Coproduction with the Salzburg Festival
The scene is a battlefield. And the two main characters are warriors and lovers at the same time: Penthesilea and Achilles. Only as spoils of war can the proud Amazon win the Greek commander as a man. But their ecstasy ends deadly. For both: "A kiss, a bite, the two should rhyme, for one who truly loves with all her heart can easily mistake them". The new production by Johan Simons in an adaptation by Vasco Boenisch focuses the core of Heinrich von Kleist's famous drama on only these two actors: Penthesilea and Achilles. Duel and Duet.
The production starring Sandra Hüller and Jens Harzer, which premiered as a coproduction at the Salzburg Festival in July 2018, was enthusiastically received by audiences and critics. The FAZ calls it a "great success"; "modern and timeless", judges Deutschlandfunk radio; the Süddeutsche Zeitung saw a "shimmering composition", "radical body theatre" the Austrian Standard, and Die Welt wrote: "As simple as it is magnificent".
Why only two people?
Johan Simons: Actually, there are of course many more people in Penthesilea. An army of Amazons and an army of Greeks. We focus on the two people in the center because it makes the story much more personal and much more universal. It's an eternal fight. A battle of gender. And words are their weapons. That's very modern, too. This play is about misunderstandings. But: it is also about a disproportion between man and woman. I can certainly understand why Penthesilea reacts so strongly against Achilles. And if you ask me: loving and killing, how does that work together? Then I say: that is possible together, yes, it is possible.
What can you tell about the actors?
Johan Simons: Sandra Hüller, who has become an international film star ("Toni Erdmann"), but with whom I have been working for more than ten years, is the ideal cast for Penthesilea. Because she can be beautiful and ugly at the same time, not outwardly, but from the deepest soul. And completely unpretentious. And Achilles is played by Jens Harzer, also a great actor, who pervades the language completely, thinking and playing.
What does Kleist mean to you?
Johan Simons: It is my second production of a play by Heinrich von Kleist. It strikes me as a Dutchman that Kleist needs four sentences, where a writer today would need a thousand sentences. This should not be a judgement about quality, but it says a lot about the speed of the time in which we live.
Deutsch mit englischen Übertiteln.