Part 1 of Daniel Brunet’s two-part series Aliens of Extraordinary Abilities places spectators in a dialogue with all manner of Berliners. Or are they ?
The public representation of Berlin street art offers an uncanny insight into the city’s psyche. Adorning a non-descript façade, one such provocative scrawl serves as inspiration for English Theatre Berlin ‘s Daniel Brunet in his documentary theatre piece exploring identity, with the backdrop of an ever undefinable Berlin.
Brunet, born in Syracuse, New York, though just as much a Berliner as the piece would suggest, accompanies a disparate troupe of so-called expats and immigrants in challenging these convenient sobriquets to explore what it really means to be an echter Berliner – a real Berliner.
Candid responses in over 60 real-life interviews of individuals belonging to the ensemble’s varying backgrounds reveal the impossible task of putting a face to Berlin. In this modern, heterogeneous metropolis, one’s outer look may belie an unexpected backstory. Brunet plays with this as a native Israeli (Ariel-Nil Levy) underscores the plight of being a Japanese man in Berlin, much like native Canadian (Lara Babalola’s) distinctive North-American accent has her portraying a U. S. of A. American coming to terms with the German penchant of often speaking to ‘foreigners’ in English.
Deft lighting and angular, dynamic set design provide a fragmented space within which each voice can be carried and given air to enquire the audience of its origin. In so doing, identity is seen as a very individual, yet paradoxically universal part of the human condition.
We all come from somewhere, but we are all headed somewhere as well. This piece is a genuine discovery in the understanding of where ‘wer’ comes from. The answer is inherently personal as the Rollkoffer that descend upon the city transport the emotional baggage of self-definition.
Breaking the fourth wall in the last scene to ask the audience what constitutes a real Berliner is apt and underlies the narrative that one is as much Berliner as one wants to be. National, cultural and ‘official’ markers of identity, though formative, do not an entire individual make. Is Heimat where the heart is ?
Parts 2 of Brunet’s series (Terrain of Threshold Voices) continues the exploration of identity in the multi-faceted urban landscape of Berlin and runs from November 13 – December 7, 2013 at District Kunst- und Kunstförderung, Malzfabrik, Bessemerstrasse 2-14, 12103 Berlin : www.district-berlin.com