So near and yet so far: Contemporary theater in Wedding

A group of nine young people stand in rows of three. Their clothing is simple and monochrome, with patterns of orange, cream and ochre embossed with shiny details. Their sober backdrop echoes this color palette: a wide, darkened industrial hall made of concrete and steel gives the group the space their performance needs. The distance between the individual participants is generous, but they still appear close to one other. Each one moves at their own rhythm, yet the choreography is in sync.

How can we create proximity in an era of distance? What holds us together when external circumstances force us to spread out? How do we stay in contact, how can we share in each other's lives, how do we comfort and love? Questions like these seem more current than ever in 2020, and cannot be answered purely rationally. After all, human beings are still very much social animals, even during a pandemic. Needs, emotions and our relationships to our own bodies have to be completely renegotiated in the face of the current situation, and what better way than a performance in a place that offers plenty of creative and spatial freedom?

For the young theater collective Ogalala Kreuzberg, the pandemic presented an opportunity to address the idea of social distancing in a physical way. Their play Juri&Joana: Eine Liebe in Zeiten von       *, which premiered on 2 October 2020 at Berlin Decks, is a love story that plays out in this new reality. Themes like a longing for closeness and human company are made visible and tangible through the work’s expansive narrative. For Ogalala, the interaction is not just with space but with the audience. The collective’s motto "We do not want realism. We want magic" underlines their work, which combines acting, music, performance, film and visual art. In a networked world, Ogalala values one thing above all: touch. "The more digitized our world is, the more urgently we need places where people can interact directly with each other," explains its director Christine Dissmann.

While tickets for the premiere screenings of Juri&Joana on 3 and 4 October had to be booked in advance, this did not dampen the enthusiasm. All three performances took place in front of sold-out audiences, though instead of paying an entrance fee, the theatergoers – many of them locals from Wedding – were asked for a donation. In the end €1500 was collected for PIKPA, a self-governing refugee camp on Lesbos, and the Refugee Law Clinic Berlin. For Tony Paumer of BEOS, there is a reason behind teaming up with the theater collective: "The art and culture industry has not had it easy this year, no question. But from these extreme conditions, sometimes completely new ideas can emerge as Ogalala’s work clearly demonstrates. Berlin Decks was conceived from the outset as a place of cultural exchange and we are especially pleased to be able to bring together creative artists, the public and the local area in this space".

Ein Projekt der BEOS