Theatre in the Time of Covid-19 Review: The Plague

With open-air events and meetings permitted for up to 200 people in Berlin from 2 June 2020, intrepid reviewer Sabine Koch sees ‘The Plague’ performed in the open air on the forecourt of the Deutsches Theater.

My theatre feast was the open air performance of “Die Pest / The Plague” based on the novel by Albert Camus.

The production of the Deutsches Theater actually premiered in November 2019, although you’d be hard-pressed to find a more timely and just perfect play and performance for our Corona-times.

The 1947 novel has of course been interpreted in a broader manner, but now that we find ourselves under the world-wide grip of a virus, a more literal interpretation seems appropriate.

The content is eerily familiar and the production had used a stripped-back stage even last year. As if foreshadowing the limitations of 2020, the director András Dömötör chose to have just one actor – the fabulous Božidar Kocevski – perform all the characters, thereby avoiding any 1.5 metre rule infringements.

Kocevski is simply stunning, conveying all these different people with just an adjustment in tone of his voice or style of his language. Having tumbling dark chairs representing people dying is simple but effective, never more so, when a child dies and Kocevski holds a tiny, bright child’s chair outstretched for a long time until he can’t hold it up anymore and has to set it down. The audience held its breath during those never ending, silent minutes.

Die Pest

‘The Plague’ performed in the open air on the forecourt of the Deutsches Theater.

The production is missing some of its more elaborate tricks simply because of the outdoor location, but the staging packs a punch nonetheless. An outstanding piece of theatre, that talks about how we, as people react to an overpowering doom – well worth seeing this way and maybe again for the full effect, when indoor shows will be possible.

Here in Berlin all of these outdoor performances are already sold out. A powerful reminder, that we all are hungry for more art. The audiences, me included, were blown away by these new normal performances – read my review of Maria Stuart here.  And not only because we all were – just like in Pride and Prejudice – ready, eager and determined to make the best of this cultural adventure after this impossibly long drought. It was actually that good!

It just goes to show, that art is always timely, always close to our hearts, always important and indispensable. We need to stand by it, help it and champion it, so it can survive for all our sakes!

I hope the start here in adventurous Berlin will be the start for art to return to our lives everywhere.