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A cock of one’s own

Freud, Butler, the French and the Germans are all with us here. No, it's not a game of Cluedo. It's Bruce LaBruce's take of Arnold Schönberg's Pierrot Lunaire, a thoughtful bit of engaging entertainment.

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Photo by David Baltzer

Bruce LaBruce’s Pierrot Lunaire: Dreimal sieben Gedichte aus Albert Girauds ‘Pierrot lunaire’ (“Pierrot Lunaire: Three times Seven Poems from Albert Giraud’s ‘Pierrot lunaire’”) opens with the lead, played by Susanne Sachsse dressed as a hyper-futuristic version of a Neukölln teenage boy, making out with his girlfriend, Maria Ivanenko, dressed as a Jem and the Holograms’ Misfit, for what seems like eons. At least the costumes by Zaldy were fetching enough. Until the onstage band begins to play, you wonder whether it will ever end, but fortunately, during the rest of the close to one hour play, nothing else stays in one place for too long (not even gender) and if you blink, you’ll miss out on being exposed to the fun.

Pierrot Lunaire is Bruce LaBruce’s modern retelling of the 1912 melodrama by Arnold Schönberg, itself a selection of 21 poems from Albert Giraud’s French poem cycle of the same name. Judith Butler would have a field day with this copy of a copy – its all about gender with a typical Freudian touch. LaBruce creates a kind of fashionable reminder for us that Freud’s influence is still with us and even more so today, post the queer theory explosion of the 1990s.

The star of the show is undoubtedly (and accordingly billed as) Susanne Sachsse – who imprinted herself on all of us as Gudrun in LaBruce’s The Raspberry Reich and as LaBruce’s muse – as she jumped, ran, shrieked and chopped her voice through the 21 poems in German all over Vera Rubenbauer’s dark, sharp and industrial stage set. She takes the manic man with reverse castration anxiety to levels of teenage angst impressive for someone cast as a mother in 2001. Her character’s search for a cock of his own (after being “exposed” by his girlfriend’s father as not a “real” boy) takes us through the machismo, forgive-the-pun cockiness of youth, then despair, then deviousness and violence and finally triumph. This is all handled with the kind of humor one would expect from a Bruce LaBruce production.

Sachsse’s character is accompanied by Luizo Vega, a hard-bodied and talented dancer dressed (at first) in rubber, who becomes/is the lead’s shadow self as a kind of imagined ultimate man. Vega moves elegantly and is certainly eye-candy. In a theater full of gay men, he makes for a tempting distraction, but again, Sachsse steals most of the show, save for some rather exposed moments.

The play delivers on a visual and intellectual level in a charming, colloquial way. It’s something that’s thoughtful and executed with depth, but can definitely just be taken in as an evening’s entertainment.

Words to the (un)wise though – the play is in German and is accompanied with brief surtitles high overhead that act like intertitles in a silent film. They are sparse and important but not a direct translation, so the audience might never be sure when to pay attention to the screen and therefore might miss something. Subtitle reading on film is much easier.

And those on the main floor of HAU should think strategically, if they can, about where they sit… the big payoff could end up looking like a censored black bar if the person in front of you is slightly too tall – you’ll be searching for a cock of your own as well.