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Stage review

Beyond Caring: Voyeuristic pleasures at Schaubühne

★ ★ ★ ★ A microscopic snapshot into hopelessness, with plenty of detail.

The cast of Beyond Caring at Schaubühne. Photo: Gianmarco Bresadola

British playwright Alexander Zeldin’s documentary theatre piece is a microscopic snapshot into hopelessness – but don’t let that put you off. Three temp workers join permanent employee Michael (Kay Bartholomäus Schulze) and the ultimate toxic boss Jan (Damir Avdic) in scrubbing clean a sausage factory.

Michael, who has been cleaning the factory for two years, likes crime novels, and reads his book aloud to the other workers during breaks. The merciless Jan likes to chew gum, talk over his workers, micromanage and essentially boot one of them out of the factory when she attempts to sleep on a bench.

One of the workers, Ava (Hêvîn Tekin), has been sent from the job centre. Sonja’s (Jule Böwe) nervousness and sheer desperation shines through. Becky’s (Julia Schubert) scene where her screaming is literally drowned out by pounding drum and bass is powerful, the acting sublime.

All the workers are united through their desperation for money and complete absence of aspirations. There is talk of a possible permanent contract for a single worker at the end, but of course, who would aspire to have such a job? It is the only glimmer of hope in an otherwise landscape devoid of dreams. This is voyeurism done to perfection.

As the lights shut off and the scenes change, more gruesome meat factory equipment is schlepped out. It’s the details and the hyper-realism that make this piece special – all wrapped up in a climax of a desperate minute-long shag. The play is so brutally honest, it couldn’t be anything else. ★★★★