What is the evolutionary purpose of comedy

A grotesque comedy with no perspective? “The Physicists” by Friedrich Dürrenmatt at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg

Michael Pleisterve

A grotesque comedy with no perspective?
"The Physicists" by Friedrich Dürrenmatt at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg

- Comments on the work, on its statement and a reference to its staging -

Director: Sebastian Kreyer
Premiere: April 25, 2015

“A series of murders of nurses takes place in a tranquil Swiss sanatorium, but only three harmless patients live here: One thinks he is Albert Einstein, the other Sir Isaac Newton and the third - Johann Wilhelm Möbius - appears King Solomon. But something is wrong, and it is becoming increasingly clear that Möbius is only playing the madman. He discovered the "world formula", the application of which would have catastrophic consequences for mankind, which is why he hides himself and his knowledge in the madhouse. But can what has been thought be hidden from the world?

Dürrenmatt wrote "Die Physiker" in 1961 as a grotesque comedy in which he showed people as defective beings in a constantly technological world: "People see themselves surrounded more and more by things that they handle but no longer understand." that could wipe out all of humanity have only just been given a name and at the same time created an awareness that the end of the world from now on lies in the hands of the human being: as a possible consequence of an active action or as a loss of control over one's own technology . " (Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg / website / Die Physiker, http://www.schauspielhaus.de/de_DE/repertoire/die_physiker.1011623)

The comedy "Die Physiker" by Friedrich Dürrenmatt was created in 1961 in the intellectual horizon of the Cold War and thus in an age in which the fear of an atomic confrontation was present, even if it was often only subliminal fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their use at the time has been controversial for a long time, gave in their world-historical-apocalyptic dimension a foretaste of what an epoch of constant, albeit essentially latent, atomic threat can hold ready. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 - es is the year of the premiere of the present piece - the possibility of a doom and death scenario moved into immediate, better said, within reach and was presumably in the final analysis due to the shrinking from a man-made world fire, due to the feeling that in the event of war a human catastrophe was unforeseen To have to take responsibility for the extent or, to put it briefly, by returning to reason and foresight - fixed on political action steps and criteria - literally averted at the last minute: "Saturday, October 27, the so-called 'black Saturday': (... ) A US destroyer uses a grenade to force the Soviet submarine B-59 to surface. The submarine has nuclear weapons on board; The nuclear war breaks out by a hair's breadth. But Vasily Alexandrovich Archipov, one of the three officers on board the submarine, refuses to shoot down a torpedo without further orders from Moscow. (...) An American U-2 reconnaissance aircraft is shot down over Cuba by an SA-2 Guideline anti-aircraft missile; the pilot Major Rudolf Anderson is killed. Kennedy expressly forbids a counterattack and declares that he is ready for further negotiations. At 7:45 p.m. Washington time, there was a secret meeting between Robert F. Kennedy and the Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin. John F. Kennedy has his brother explain that he would also consent to the withdrawal of the American Jupiter rockets stationed in Turkey, as requested in the second - more formal - letter from Khrushchev. He keeps this possibility a secret from most members of the ExComm, the majority of whom are calling for an air strike. Dobrynin immediately passed this news on to Moscow. Late that night, Nikita Khrushchev decides to accept Kennedy's offer and withdraw the missiles from Cuba. (…) Central to solving the Cuban Missile Crisis was that both John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev were aware of the consequences of their decisions. Both tried to keep all developments under control, to give the political opponent time to make his decision and not to blindly trust the advice of their military advisers. "


The scientific discoveries of the central figure named Möbius, who belongs to the troika of the three physicists in the present comedy, evidently harbor such a destructive potential that a behavioral strategy aimed at retreat and concealment, "the world from the compulsion of the evaluation" of those "for humanity to preserve murderous scientific discoveries "(Reclams Schauspielführer (1990), p. 892), to outsiders, ie the recipients, may initially appear as a morally respectable, otherwise also plausible option of human orientation. As can be read in the Bertelsmann Schauspielführer from 1966, Möbius "finally made a terrible sacrifice to ensure that his discoveries did not fall into the hands of the mighty and that new, unimaginable energies for the annihilation of humanity were not set free: (...)." (P. 446) And in the materials for teachers, as they are available on the theater website of the play for reading and corresponding use in teaching / learning processes, it says: “Möbius is not crazy at all, he just plays the madman to get into the He has found the formula of all the formulas and believes that his invention, if it falls into the wrong hands, will bring harm to mankind. So for moral reasons he has withdrawn from the world. "

(http://www.schauspielhaus.de/de_DE/repertoire/die_physiker.1011623/ Materialmappe, p. 5)

Research, discovery and knowledge can make developments visible and produce results, the consequence of which is to raise fearful questions, such as whether the world will not be haunted by "apocalyptic mishaps" (program booklet, p. 19) or, as Dürrenmatt did further expressed in his 1990 interview, "Humanity is not in an evolutionary crisis and is approaching its end." (Program booklet, p. 19) The state of society and development in human history that is indicated here does indeed seem paradoxical: a high level of civilizational development on the one hand, crises and the threat of world annihilation on the other hand are the two sides of the same coin, here a global elite domination as it was in the 20th century ./21. Century has developed or developed. A "catastrophic world" (program booklet, p. 19) - this term can be found in the interview mentioned above - can only be appropriately represented in the sense of Dürrenmatt in the context of a grotesque, a comedy with black humor and what is known as the worst possible twist.

