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Sex, drugs and iambic pentameter

Stefan Pucher's take on a Shakespeare classic makes the already surreal Twelfth Night even more absurd, with a modern vibe featuring video projections and strange machinery. See it this Sun, Apr 26 at the Deutsches Theater.

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Photo by Arno Declair

As the world’s most produced playwright, Shakespeare has become a sort of benchmark for directors around the world to animate their individual interpretations. Stefan Pucher takes the 400-year-old comedy Twelfth Night, or What You Will, and pushes it further into the realm of the absurd with an über-modern makeover characterised by a futuristic, pop-arty tone and lashings of raw sexuality in his production of Was Ihr Wollt.

The plot remains the same, with a shipwrecked and forlorn Viola disguising herself as a boy called Cesario to work for the Duke Orsino after being intrigued by romantic stories. A deluded love triangle ensues, with Viola’s real identity unbeknownst to Orsino – whom she falls in love with – who is himself in love with Olivia – who falls in love with Cesario. Pucher chooses stark ways of conveying the themes of love, gender, sexuality, and the blurry lines between them, culminating in the cast dressing up as naked versions of their opposite sexes – both a fresh visualisation of the play’s motifs, and an extension of the Shakespearean cross-gender casting tradition. The bizarre sub-plot sees a creepy Malvolio ducttaping his own nipples in a lusty haze, and a pair of boozy transvestites exchanging blowjobs whilst spewing up alcohol.

The comic madness is exaggerated by the phantasmagoric video projections and stage mechanics – complete with a flying submarine and a band that floats around the stage for the occasional re-worked pop song – as well as adding to the perplexity of the already confusing narrative. Book your tickets for your fix of Berlin-appropriate Bard. 

TWELFTH NIGHT (WAS IHR WOLLT) Apr 26, May 24 and 31, 18:00 | Deutsches Theater, Schumannstr. 13, Mitte, S-Bhf Friedrichstr. (English surtitles) 

Originally published in issue #137, April 2015