NOVEMBER 1918 * 1989

Revolution in Germany

The revolution is not a shame. It was, especially after four years of hunger and blood, a victory. The shame is in the betrayal which was perpetrated on it. All nations which have had a great revolution look back with pride; and every successful revolution made the people who did it great for a time: The Netherlands and England in the seventeenth century as the United States and France in the eighteenth and nineteenth century and also China and Russia in the twentieth century. It is not the successful, it’s the smothered and repressed, the betrayed and denied revolutions which make a nation ill. Germany is still ill today as a result of the betrayed revolution of 1918.

Sebastian Haffner


A co-production of the Theater der Klaenge with the Bauhaus Dessau.
Cast of the premiere on 30 October 1991 at the Theaterhaus Düsseldorf.

Actors Dance + Drama:
Ricardo Bittencourt, Deda, Christina Colonna, Sylvie Coquillat, Clemente Fernandez, Jacqueline Fischer, Kerstin Hörner, Jörg U. Lensing, Maria-Jesus Lorrio de Castro, Kai Mönnich, Heiko Seidel, Ismini Sofou,
Music / Composition: Thomas Neuhaus in collaboration with Olaf Normann and Jens Frantzen
Drums: Olaf Normann, Jens Frantzen
Film: Sascha Hardt
Slide projections / Writing tablets: Ernst Merheim
Lighting design: Bernd Lohmann, Sascha Hardt
Masks: Erhard Boots, Claudia Lemmer, Nathalie Cohen
Costumes: Kerstin Uebachs
Ensemble uniforms: Birgit Kirstein
Figurines: Tinus Alsdorf, Udo Lensing according to designs by George Grosz
Dolls: Norika Nienstedt
Stage design: Jürgen Steger
Stage construction: Jürgen Steger, Tinus Alsdorf
Staging: Jörg U. Lensing
Assistant director: Sandra Christmann
Administration: Sabine Lückmann
Public Relations: Ernst Merheim

About the Production

November is the title of a play collectively authored by Theater der Klaenge, about the german 1918 revolution as compared to the 1989 GDR incidents. Revolution – a big subject, which in 1989 however became suddenly witnesseable. In opposition to the events of the 1989 GDR, the 1918 revolution in Germany is left to oblivion.

The Theater der Klaenge compared the two revolutions in a large theatrical collage of very different scenes, which continuously placed the individual phases of the 1918 revolution against the ones of 1989.The historical outline of November deals with the events of November 1917 (Russian revolution) till the spring of 1919 (National Assembly in Weimar), just as with the time frame between May 1989 (collapse of the hungarian border enclosure) and March 1990 (new elections for the GDR People’s Chamber).

In the background stood always the question: What were the utopian dreams, what chances did the revolutionaries stand, and what came out of it all? November is a documentary play, which attempts consciously and in diverse ways to lean on the documentary style theater of the 20’s in the form of a large revue type of collage. Acting, allegory, farce, improvisations with masks, pantomime and puppet show stand vis-a-vis simultaneous dance and (Meyerhold’s) Biomechanic. These are immersed in a live-electronic music which is driven by two percussion instruments. To that are added documentary film collages and slide projections. The whole takes place in a refashionable scaffolding construction with moveable screens. The international ensemble of the Theater der Klaenge becomes therein a modern actors troupe which act out their vision of the incidents insimple, easily understandable images and scenes.

November was at the same time the first attempt of the Theater der Klaenge to create a collectively written piece about a self chosen political subject. The experiences of the previous productions flowed in and put the Theater der Klaenge ensemble in the position to search, for each fact which was being represented, the theatrical form which would most adequately deliver the appropriate picture. The resulting format of a revue style collage proved itself however at the same time the only possible format for such an angle of approach in the theater.

This would not become the style of Theater der Klaenge, for which reason a new exploration of theatrical approaches became necessary. November came into being in 1991 as the first co-production with the Bauhaus Dessau and was performed both in Duesseldorf, as in Dessau, altogether 19 times. This production was also unable to be absorbed into the repertoire, because of its size, but also because of lack of demand by guest performance organisers.

November 1918*1989: Press

The Theater der Klaenge is an independent group with an extraordinarily highly developed sense for style. They completely lack the sweaty pathos of the other free groups. They imitate each style as perfectly as if they had reinvented it. The “Theater der Klaenge ” has let the Agitprop-Theater of the twenties come to life again and enriched it with new technical media and refined sound compositions. Again: wonderfully perfect. Shortly before the end, the news of the assassination of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg arrives in the midst of an optimistic socialist circle. The mourning that follows then is painfully real. The “Internationale” is now only melancholically hummed. With the last applause, the electroacoustic music takes up the tune and turns it half sad, half cheerful. Involuntarily, one hums along, and many whistle the “Internationale” to themselves as they exit. This way, the style-copy is complete.
Gerhard Preusser
Die Tageszeitung

To the original pool of spoken, printed, filmed and in present-day time electronically recorded, steps up the imaginatively stylized own invention, often the essence from their own conversations with eyewitnesses, which were led during the preparation of the “November” Production, in Dessau as well. As a direct result of these “on the spot ” contacts, the “Dusseldorfers” were successful at creating a handful of portraits of “German Types”, in the sort of swollen, grotesque truthfulness of theater and cabaret stages like one would hardly expect to meet in the years after 1989. Strong in effect are also individual scenic metaphors: Dance and departure attempt of the Utopia, that is always being stifled (or Pro Forma spurred on) by the ‘ long Arm’ of the Administration; this whole picture in motion, in bitter contrast to the hopeful words of Stefan Heyms on November 4th ’89 at Berliner Alexanderplatz. Or: The gradual dismantling and defilement of a monument to the working man by those that before had stood gloriously by their hero.
Elisabeth Peuker
Mitteldeutsche Zeitung

Under the direction of Jorg U. Lensing, the ensemble which staged the piece in cooperation with the Bauhaus Dessau latches on to the traditions of the working-man theater of the twenties, without however corrupting them. There is still enough room in the almost three hours for cabaret, grotesque and clownerie, mostly aimed at the ‘89 Revolution. No Revue could be livelier and more colorful: three duty-hours not only for the history courses of the upper schools.
Bernd Bussang
Westdeutsche Zeitung

November 1918*1989: Sound