Zwei auf einer Bank
by Alexander Gelman
Translated from Russian by Regine Kühn
Adapted for the Schaubühne by Amalia Starikow and Marilena Pütt
She and He meet on a park bench. At first glance they are strangers, but it transpires they are actually connected by a fleeting encounter in the past. Although they share the desire to escape from their oppressive everyday lives, their attempts at getting closer to one another remain awkward. They use every possible means to tussle for what they purportedly want – for her, this is a reliable partnership for life; for him, a casual sexual escapade. Tragicomically, they try out all the weapons used in ruthless relationship wars, and reveal a web of lies as well as their own imprisonment within life plans that remain unquestioned – all in the sincere attempt to find something in each other which is worth hoping for. Above all, however, they fail to recognise the core of their misfortune, which far exceeds the narrow scope of private relationships—the almost complete collapse of the society and world in which they live.
In his play »Two on a Bench«, written in 1983, Alexander Gelman combined a hetero-pessimistic ode to still vitally important relationships with a subliminal psychological portrait of late Soviet society and a loving, humorous depiction of two people at the mercy of it all. 40 years on, it is more relevant than ever. The sense of powerlessness in the face of impending global catastrophes and the escape from it into private proxy wars are as topical now as they were back then. The specific threats surrounding the characters – an imminent economic collapse, political and social disillusionment, looming nuclear war – remain virtually unchanged.
In this new translation and reworking by Amalia Starikow and Marilena Pütt, the two characters from the Soviet Union of the 1980s find themselves in the future. In a place where the temperature has risen sharply, the poverty is grinding and the dream of eternal progress is dead, Julia Schubert and Damir Avdic struggle as She and He to forge a future worth living in.
Director: Amalia Starikow
Dramaturg: Marilena Pütt
Stage Designer: Simon Lesemann
Costume Designer: Maksim Chernykh
Musican: Taylor Savvy
Premiered on 15 February 2023