Das Licht im Kasten
(STRASSE? STADT? NICHT MIT MIR!)
From baroque vanitas art to Vogue covers, from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to H&M posters of a bikini-clad Gisele Bündchen in the lightboxes of underground stations, from rags to haute couture: Elfriede Jelinek’s text, which is as hilariously funny as it is deeply sad, examines the phenomenon of fashion. She picks up themes of her play “Die Straße. Die Stadt. Der Überfall.”, weaves them together in a completely new texture and persistently pursues and escalates them to achieve a breathtakingly dense structure. The silent script of clothing – describing and surrounding people “as if it did not dare touch their red-hot core” – is transformed by Jelinek into a wild frenzy of speaking, which effortlessly switches from expensive designer pieces to cheap mass products for which workers in sweatshops pay a horrendous price. The author combines orgies with fashion (industry) victims, outlet stores and online shopping, contrasts concepts of femininity with male fantasies, points to the intersections of ecology and economy and interlinks antique myths, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Heidegger’s concept of Being and Time with modern body culture, selfie madness and the longing for a perfect life, even as one’s own life clock keeps ticking away. What we see is an endless return of the same, in changing forms, and hence “Das Licht im Kasten” uses its seemingly banal subject to pose the fundamental question of the essence of our naked existence.
Elfriede Jelinek (*1946, raised in Vienna) received a thorough musical education from an early age. She began studying piano and composition at the Vienna Conservatory in 1960 and after her graduation in 1964 went on to study art history and theatre at the University of Vienna. She abandoned her studies in 1967 and began to write, becoming one of the most significant contemporary authors in German-language literature. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2004.
Together with his cast, director Johannes Ender explores the interplay of fashion and death. He focuses on Jelinek’s powerful language as the physical expression of the actors/speakers. The characters’ obligation to speak collides with orchestrated speechlessness. A thrilling examination of the cliché “fine feathers make fine birds”.