. To do this work as a person affected should not be taken for granted. The preparation of information in the play is very accessible; as an audience member, you can process what you have seen earlier during the dance interludes, and the difficult things are made a little more digestible with jokes - without simplifying them. Nevertheless, the play demands more of the audience than just sitting there and consuming theater: There is no plot to cling to, no character development, but changing scenes, sometimes personal and biographical, sometimes factual and historical, sometimes emotional and appellative. As a spectator, I am confronted in a guided way, and I am challenged, since constant positioning is demanded of me: Do I laugh when it is suggested to deport Germans? Do I feel uncomfortable? Am I ashamed of being German?

I particularly liked the idea of the podium and the symbol of the federal eagle on it. As a speech is reenacted, in which former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt acknowledges the genocide of Sinti and Roma by the Nazis, he stands on these boxes, which represent the interest of the state, but look homemade. It is indicative of the tone of criticism in this piece that even the props humorously-subtly, yet clearly convey, "You put yourselves on your own pedestal - and what good did it do?"

I also imagine this to be incredibly tedious and exhausting, to address one's own marginalization and consternation over and over again, to appeal to others, to mediate, to have to endure even insensitive comments from the audience, and to still moderate a talk confidently.

I ask myself, where do the performers get this strength? How do they manage, despite everything, to make jokes about the fact that Deutsche Bahn wants to the Sinti and Roma memorial because, unfortunately, they need the space for tracks? Perhaps irony and humor is exactly what is needed here as protection after the terrorist attack in Hanau was depicted and the names were mentioned: Gökhan Gültekin, Sedat Gürbüz, Said Nesar Hashemi, Mercedes Kierpacz, Hamza Kurtović, Vili Viorel Păun, Fatih Saraçoğlu, Ferhat Unvar and Kaloyan Velkov. After that, the play must be continued. It is the "In spite of" that constantly resonates here for me, the continuing on and fighting on.