Return of a legend

Vienna’s 8th district has a rich theatrical history. Its biggest stage is Theater in der Josefstadt.
The highlight of the Josefstadt season will be the return of Claus Peymann to Vienna. The German director and theatre manager will stage ‘Der deutsche Mittagstisch’ (the title translates as ‘the German lunch table’ or ‘German lunch special’), a series of minidramas by Thomas Bernhard, in June. The collaboration of Peymann and Bernhard, who died in 1989, has gone down in Austrian theatre history: In 1988, Peymann – then the artistic director of Vienna’s venerable Burgtheater – commissioned and directed Bernhard’s controversial play ‘Heldenplatz’ that looked at the continuing legacy of National Socialist ideas in Austrian society exactly fifty years after Nazi Germany annexed the country. Angry protests even before the premiere sparked the biggest theatre scandal in Austrian post-war history.

And now Peymann returns to serve the ‘soup where nothing but Nazis surface once you eat it up’ at the very venue that back then he called ‘Vienna’s boring, snoring theatre.’

It will be interesting to see his current take on the author: ‘Bernhard still stings. He must still sting. It is unthinkable that even he should ultimately be consumed as a mere dessert.’ The play is scheduled to premiere on 4 June.

Two other premieres have had to be postponed due to the coronavirus: ‘Visit of an Unknown Woman,’ Oscar winner Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of a short story by Stefan Zweig; and Hermann Bahr’s 1909 comedy ‘The Concert.’

At the ‘Josefstadt Talks’ on 17 May, Hannelore Veit and David Kriegsleder will present their upcoming book about the USA as a divided country. The US correspondents of Austria’s public service broadcaster ORF have spoken with Trump supporters and opponents, with big city dwellers and residents of rural areas, with those who feel ignored by politicians in Washington and others who experience racism on a daily basis. Their book is a critical yet empathetic account of current US society.

In addition to its leading theatre, Vienna’s smallest district also boasts several comedy venues. Kabarett Niedermair is renowned for featuring both established comedians and regularly showcasing new talents as well. This spring, women take centre stage: RaDeschnig have long won the hearts of critics and audiences alike. Their unique mix of music and humour has earned the twin sisters from the south of Austria rave reviews: ‘fresh, zeitgeisty, fantastically funny and super smart.’ And Mika Blauensteiner from Vienna is hailed as a ‘new star on the German-speaking comedy scene.’

Meanwhile, ‘The adventures of Pericles,’ a spectacle for two actors based on Shakespeare’s play, has been a long-running success at Klettenheimers KleinKunstCafé.

THEATER IN DER JOSEFSTADT. Josfestädter Straße 26. +43 1 42700-300.

KABARETT NIEDERMAIR. Lenaugasse 1a. +43 1 408 44 92.

KLETTENHEIMERS KLEINKUNSTCAFÉ. Lederergasse 17a. +43 1 4025478.

issue 01/2020