Der Weg ist nicht zu Ende, wenn das Ziel explodiert : Frank Castorf and the survival of political theatre in the postmodern age
The advent of 'the postmodern' and its derivatives (postmodernism, postmodernity and the like) into the contemporary historical, cultural and political spheres has been blamed by many for the alleged disappearance of truly engaged and engaging artistic forms. In this context, the concept of 'political theatre, understood as a modern(ist) goal and thus, from a postmodern perspective, belonging to an outdated rubric, would seem to have lost its capacity to depict, criticise and influence its environment. It is the main contention of this thesis that elements of 'the postmodern' and 'the political' can be wedded into one theatrical form. The principal focus of the study will thus be the delineation, analysis, and verification of the superficially paradoxical notion of postmodern political theatre. So formulated, Ns aesthetic concept best allows one to engage critically with the artistic work of one of the leading directors in the German contemporary theatrical scene, Frank Castorf, whose productions are here analysed chronologically before being placed within a postmodern and political discourse. The study has, by necessity, drawn on a variety of perspectives, in order to locate the theatrical analyses in their German-specific context. A political perspective raises the question of how and whether political theatre is at all still possible or desirable in an age that has declared the end of history. A socio-psychological and cultural perspective considers the much speculated assertion of the distinctiveness of East German society and population. A (theatre-) historical perspective helps clarify the differences between Castorf’s guest productions in Switzerland and West Germany and those in the (ex-) GDR, before and after unification. By portraying the emerging concept of a theatrical aesthetics which has taken stock of, and indeed almost manipulated, those postmodem traits it sets out to criticise and ridicule in order to pursue its political aims, this study demonstrates that Castorf’s theatre has managed to operate within postmodern culture whilst keeping a political edge.