Peter Zadek in conversation with Jürgen Flimm Between Clowning and Protest. The elephant dances

Peter Zadek, Jürgen Flimm
8. October
11:00 am
every seat
5 €

Billa lingers in ones memory. Red jumper, short hair, Billa could be a sister of Zadek's Lulu. Or an early Lola. She runs through a North German birch avenue. Again and again she tries taking a run up, dashing forward head first; and every time only for a short distance. Then she comes about, and starts out on a short sprint once more. She loves Jochen, the I-elephant of the film's title. At some point one sees the two of them having sex at one of those my-parents-are-away-lets-have-party-happenings of the 60s.
The film I’m an Elephant, Madame is a double portrait. One of them deals with Germany, the other is of Peter Zadek. While in the first scenes it still looks like a classic of the »Paukerfilm« genre, with shrill school bells and teachers looking like party apparatchiks, it then moves ever further away until finally it turns into a furious comment on the Germanyof the APO or extraparliamentary opposition. The language is APO German – a strange, affected mixture of academic vocabulary and emotionally charged language that was oriented against "bullshit Germany". The film tells the story of a youthful partisan. Again and again various groups are positioned frontally before the camera: the teaching staff, the school class, a cohort of policemen, a group of diners. table community. Images of counter-cultures are intercut between these tableaux scenes: the artist's colony in Worpswede, a student pool party, a street battle.
Perhaps it was all merely invented, Billa, the birch avenue, the shy sex, the entire endless palaver about individuals and society. Perhaps Peter Zadek only started the whole film just so as to film this one scene: Jochen Rull, alias Big Chief Old Hat, performs a wild, ecstatic St. Vitus’s dance on the market square in Bremen– the bourgeois living room par excellence in the doll's house that is Germany. The camera shows the uninterrupted row of traditional gabled houses, the resemblance to a stage set is no coincidence. The helpless cohorts of police look on questioningly. What is recognizable is that people were still unfamiliar with artistic action taking place in public space. And, that in the theatre as in life there can be no other path to being, than that through play and pretence.
At the time, Zadek had to put up with fierce criticism from the left for his game of Red Indians inBremencity centre. He was, they said, only interested in the aesthetics of youth rebellion, in the amusing and adolescently silly aspects and not in its social pressure and antagonisms. The student movement as a schoolboy prank, as clownery – some saw that as too harmless, others as too reactionary. But this in itself provoked Zadek greatly. What interested him about opposition and theorising was questionability. He was suspicious of any grouping from the moment it began to form, »because one has to exclude the complicated and clever, if one is to achieve anything as a collective«. Bremen's market square as a playhouse –  that was the offer he made to German youth, whose self-pity and jeremiads he was unable to bear.
The elephant dances. The combination of sensationalist behaviour and fine feeling, an existence in the public eye as armour protecting a vulnerable subjectivity, a petulantly indifferent tone, a precise sensitivity in his observation, this combination was to be a defining and winning strength. After returning in the 50s, Peter Zadek, the son of Jewish emigrants, saw West Germany through the eyes of an outsider. He has provoked and decisively influenced the political and aesthetic culture of the German-speaking theatre from the viewpoint of a stranger.

The RuhrTriennale is devoting one of its main programme features to the works of one of the greatest adventurers, provocateurs and troublemakers in German theatre. Director Peter Zadek has gone down in theatre history as an impresario whose periods of tenure stand out: Bochum(1972 to 1975), Hamburg(1985 to 1989), Berlin(1993 to 1995). As someone who is artistically active in all fields, he has always remained an individualist. He remains to this day, a master at engaging the theatre public’s imagination and attention.  He founded his own independent theatre production company in spring 2005.

from 19 August, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum
Admission is free. Open during performances.

The series, Works: Peter Zadek is supported by Stfitung Pro Bochum.