Two Pints of Theatre & a Packet of Crisps:
English Mondays promise a provocative brew of cutting edge theatre
English is made for the stage. It’s a language Stephen Fry calls “ proudly barbaric, deeply civilized, a mongrel mouthful of Shakespearean and Ghetto discourse, a shameless whore.”
And for expats in Vienna, there is never enough. English Mondays at Vienna’s experimental Schauspielhaus promise a welcome addition to the city’s growing English theatre scene.
This month we can look forward to rehearsed readings guided by British actor Jesse Inman with co-host Noëmi Steffen.
Although Vienna opened the first European foreign language theatre in 1963 (Vienna’s English Theatre), the city now has an increasing, younger, multicultural demographic eager for experimental entertainment that breaks the fourth wall between stage and reality.
Expect the unexpected: Inman discussed his penis with Lars von Trier for a scene in the film Nymphomaniac, brought Nick Hornby’s one-man play Nipple Jesus to audiences in Berlin and Vienna, and once passed out naked on stage at Theater Basel after making milk come out of his eye as part of Bar aux Fous.
More than shock value
With beer, crisps, and English tea on tap, the bar setting for English Mondays seems ideal. “These readings will provide a different, perhaps peculiar alternative,” hopes Inman, “and very importantly, a creative space for all English speakers to try things out.” Already planned are events with the Welsh writer Thomas Morris, author of We Don’t Know What We’re Doing and editor of The Stinging Fly magazine, and a new project from Chris Thorpe. “I’m still on the hunt for local artists in Vienna. I’d like to have at least one for every event we do,” said Inman over a pint.
How Inman shares himself fully with audiences is very connected with his passion for collaborative projects like The Social Muscle Club, a space where artists share creative ideas and practical support for projects. “The most vital thing to me in theatre is creating an atmosphere where we’re having an experience together – it’s not just Them and Us.” Inman fearlessly takes this to extremes, echoing Austrian Aktionismus more than British reticence. The milk episode was produced with his long-time creative collaborator Tomas Schweigen, now manager and artistic director of the Schauspielhaus. “Tomas’ idea was to have a “Strip of the Week,” but I ended up being the only one to do it. Fifty performances, naked in coffins, fire-breathing!”, Inman laughs. “After regaining consciousness, covered in milk, I banged a nail up my nose and blood went everywhere.”
The Schauspielhaus aims to do more than shock – themes explored in plays here connect us all, from refugees (Punk & Politics) to vegetarianism and naturalism (Imperium). Dick Walsh’s new comedy Newcastlewest opens the event with the musician Derrick Devine live from Dublin via Skype. Walsh’s work is influenced by director Richard Maxwell and the popular philosopher Slavoj Zizek. Collaging media much like artists use found objects, “from YouTube, overheard conversations, radio exchanges and so on,” Walsh weaves a powerful story of a father-daughter relationship affected by “chance operations.”
“It’s vital in the Arts to think of solutions,” says Inman. “We don’t have any answers. We pose questions.” English Mondays promises to offer all that and a packet of crisps. Nudity may be required.