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Old men in a sad scene of souls

Old men in a sad scene of souls

Two great actors slip into Bernard’s characters: Sven-Erik Bechtolf and August Zerner. © Rudy Giggler

Either you like Thomas Bernhard or you don’t. There is nothing in between. That’s why the playwright continues to draw people in, and that’s why it’s always risky to have one of the plays by Upper Austria brought to the stage. As part of the Salzkammergut Festival, this challenge was met by a two-person play “Der Schein deceived” from 1984. Successful in all respects. The premiere was at Stadttheater Gmunden on Wednesday.

Hateful meetings

Half-brothers Carl and Robert meet every Tuesday and Thursday, mainly reluctantly and anxiously, but both maintain that they hate Tuesdays and Thursdays. The meetings themselves reflect in a tragic and ironic way the sad mental scenes of two elderly men who see no prospects in life either in the present or in the future. And looking into the past can only be tolerated if you talk about things. Keyword discussion: Carl and Robert are completely incapable of talking to each other, they get along most of the time and even the supposed approaches to conversation don’t bring any real affinity.

two worlds

On the contrary, it becomes quite clear that two worlds, two completely opposite existences collide: here is the artist Karl, who is supposed to be famous for his sorcery with 23 paintings, and there is the actor Robert, who has not achieved much. Whoever has never done that has to play “King Lear”. In addition, Karl feels almost intrusive as a “spiritual person” and a great philosopher, while Robert lives his own way. In addition, it is clear that Carl’s wife Mathilde has only recently died, but Robert also had some kind of relationship with him that was not clearly recognized. In any case, she inherited her weekend country house, which “naturally” caused Carl’s irritation.

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heavy weight theater

The performance at the Salzkammergut Festival in Gmunden was conceived as a scenic reading, presented by Hermann Bell. Two heavyweights in the theater have won for the two brothers’ roles: Sven-Erik Bechtulf and August Zerner. And it was they who gave the characters of Bernard the “artist of exaggeration” humanity, emotions and depth. The way Bechtolf laid down his arrogance stemming from complete insecurity and Zirner began his “dirty” attempts to get something like attention and love from his half-brother – it was acting of the highest quality.

The Tuesday and Thursday room is certainly designed as a ‘scene’, so that ‘reading’ recedes into the background. The two protagonists played more than they read, and after a while it wasn’t even noticeable that they were still holding their black text books.

After two and a half hours – including a break – the enthusiasm of the audience confirmed two things: on the one hand, there were mainly people who loved Bernard, and on the other hand that the exceptional acting performance received the well-deserved applause.

By Werner Rohrover