The admiration for human ingenuity turns into a desperate, even sardonic laugh when it can hardly be denied that the boundary or even the flowing transition between intelligence and the existential paradox of human thought and action is about to be crossed. The change from admiration into a kind of gallows humor, from adoration into sarcasm as a reaction to what a person is able to achieve and create, corresponds to the metamorphosis of genius into absurdity, as far as the consequences of his thinking and working are concerned. In the above-mentioned 1990 interview, Dürrenmatt replied to the question of where the desire to mix comedy with horror comes from as follows: “I always have to laugh where others don't have to laugh, and vice versa. The divergence between how a person lives and how he actually could live is getting more and more funny. We are in the age of the grotesque and the caricature. "(Program, p. 18) And elsewhere: „Occasionally I have the impression that the world is playing a much crazier theater. It is not known whether Pakistan and India have the atomic bomb. Sooner or later you will have it. The thought is monstrous: Nuclear weapons in the hands of unpredictable Third World potentates. "(Program, p. 19) And:" (...) - our path leads into this world of apocalyptic mishaps. " (Program, p. 19)

A vision that touches the border to the end of the world in its relation to reality and the associated destructive potential is ultimately only possible through a courageous plea for the immortality of the Enlightenment based on universality and an action based on the Kantian categorical imperative, also universally understandable, if that one happens little pathetic can be expressed in this way, to overcome. The aforementioned Cuba crisis of 1962 shows that political turbulence, including catastrophic and even existential collapses on a global scale, can only be prevented by reflecting on common sense, acting wisely and observing humanitarian commandments.

A thirst for research in the broadest sense, which seems to be inherent in human nature, the striving of Homo sapiens for knowledge and insight, his thirst for action, his desire for further development and active lifestyle, all of this cannot be stopped, on the contrary: the participation of as many as possible Members of society in science and research, in world knowledge, in topic-related disputes and political discourses is not only desirable in terms of people, especially their well-being, which is established through participation and participation, but also in the course of a tendency towards dispersion and diffusion Society downright necessary. Possible forms of assuming responsibility require awareness training that takes place through education and knowledge acquisition. Only the knowledge of references to reality, of facts and contexts, both concrete and theoretical or abstract, makes it possible to generate strategies for overcoming problems and crises. On the basis of knowledge and a situation-appropriate assessment of reality, reason and moderation in action prove to be necessary for survival.

The questions as to whether "knowledge once thought remains hidden", to a greater extent, whether "knowledge can be concealed", specific questions that are raised in connection with teaching materials on the present drama (http://www.schauspielhaus.de/de_DE /repertoire/die_physiker.1011623/ Materialmappe, p. 20), must be answered with an unequivocal "No". Rather, it is to be emphasized and demanded that, with a few exceptions, information and expertise - such as intelligence knowledge to prevent terrorist attacks transparent and thus always made accessible to the extremely important social discourse. The public is extremely useful for developing a sense of responsibility, and this not only for politicians and scientists, but - quite desirable - for all members of society Context to a passage in an article, gen apart from that, pointed out in a celebratory address by former Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, excerpts of which were included in the above-mentioned teaching materials on the present drama. The relevant quote here is: “Many scientists do their research for their own sake. Research is at least the second most important concern in their life; in many cases, your own research is of the utmost importance. Behind this remains the awareness of their responsibility for the common good. "

(http://www.schauspielhaus.de/de_DE/repertoire/die_physiker.1011623 / material folder, p. 24)

The present play reveals its own plot, the dramatic characters brought into play with their deviant behaviors, customs and intentions, and ultimately the world in which the events presented are grotesque and absurd. With the placement of the three main characters in a sanatorium, i.e. with a specific situation of the course of action and the associated use of ambience, utensils and vocabulary from the clinical field of psychiatry and neurology, it wants the madness of a continuity of discovery and invention , deadly application possibilities and the resulting strategies of concealment artistically. At the same time, an imperative could be gained from the comedy at issue here: It is probably the unspoken demand that society is divided into the circle of experts, including interested parties, on the one hand, and for understandable reasons, which is associated with the increasing scientification of the world On the other hand, to reduce the enlarging layer of those who are fixated on simple everyday knowledge and thus decoupled from necessary, more differentiated, also more complex world knowledge, perhaps even to eliminate them completely. Many a postulate from the "21 Points on Physicists" points out: "As far as everyone is concerned, only everyone can solve." And: "Every attempt by an individual to solve for himself what concerns everyone must fail." (From: 21 points on the physicists

(https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Physiker or
http://www.schauspielhaus.de/de_DE/repertoire/die_physiker.1011623 / material folder, p. 12))

Ultimately, the light of the way out, of perspective, to put it a little poetically, falls again and again in this work of world literature, albeit problem-oriented and latently on rationality in the well-understood sense, on reason and enlightenment, thus implicitly on the political Compromise where it is unavoidable, ultimately on the value of humanity, in short: on the only acceptable forces capable of preventing the "possible impossible". Finally, the question-clad heading to the present comment must be emphatically denied.

Burlesque, bizarre, grotesque and absurd are key elements of the comedy commented on here, are aspects that show both the loss and the need for reason and enlightenment - the latter has just been pointed out. The staging brings the madness to life, to put it briefly, and moves here within an appropriate framework, quite remarkable in view of the not entirely undisputed extravagance of his staging results, which the audience has probably become known through the director's work outside of Hamburg. A perhaps rather hidden subtlety of the spirit and plot of the present play in connection with a performance practice that is dedicated to success and persuasiveness makes demands on the acting competence of the actors who come into action here that should not be underestimated. In conclusion, they all meet the requirements associated with their role perception in the best possible way and are given appropriate applause by the audience.

Hamburg, d. 02/01/2016
(For the author's profile see www.MichaelPracht.de)

End of the reading sample from 8 pages