Theater der Zeit

SCORES – Insert Tanzquartier Wien


— A Dialogue —

von Anna Mendelssohn

Erschienen in: Theater der Zeit: Hasta la vista – Bierbichler, Fiebach, Kuttner, Quiñones, Vanackere. Ein Brennpunkt zur Neubesetzung der Berliner Volksbühne (06/2015)

Assoziationen: Österreich Tanz Tanzquartier Wien



»No one ever seems to answer the question why talking should alleviate misery.«

»I never said that it did.«

Picking up from her previous works, in WHAT ? Anna Mendelssohn once again follows the traces of the political in the private and the private in the political. A fast-paced wrestling match of verbal tactics and strategies, WHAT ? deals with questions of talking and listening. Between ideological flotsam and everyday banalities a woman and a man fall ever deeper into the politics of their private dispute. The audience finds itself in the midst of a conflict, in which two lovers struggle through the thicket of their apparent contradictions: conservatism vs. radicalism, freedom vs. control, power vs. love. The intimacy, the familiarity of the love relationship, which we are all well acquainted with, allows taking a closer look at the vocabulary of dialogue itself, the nuances of speaking, the small ironies, deliberate misunderstandings and teasing games. WHAT ? is an endeavor into the perils of language, a gleeful game of debate, argument and rhetoric.


W What?

M What?

W What was that look?

M What look?

W The look you just gave me..?

M I gave a look?

W Yes.

M What kind of a look?

W I know that look.

M So what was it?

W Why should I tell you?

M Well, you are the big look expert.

W Trust me, I know the look… So?

M What?

W What about the look?

M I don’t know. What look?

W That look. I know that look.

M What look?

W That look you just gave me.

M I didn’t give you a look.

W Right.

M Right.

W Why can’t you just talk to me? Tell me what’s on your mind. I am very good at listening.

M Listening to what?

W Whatever is on your mind right now, you can talk about it. It’s fine.

M What is?

W Your look it’s fine. It’s good. Don’t worry.

M I am not worried.

W Not worried about what?

M What?

W I don’t know.

M Genius!

W What?!

M Look, I am not claiming to be Jesus Christ or Buddha. I’m very capable of being unpleasant to you or anyone else, striking wrong notes or being a little out of key. But when we try to talk about the words we are talking about, what is the point of using a word that means something to me and means something entirely different to you? What is the point of talking, of using words to explain what I mean, when every word – or look – that I use is being received in a meaning which might be the exact opposite of what I intend?

W Right.

M Right.

W So, your argument, is one for shutting up and being silent?

M Well, what’s the point of being silent as a means of communication when even the silence itself is misconstrued? To speak or look in the face of this interminable misunderstanding is impossible. Because I cannot explain what I mean when every word or look that I use has double and treble meanings and other people take the meaning or significance of my words to be very different from my intended meaning, right..?

W Yes. I understand.

M No, you don’t. That’s my point.

W Okay, you’re right. I don’t understand, I really don’t understand a word of what you are saying.

M No, you misunderstand. – Because you interpret. You’re not listening. Even when I am not speaking, you are not listening. You are not hearing my silence, you are interpreting it – and you’re interpretation is wrong.

W Right.

M Right.


W Let me ask you a question.

M No let me ask you a question first. Do you believe in honesty?

W How can I answer that?

M Yes or No.

W Occasionally - it depends.

M On what?

W On the occasion.

M And you say I can trust you?

W Yes.

M Occasionally?

W No you can always trust me.

M Promise?

W If I promised I would be lying.

M So you do believe in honesty?

W I believe in freedom.

M Do you think two people can stay together forever?

W Forever?

M Why not?

W It’s a convention.

M Wanting to be a good father, a good husband, that’s a convention?

W It’s conservative.

M Is it? So, if I believe in certain values, like family? - That makes me a conservative? Conservatism is not an ideology, you know.

W What is it then?

M Conservatism is basically an approach to change, to social change, any change. It’s an approach that is against rapid change. It’s an anti-revolutionary position. But it’s not capitalist or socialist or liberal or whatever, it could potentially be any of those things, the important thing is that change does not happen rapidly but organic.

W Okay, but wouldn’t you say that you’re a conservative?

M I am sympathetic to some ideas in conservative political philosophy – but very often in disagreement with people who call themselves conservatives.

W Why?

M Because the people who call themselves conservative today are not really conservative. They are actually

progressive, I mean they have a vision for the way that society and government should function. And they seek to realise that vision, even if it is necessary to undertake radical reforms to do so.

W That is not necessarily a bad thing.

M I am not arguing that it’s a good or a bad thing. Hitler was a Progressivist, Stalin was a Progressivist. It’s not necessarily a good thing. I am just saying I think we have big misunderstanding about what those terms actually mean.

W I don’t think we have misunderstanding.

M No?

W It’s not as complicated as you think it is.

M But you think I am a conservative?

W All I am just saying is that we cannot predict the future. The truth is that we both don’t have the slightest idea where this relationship will go in the end.

M The truth. – Your truth or my truth?

W Our truth.

M What are you afraid of?

W I am not afraid.

M Yes, you are.

W No, I am not.

M You are, you are afraid of commitment.

W I live now.

M Yeah, well that’s very radical.

W If you say so.

M It doesn’t work like this.

W Like what?

M Where are we heading? I need to know. I need to have some idea where this is going.

W I don’t know where it’s going.

M You don’t know. Well, maybe you are not as progressive and radical as you think you are, you know. Maybe you are just lost, a lost little anarchist, a bit out of control.

W That’s not what anarchism is about. Anarchy is or can be a highly organized and structured society, but it’s organized on free and voluntary participation.

M Right.

W Look, I am not lost. I know what I want and that is – that I don’t want to know and plan and control my future.

M I don’t want to control you. I want to be there for you. I want to be there for both of you. I don’t want to control you. I want to help you. You need me.

W I don’t need you. Why should I need you? Because you have more money than me? Okay, so you have more money than me. But that does not mean I am going to submit to your imperialist bullying. You’re ego is absolutely colossal.

M Yeah, its not bad, how is yours?

W Look, I don’t need you.

M Of course you need me. What would you do without me?

W I don’t need you. You need me. You want something from me. You expect something from me.

M What?

W I don’t know. You tell me.

M Possibly I expect a little bit of respect?

W Respect? For what? For your money? I don’t expect anything from you.

M Yes, you do. You are expecting a fucking baby! Look, I am only trying my best to help you.

W I don’t need your help.

M Okay so what do you need?

W You know, you act like one of those UN aid workers who comes to an African village and tells the villagers how to grow Italian tomatoes. Only it’s no good planting tomatoes in that village because the rhinos will eat them all in the morning. The villagers know that but you never asked them because you are not interested in what they need. You are interested in helping, you just assumed they need your help. You are really just interested in what you want. You have no idea what I need.



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