The Last Days Of Mankind
Circus Elysium @ The Bosco Theatre
5:30pm, Tues 28 Feb 2006
My first time in The Bosco – and it was a hot day, creating a very balmy atmosphere inside the old theater. The paper-thin walls allow plenty of sound from the outside to bleed in, too – but these were the only detractions from an otherwise sterling bit of theatre.
An adaptation of Karl Klaus’ play, Justus Neumann makes “The Last Days Of Mankind” his own, moving from character to character effortlessly. Although he appears to be reading the text straight off a hand-written manuscript, his delivery is passionate, powerful, superb; he’s a sterling orator, and is punctuated by snippets and soundscapes from accompanying guitarist Julius Schwing.
It’s a harsh piece, railing on the use of media disseminating propaganda (soundbites and memes) to the German public. The recurring media whore character is a nasty piece of work – the epitome of the Smiling Nazi – and the cold, ruthless irrationality of the military is also portrayed… twisting their own rules to suit their own purposes in hanging the 18-year-old dissenters. The glorification of conflict by the media and warlords is made overt, all subtlety stripped away.
Some of the characters stand out – the passion and desperation of the poet, the aforementioned female media personality, the warlord sitting amidst his impending ruin. The constant references to the military as a “glory suit”. The parting words of God – “I did not will it so” – imply that war is all mankind’s doing, emphasises man’s inhumanity towards man.
Klaus’ original play consisted of five acts, two hundred and nine scenes, five hundred characters, and was over eight hundred pages long; though it was written during World War I (between 1915-1918), it just as readily applies to the Second World War, too. The implications of this are left as an exercise to the reader; needless to say, Neumann’s abridged adaptation is far from a feel-good piece, but is arresting and engaging theatre nonetheless.
(I wrote this blog entry using info I gleaned off the ‘Net… then I figured I’d ask at The Bosco to see if they had any program or such. The tabloid-sized mountain of information I was given was (a) informative, and (2) a more comprehensive collection of factoids than any InterWeb I’d tinkered with that afternoon)