Theatre in Germany is a big deal, well funded, well attended and everywhere. Essen itself has at least two theatres and even tiny Kettwig has theatrical shows on at the Altebahnhof. But Saturday evening was something new, we were at the GOP* varieté theater. Usually just the sound of the words 'variety theatre' conjures up images of Saturday night at the London Palladium type thing with dodgy comedians interspersed with third rate bands and dancing rabbits. But at GOP on Saturday this certainly wasn't the case**. The current show is called "Dummy" (of the manequin variety not the baby soother) and was a feast of acrobatic gymnastic dance, if art moved, this was it.
The set up is perfect, banked seating ensures everyone gets a great view (except for those in the cheap seats who probably ended up with a crick in their necks - I bet they pay more for their tickets next time) but instead of rows of chairs there are tables with waiter service so you can sit and enjoy the show, eating and drinking without having to miss a beat.
And really, you wouldn't want to miss a second of this particular show, I was transfixed from the beginning to the end, over two hours later. The cast is small, two women and maybe four men all clearly with gymnastic and dance training, a female cellist and one or maybe two singers/sound technicians.
The staging was very simple but complex...simple on the eye; a grey backscreen with a solid 'roof' (that could act as a small stage) and drawers and a door in it, and a white floor that could be raised to a 45 degree angle against the backscreen.
There was no story being told but rather a sequence of 'gymnastic dances' interspersed with humourous asides, the best of which had the floor at 45 degrees with a small table and two chairs at the bottom, leaning onto the sloping floor. A guy took one of the seats and then another slid down the floor/wall in a seated position so that he came to rest exactly on the spare chair. The two men then acted out a fight, first a shoe was 'thrown' against the backdrop so that it appeared to be moving in slow motion getting stuck mid arc, before it could hit its target. A chair followed. It was so cleverly choreographed and so witty it even made my teenage son laugh. A gymnastic highlight for me was two men almost pole dancing, parallel poles stretching up out of sight about five feet apart, these two guys climbed up, swung down, ran up, slid down, jumping over each other in the process sometimes, breathtaking stuff. Another guy used a full sized manequin as a pommel horse, astounding us by balancing upside down one handed on the its head, no ordinary shop manequins or caberet dancers here.
We were lucky to see the show on only its second night (not because we were desperate to see it, but because we thought it'd be nice for our visitors) the show runs until the first week in November and I shall be telling all my friends to go, because it is amazing.
* I have no idea what the GOP stands for, sorry.
** Although a friend went earlier in the year and had to suffer a singer and a comedian on the same billing.