Just life…

HARTMANNMUELLER show DEEPTALK at the theatre in the ballroom in Bonn

Night review by Klaus Dilger

Anyone who has seen AUFGELÖST by Angie Hiesl&Roland Kaiser with Daniel Ernesto Mueller, which was created a good year before DEEPTALK – Das Leben des HARTMANNMUELLER, will have brought many questions with them to Bonn’s Theater im Ballsaal. In it, Mueller improvised fragments of the lives, stages and memories of deceased people in the „dissolved household effects“, often in a very touching way. This empathy is not just that of an artist, as Mueller’s biography also includes professional experience as a carer for the dying and there is no doubt that he fulfilled this task very sensitively, emphatically and attentively.

In DEEPTALK, the two HARTMANNMUELLER(s) manage (almost) entirely without household effects. Only once does Mueller drop a wooden box of cutlery, which was part of the newlyweds‘ equipment in their grandparents‘ time. The noise this made obviously made the grandfather tremble, as it triggered memories of the war he had experienced, perhaps also of scenes from a marriage. Double associations that the duo are otherwise able to evoke very gently with gestures and words.

As always, they are in control of what they do, what they do it with and how they do it.

The only framework for their performance is a white, transparent, coarse nettle funnel that falls from the centre of the stage sky with a radius of less than two metres and whose long fabric covers two wooden chairs on which the two protagonists initially sit in semi-darkness as they watch the audience enter.




Then a kind of theme tune is heard and a glistening white light illuminates the scene in concentration: is this what talk shows in heaven look like?

No. „Welcome to the theatre in the ballroom,“ says Simon Hartmann, the one HARTMANNMUELLER, into the microphone, bringing the audience into the here and now in a very real way and at the same time creating the necessary distance for their performance, in the style of Pina Bausch, who transformed the seemingly „most personal“ into an „announcement“ with the help of this technique.

Even if we as the audience want to or should believe that we are experiencing the innermost and most personal aspects of the two HARTMANNMUELLERs for seventy minutes, we cannot be sure for a second that every single word is not a text that will be repeated as often as we like in every single performance.

We experience powerful images, for example when the light is completely withdrawn and HARTMANNMUELLER transform the funnel into an umbilical cord and then into an embryo and finally into an infant, which one and the other alternately carry in their arms until they gently slide to the floor and the cloth then becomes a shroud a few moments later.

Or when the funnel becomes a womb, from which the performers dance in temporal reversal as sperm that will carry their later characteristics in their movement vocabulary. Or when, like a realm of shadows, it only hints at the bodies and a few moments later becomes a secret place of confession and lies.

There are moments in which verbal abysses open up and moments of reconciliation and harmonious opening, such as in the (almost) final image, when a small choir unexpectedly accompanies the grandmother’s funeral while the snow softly trickles down and covers the graves.

Life, after all. And we know that it’s not always exciting.