Diary Note 42: 1000 Serpentinen Angst

28 VIII 2021

Gorki: 1000 serpentinen angst

Nach dem Roman von Olivia Wenzel

The mood of a generation is eagerly sought after and therefore overstated. Slight differences may statistically not make sense. It may color a youth period of 10 or 20 years, but not shape it. I myself was a child of the war, others might become children of the beat generation; but were these generations uniformly beat-like or war-formed?

 Yet with all these hesitation I yesterday evening had a feeling, the intuition, of sensing the mood of young people. Not directly. But indirectly transmitted by art and affirmed by an audience. In a play, that for me was only anecdotal, the young audience seemed to recognize itself or its moment.

The play had the puzzling name 1000 serpentines angst, which by itself projects two images. On the one hand the vague omnipresence of menace, on the other hand the feeling of impotence and the wish to flee. This piece of theatre by a black female director had little structure and resembled rather the clippings of a novel or a photo-album, than a drama anchored in or on action. Big events were always atomized into subjective experiences. The main figure of interest was an East German young woman who became pregnant by a black worker from Africa, somewhere in the past, and who is only partially remembered by her children and grandchildren. In the end somebody expresses the wish that all three generations will dance together: as 15 years-old teenagers. The main male protagonist, half of a twin, commits suicide. And that itself has no wider importance.

So why does a well-educated and youthful audience cheer a dismal and defeatist, clueless and action-less play?

It must be the vague intimation of a loss of control. Racism or sexism can be easily indicated as central motives, but they are not really defined and explained, and will only vaguely mean negative opportunities, or opportunities for negativity.

The play was an extract or excerpt of a novel, recently published and acclaimed. It was rendered on the stage in a purely formalistic manner, as floating sentences or snapshots, within a visual framework of abstractions. Like a circle or a tube. Or on the floor mirroring puddles, like a melting watch by Salvador Dali. The phrases were hardly acted, just spoken, sometimes unisono.

The most active were two children playing a game of creeping up from behind and frightening each other by a sudden touch.