Blog | Theatre

Rene Pollesch: Pablo in der Plusfiliale

. 3 min read

How should I integrate this into my sexuality? If you want to fuck globalisation, technology and the neo-liberal rhetoric of the new left, you have to deconstruct the whole notion of sexuality. You are no longer fucking this or that or men or women: you are simply fucking. It's an interesting thought put forth by the German director René Pollesch in his recent piece Pablo in der Plusfiliale.

Pablo in der Plusfiliale is a charge against discount retailers such as Aldi and Plus, which regard cashiers like the South-American immigrant Pablo as the final bottleneck in a supply chain the sole purpose of which is to deliver all products as quickly and inexpensively as possible to the end consumers. To control labour costs, when they reach a certain age, employees are replaced by younger workers whose minimum wages are lower. The supermarket is also a metaphor. Hasn't the whole world become a supermarket in which we shop for sex, love, ideas and self-fulfillment? Aren't we all perishable goods one way or another? In one scene the camera takes a headshot of the actors while a graphic pen adds their expiration date to the video, 2042, 2016, 2029.

René Pollesch is resident director at the Prater, a small theatre that is part of the Volksbuehne am Rosa-Luxemburg Platz in Berlin. He has made a name for himself with radical performances that fall into the category of what one might call post-dramatic theatre. There is not much of a plot in his performances and there are no real dialogues either. With their microphones and their gaze fixed on the camera, in Pablo in der Plusfiliale the actors appear more like news reporters whose only job is to present the text. Of course the question is whether there are any dialogues in more conventional forms of theatre. Do the actors really listen to what the other is saying or do they merely wait until the other is finished with his or her lines? Pollesch's texts, which are composed of excerpts from newspaper articles and sociological studies, at first seem artificial, but they are no more artificial than drama. In fact drama perverts reality even more by representing dialogues between people as an orderly interpunctuated sequence of well-spoken sentences, without the momentary lapses, repetitions, slips of the tongue and crimes against grammar so characteristic of interpersonal discourse. It is therefore intrinsically pornographic. And just as pornography corrupts one's perception of sexuality, so does drama corrupt one's notion of dialogue. Drama is a form of social distortion.

Pablo in der Plusfiliale is therefore also a charge against all the neo-cons in theatre who play to the taste of the audience. The audience! Fuck the audience! Pollesch has the audience take a seat on plastic chairs, arranged in front of a large video screen. Behind the audience is a container with a plastic cover. To the right of the audience is another, open, container, which functions as a stage. Occasionally the actors come onto the stage or enter the audience, but for the most part, about three-quarters of the show is a conservative estimate, they remain inside the other container.

As an analysis of post-capitalist society Pablo in der Plusfiliale falls short, stuck as it is in the one dimensional post-marxist critical discourse from which it takes its theoretical inspiration, a discourse which fails to take into account the intricacies of the global economy and the realities of the labour market. Conceptually the piece was very interesting. To me Pollesch's use of text was a revelation. I also thought the texts were fun. I liked the raw, direct hit in your face acting for which the Volksbuehne is famous. However, the balance had shifted a little too far in the direction of video. Apart from Pablo I have no idea who the other characters were, then again, perhaps they were only social agents who embody the text. About two-thirds into the performance I also felt that my attention was waning, because to paraphrase John Lennon, there was a lot happening, but nothing going on, but maybe this is just a sign that I have been over-conditioned by the entertainment industry.

The piece ends with a video of a make-up counter in a department store and the phenomenal Inga Busch screaming along to ABBA's SOS, putting two fingers up to the screen and to the audience. Fuck you. I am still trying to figure out how to integrate it all into my sexuality. I will keep you posted.