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The Rats

Deutsches Theater Berlin
By Gerhart Hauptmann

Directed by Michael Thalheimer
Stage design Olaf Altmann
Costume design Michaela Barth
Music Bert Wrede
Dramaturgy Oliver Reese
Lighting design Henning Streck

Horst Lebinsky Harro Hassenreuter
Barbara Schnitzler Mrs. Hassenreuter
Lotte Ohm Walburga, their daughter
Mathis Reinhardt Erich Spitta
Isabel Schosnig Alice Rütterbusch
Sven Lehmann John
Constanze Becker Ms. John
Niklas Kohrt Bruno Mechelke
Regine Zimmermann Pauline Piperkarcka
Katrin Klein Sidonie Knobbe
Henrike Johanna Jörissen Selma
Michael Benthin Quaquaro

Premiere 6 October 2007
Length 1h 40, no interval

Talk with the audience
Moderation Tobi Müller
Sun 11 Mai 21:30

Michael Thalheimer’s production leaves no room for decent people – the actors are jammed into a wooden press that fills the front of the stage, forcing them to perform with bent heads and backs. All these strangely contorted proportions produce a fitting image of Berlin’s rat-infested tenement attics, and of the oppressive social conditions in Gerhart Hauptmann’s unflinchingly naturalist portrayal. Thus the drama is played out in the slit between two planks of wood: an unfulfilled wish for a baby and the catastrophic decision to steal one, themes which engender timeless tragedy. The actors playing the lower classes use a strong, exaggerated working-class accent which actually hinders our identification and empathy with Frau John’s desperate act and fear of never having a baby, Pauline Piperkarcka’s junkie-like regret, and Bruno’s devious propensity to violence. But the actors – Constanze Becker and Regine Zimmermann, along with Sven Lehmann and Niklas Kohrt – nonetheless perform under immense emotional pressure, with their mouths and eyes like sluices that let the passions run through. Standing right next to them, the theatre director Hassenreuter and the student Spitta hold their dispute about the image of man in art – bohemians they may be, but they are also stooping. Thalheimer neither modernises nor historicises Hauptmann. His production of “Die Ratten” is a dark and expressive portrait of humanity, before which the audience is completely spellbound.