BWW Review: THE MAN OUTSIDE at Tmu-na Theatre - A Fascinating Combination of Misery and Philosophy
This German play, written by Wolfgang Borchert, was written back in 1946 but it didn't get to the Israeli stages up until now. This fact might come as a surprise since it deals with an issue which is highly relevant to the Israeli audience: A soldier who's coming back from the war and finds out that he lost everything he had and every door is closed to him.
Beckmann returns to his home in Hamburg after WW2 and finds his wife in the arms of another man. He decides to jump to the Elbe River in order to end his life, but so unwanted is he that even the river rejects him. This leads Beckmann to a journey from one closing door to another:
He meets a girl who dresses him in her husband's clothes. Her husband is an MIA soldier but then he surprisingly returns home on crutches. It turns out that it is due to a military command of Beckmann that he lost his leg.
Beckmann goes to visit his previous commander and tries to blame the deaths of his friends on him but the commander makes fun of him and doesn't take his allegations seriously.
His attempt to work in a cabaret is also denied after Beckmann sings a war song at the audition. Even after Beckmann explains that this is the truth, the cabaret director replies: "Truth has nothing to do with art".
Rejected and exhausted, Beckmann sees a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a woman who wants him, but the light appears too late.
Although Borchert wrote this play about A German soldier coming home from Russia after the Battle of Stalingrad in WW2, it might as well could be the story of every soldier who was ever sent to war by his country only to be ignored after his return.
Borchert also wrote a subtitle for his play: "A play that no theatre wants to perform and no audience wants to see" because of the sensitive times after WW2, when this play was published. But even in 2017 some people rather see only the heroic contribution made by the soldiers, but when they come back home, sometimes mentally and physically damaged, and need to start their lives from the beginning, they find themselves rejected by their country and society.
This joined production of Tmu-na Theatre and Goethe-Institut gives this play the appropriate theatrical atmosphere that the director Matthias Gehrt brilliantly managed to create through the use of almost each of our senses.
First of all, The entire space (designed by Aya Bakh) is a complete work of art by itself. The use of a large pipe structure from which actual water are dripping throughout the performance has a big contribution to the visual aspect of this production. There are also some other symbolic items that are always on the stage but get to be used according to the location of each scene.
Secondly, There are the smells that waft from the stage and add to the decaying atmosphere that surrounds Beckmann's life. I'm not sure if this was done on purpose or was it just a side effect to the use of some items on the stage, but it surely helped delivering us the feeling this play was trying to make us feel.
Another aspect is the sound design (the music of The Doors) which is mainly shown during Beckmann's audition at the cabaret. In the original play he is singing just two lines from a gloomy war song called "Tapfere Kleine Soldatenfrau" (Soldier's brave little wife).
In this production Beckmann gives a very passionate and meaningful performance by singing "The Unknown Soldier" by The Doors, in a brilliant artistic choice for this adaptation of the play. The main line in this song is "It's all over for the unknown soldier" and Beckmann sings his heart out through those lyrics, but still gets a refusal.
According to the director people want something encouraging, and even if Beckmann's performance gives the truth, the truth has nothing to do with art.
This scene uses ars poetica and it also might be the most important scene in this play as I see it. The creators know that people go to the theatre but no matter how meaningful the play is, they'll probably go back to their everyday lives the next day.
What this production is trying to say is: "Look how far we've gone just to show you in plenty of theatrical elements how miserable and worthless Beckmann's life is. So please keep this feeling inside you even after leaving the theatre, because there are actual people out there that live their lives that way and even worse".
And there's of course the amazing and talented cast that managed to give us the authentic and realistic look of the story alongside the symbolic aspects that surround this play, such as the characters of The Old Man (that symbolizes god), The Elbe River and The Other.
Alon Openhaim, who leads this cast in the role of Beckmann, is doing a tremendous work throughout this play and gives his character the correct amounts of anger and energy within the feeling of misery and helplessness he succeeds in showing us with his enormous talent.
It is indeed a very philosophic theatrical event that was smartly created in a way that can't leave the audience indifferent to what they have just witnessed.
Written by: Wolfgang Borchert
Translator: Gad Kaynar-Kissinger
Director: Matthias Gehrt
Set Designer: Aya Bakh
Costume Designer: Liron Minkin
Lighting Designer: Amir Castro
Music: The Doors
Assistant Director: Mor Lidor
Cast: Alon Openhaim, Dori Engel, Maya Har Zion, Yael Nivron, Eyal Shecter
For tickets and further information click here.
Photos: Dan Ben Ari