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 1918 * 1989” is the title of a collective play by the Theater der Klaenge about the German revolution of 1918 in comparison with the events in the GDR in 1989.

Revolution – a major theme that suddenly became tangible in 1989. In contrast to the events in the GDR in 1989, the revolution of 1918 in Germany was around 1990/91 almost forgotten.

In 1991, Theater der Klaenge compared the course of the two revolutions with each other in a large theater collage in many different scenes, which repeatedly contrasted the individual phases of the revolution of 1918 with those of 1989.

The historical outline of NOVEMBER deals with the events from November 1917 (revolution in Russia) to spring 1919 (National Assembly in Weimar) as well as with the period from May 1989 (diconstruction of the Hungarian border installations) to March 1990 (new elections to the People’s Chamber of the GDR).

Acting, allegory, farce, mask improvisation, pantomime and puppetry are juxtaposed with simultaneous dance and (Meyerhold’s) biomechanics. This is embedded in a live electronic music, which is controlled by two percussionists. In addition, documentary film collages and slide projections. The whole event took place in a transformable play structure with movable screens. The international ensemble of the Theater der Klaenge became a modern comedian troupe, which presented its view of the events in simple, clearly understandable pictures and play scenes.

NOVEMBER was the first attempt of the Theater der Klaenge to create a play about a self-chosen political topic in collective authorship. The experiences of previous productions were incorporated and enabled the Theater der Klaenge ensemble to search for a theatrical form for each of the facts to be presented, which provided the most appropriate picture for the respective statement.

NOVEMBER was created in 1991 as the first co-production with the Bauhaus Dessau and was performed 19 times in Düsseldorf and Dessau. The ensemble of 1991 was the first to work under professional conditions in the Theater der Klänge rehearsal studio in Düsseldorf-Pempelfort and for several weeks also in the Bauhaus stage in Dessau. Numerous ensemble members from this year became permanent members of staff for several productions in the early nineties. In many respects, the working principles from this time still form the basis of our working methods today.

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