The intervention theatre

by Dr. Lothar Lohs

The aktionstheater ensemble celebrates its first 30 years. This is by no means a matter of course in these turbulent times, in which trends, aesthetics, rebellions and oppositional attitudes are also rapidly wearing out in the theatre. But Martin Gruber has succeeded in establishing an off-theatre with his ever-changing ensemble that sets standards in the theatrical handling of the contradictions and insanity of this present day. Recently, he has also arrived at the renowned German industry central organ “Theater heute”, where the aktionstheater ensemble was complimented on being one of the few independent groups “that are getting better and better over the years”. And he makes the established theatre business with its fixation on the classics look pretty old – like a frozen museum landscape that has largely lost contact with reality and the distortion of this society.

In contrast, the Vorarlberg theater-maker has formed his ensemble as a “rapid reaction force”: whatever topics are burning under the nails belongs on stage. The titles of the projects of recent years alone speak volumes: “Die wunderbare Zerstörung des Mannes” (2018), “Ich glaube” (2017), “Swing: Dance to the Right” (2017), “Jeder gegen Jeden” (2016), “Riot Dancer” (2015), “Angry Young Men” (2014) etc. This is how strong, entertaining, cheeky, intelligent, evil, funny, captivating theatre on the pulse of the times was created, which the Nestroy jury could not fail to notice: In 2015 he was nominated for the first time for a Nestroy in the category Best Off-Production with “Pension Europa”, which he finally won in 2016 with “Kein Stück über Syrien”, the trenchant, politically incorrect performance about helping, wanting to help and egocentricity in times of refugee flows.

But the fact that Martin Gruber touches on hot topics, that alone would not explain the success of the aktionstheater ensemble. Its secret lies in its exemplary working method with the approach: if there are no new good plays on the rampant problems of our time, one has to develop them oneself, which is what director Gruber does with the respective play ensemble. The text material collected in interviews with the actors is condensed into a play and always served with live music. And because the actors play virtually no foreign roles, but their own play, this adds up to the trademark of all Gruber productions, the breathtaking directness, intensity and authenticity of the players. This also adds up to magical moments on stage. Martin Gruber always manages to show how beautiful theatre can be.

– Dr. Lothar Lohs, former head of the service of the Austrian theatre magazine DIE BÜHNE