Thursday, July 04, 2013

Players and Gamblers

Volksbühne, Dostojewskij/Castorf : "Der Spieler", picture by Thomas Aurin

My last week was packed with Players and Gamblers. First I saw "Gangsterläufer", the fantastic documentary/portrait Christian Stahl made of Berlin Neuköllns little boss Yehya, sun of Palestinian refugees and a selfmade Gangster. He is such a Player. Smart and sporty, living a life made of fragments of videogames including hustle, prison, streetfights and "Call of Duty". Stahl partly uses a musicvideo like cutting served with lovely music to romantify some hoodrunning action. Yehya´s smile is killing it, reflecting about crime he has done, talking to his Therapist or Guardian in prison. He did fail brutally. But somehow you just want to like him, because he is funny, charming and fearless. As you know since you are witness of a scene, where Yehya dominates a confrontation with other prisoners. The big question above his life is: Will he stop betraying while playing? (And does he feel empathy with his victims, I really don´t know!) He seems to like the gambling, the hope of gaining the next level. But he is lacking any perspectives beyond Neukölln. His father, a former succesfully selfmade business man, has not been allowed to work in Germany since he has arrived. For more than fourteen years! A simple but maybe to easy to make guess would be, that his supressed energy and self-confidence seeks its expression through the desparately beautyful body- and fighting-action his suns are so addicted to. As beeing the player and committing crime is easy to Yehya, it became a big part of his identity. He plays, therefore he is. If society was Yehyas playground, maybe he would rule.
Very different to Dostojewskijs "Der Spieler" Alexey Iwanowitsch, whom I had the pleasure to see presented by Castorf, performed by Alexander Scheel at the theatre Volksbühne Berlin. Klamauk at its best, but suiting the topic of fever, that heats up your brain while gambling. Over the top acting, close to falling. Every emotion awakening in the familymembers, all in money-trouble, waiting for the rich aunt to die to let the heritage save them, is turned into gambling. They don´t like each other, they play each other, as a proof of love they try to win.The whole stage circles, all set ups are surrounding the casino in the middle, which we only get to see on videoscreens. The casino as a Heterotopos, where redemption is still possible, no matter what you have done.
And again, the beauty of gambling has become a cultural element, aesthetically idealised by videos and neonlight. Alexey, the Alter Ego of  gambler (Roulette) Fjodor Dostojewskij himself, is excited close to bursting. Not only because of the chance of winning, but because he has to loose something. All his feelings he and society have turned into money into Zero. Does Yehya have to loose something? I hope Yehya grows. And I recommend the documentary.

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