Unquestionable Clarity

It's impressive how suddenly Kafka can seem so simple, yet so many people rack their brains over his texts every day. The ensemble of Schule.Spiel.Theater from Oldenburg has provided a lot of clarity, Jannika thinks.

The play Zutritt gesucht!? only lasts a good thirty minutes. Great, I think to myself, then I can go home relatively early today and finally sleep eight hours again. And with a text based on Kafka, I probably won't understand what it's all about anyway, so maybe I can just sleep during the play (just kidding, of course, the FZ editors would never ... ). What I didn't expect was the energy and presence of the Oldenburg ensemble.

Right at the beginning, I’m noticing that one person is already on stage while the audience is still talking and settling into their seats. I wonder how many people besides me are aware of this. From the beginning I am very attentive, because I immediately feel the unspoken request: Listen to us now. And I do listen, from the moment the play begins until the end. I listen, I let myself be affected by the presence of the players, I am completely present and let myself get involved in the world that they are opening up for themselves on stage. What I am shown is an extraordinarily clever interweaving of texts, languages, conflicts and emotions. There are moments of confusion (about bureaucratic absurdities), anger (at the powerlessness), fear (of a system that arbitrarily denies people opportunities), joy (over real snow).

In this context, Kafka's text Das Schloss in its dividedness offers a projection surface for fears and doubts: on the one hand, what happens is described very clearly: K. arrives in a village with a castle where he would like to stay and work, but he is denied entry and work. On the other hand, it is not at all clear why all these things happen to him and what is expected of him. K. is fed information that is irrelevant to his situation. He is treading water, getting nowhere, even when it seems like something is finally happening. When he is offered help, he realizes that even the villagers don't really know what is going on in the castle. Why everyone else just accepts this bureaucratic and incomprehensible system is beyond K.'s understanding. One of the most impressive parts of the play for me is one where I can't really tell anymore if it is a demand of K. or one of the ensemble, but it almost doesn't matter anymore, because it is so strongly voiced that I can't escape it: The players stand on stage, facing the audience, and demand in all clarity: I want respect from you!

In this way, text passages from Kafka are cleverly combined with texts by the ensemble. The latter are about the arrival in Germany, the first days at school, fearful dreams and real snow. The mood from Kafka's Schloss - this uncertainty, the powerlessness, the impotence - is transferred to the reality of life of many people newly arriving in Germany, without it seeming performative or artificial. For the accusations that are formulated in the piece take place primarily on an emotional level. What comes across to me is: look how inhumanly you treat me, look how broken your system is. What comes across to me is: You are part of this system, why do you allow this? What comes across to me is: I am a human being who deserves to live a life that is not marked by bureaucratic hurdles and rejection. And all of this is formulated subtly, yet clearly at the same time, between the lines and yet very directly, similar to Kafka's Schloss. There is an urgency that comes across to me, caused primarily by the stage presence and energy of the performers. The cleverly designed stage also contributes to this feeling, its simplicity contrasting with the obscure reality of K.'s life and thus offering an undoubted clarity.

Just like Kafka's text, the stage provides a space for projection (literally, as walls, skies, and stacks of paper are projected onto the screens on stage) – and a place where these emotions and experiences are given agency, where they are processed, confronted, and perceived by outsiders. All the while, the actors have a power that doesn't make me doubt for a moment that what is being played out on stage is real; that all these emotions have their justification and that I need to fucking listen. What is being shown here is important. What is being shown here must not be glossed over. What is being shown here must not be drowned out. Except maybe by the applause, which is powerful.