Doubters, Believers, Seekers in Literature and Film
SINÉAD CROWE - ‘Das Gefühl des Glaubens’: Religion in the Theatre of Werner Fritsch 137
SINÉAD CROWE ‘Das Gefühl des Glaubens’: Religion in the Theatre of Werner Fritsch In the apparently secular late twentieth century, when most other German playwrights were preoccupied with questions of politics, memory, gender, ethnicity or postmodernity, Werner Fritsch was looking to religion in an attempt to redefine theatre’s place in society. In his programmatic texts, Fritsch drew a parallel between the Eucharist and the ‘flesh and blood’ ontology of theatre in order to assert the latter’s paradoxical ability to give material expression to metaphysical concerns. Railing against the superficiality of late capitalist consumer culture, Fritsch stylised theatre as a surrogate liturgy, claiming that it could fill the spiritual vacuum left in the Western world by the decline of organised religion.1 Ironically, however, Fritsch’s plays exten- sively appropriate traditional religious signs, so that they are parasitic upon the very organised religious forms which they seek to usurp. Most are set in or around the Oberpfalz, the deeply Roman Catholic Bavarian province where Fritsch himself was born and raised, and as such they are littered with biblical allusions and borrowings from the Mass. On stage we find rosary beads, crucifixes and statues of the ‘Muttergottes’, all of which help to create a palpable religious – some might say religiose – atmosphere. Wondreber Totentanz: Traumspiel is, even by Fritsch’s standards, positively drenched in religious signs. The title itself invokes the provincial religiosity of Fritsch’s upbringing, referring to the dance of death fresco painted on the 1 See for example Werner Fritsch, ‘Hieroglyphen des...
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