Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Schorsch Kamerun: Der diskrete Charme der Reduktion - 2023.02.17 Vollgutlager, Berlin, Germany

I went to this “concert installation” on a whim when a friend invited me. It was part of the Schall & Rausch Festival für Brandneues Musiktheater organized by the Komische Oper, but at a different venue while their usual home is undergoing renovation. I had no idea what to expect. I unfortunately knew relatively little about Schorsch Kamerun’s longstanding band Die Goldenen Zitronen, but based on that and the name of the event (“The Discreet Charm of Reduction”), I had a good feeling. I wasn’t let down.

The evening started with the crowd assembled on a roped-off side of a large venue filled with platforms, tables, large yellow balls, and green structures resembling small houses. After a brief introduction, classical singer Ivan Turšić sweetened the air, and we were invited to follow him up a set of stairs to a rampart and then into the rest of the space. Meanwhile, the ropes were taken down and actors, many of whom also sang as part of the Richardchor Neukölln, started scattering across the venue to take up an odd assortment of tasks. Throughout the night, they pushed boxes around the houses laboriously, sat at a table and ate, projected psychedelic patterns with oils on the wall, sang, demonstrated products to each other, analyzed a mess of papers, crawled on the floor, mined clay for some sort of pellets, and at one point became ants that seemed to be preparing for battle. There was a lot going on.

Meanwhile, the primary attention shifted between Turšić, narrator/lead actress Annemaaike Bakker, and Schorsch, who occasionally spoke but mostly sang songs accompanied by keyboardist PC Nackt and a classically-trained ensemble from the Komische Oper. Some of the material was based on previously released songs and some parts were renditions of classical works, but most was newly composed for the performance. The themes, unsurprisingly, were socio-economic critiques of contemporary Western society, particularly capitalism, but also political corruption, war profiteering, globalization, marketing, interpersonal relationships, coping with trauma, and urban versus rural life. I didn’t hear anything that I found disagreeable, but plenty that made me think or laugh. Schorsch didn’t have all the answers to solve our problems, but he did have a few specific suggestions: stop driving private cars and commit to a reduction in productivity to counter the myth of infinitely increasing growth in a closed system.

The experience was immersive and engaging. I’ve never experienced something quite like it. It wasn’t quite interactive, but there were always multiple things going on at the same time, so it was impossible to be bored. The music was diverse and consistently of a high caliber, both in composition and performance. I left in a great mood. It turns out that the venue is part of Schwuz, the longest-standing queer club in Berlin, and at the end, Schorsch welcomed us to have a drink and say hello at the bar. I did, and sure enough, he and some of the performers and crew were to be found on the dancefloor well into the night. I didn’t even have to wait in line to get in, so that was quite an unexpected bonus!

Score: A

P.S. Thanks to Lutz and Anton!

[Update 2023.02.28:] P.P.S. The taz also wrote up a review. Theirs is much more detailed, but it's in German.

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