Presented as part of the Palaver Festival which celebrates and promotes language, music and performance in French, German and Chinese in Manchester, and produced by students of The University of Manchester German Society, this was a production of Schiller's masterpiece, Kabale Und Liebe, { Intrigue and Love } performed in German.

To say that these were students, all of whom are currently reading German at Manchester University, and have no theatrical training at all, they did quite a remarkable job. There were several occasions where lines were fluffed or a prompt was needed; several long pauses between speeches; and other minor incongruities which of course would not be present in a professional production, and despite performing on The Contact Theatre's main stage, this was a celebration of the language, and a huge learning curve for all those students involved in the piece. I myself have acted in both French and German, and have for many years been involved in working with students whose first language is not English and so am only too well aware of all the mental obstacles needed to overcome to try something like this in a language that is not your native tongue. Despite speaking in German, you are still thinking in English, and ad libbing becomes very problematic unless you are completely fluent.

This then was a huge testament to the tenacity and bravery of these students who picked up the gauntlet and gave it their best shot.

Kabale Und Liebe was written in 1784 by the great German playwright Friedrich Schiller, and is firmly fixed as a Bourgeois Tragedy of the Sturm Und Drang era in German literature. In the version performed today it was altered and updated trying to make it more relevant to a modern audience, and although by so doing, much of the musicality and genius of the original text had been lost, the themes of the play were still present as was the tragedy. The main problem I had with the updating was that in this version all the characters spoke the same (or variations of the same) Hoch Deutsch, and in fact Schiller's use of language, and styles of language is his hallmark. Rarely did he indicate social standing through language but he most certainly indicated status within the play as the characters' virtues and characteristics are given different 'mundarten'. For example, in the original text, Mrs. Miller's speech uses many dialectal sayings and also she will sometimes use a foreign word quite incorrectly. I did not notice any of this in today's performance.  

However, that being said, it was a difficult enough task to speak the German without having to try different German dialekten.

Sadly I felt that both principals were a little weak, and the action only really started to heat up midway through the second half with the introduction of actual tragedy; however there were three really rather enjoyable supporting performances. These were given by Scott Jones as Ferdinand's trusting but rather simplistic friend Von Kalb; Charlotte Mangham as the girl Ferdinand is ordered to marry against his wishes, Fraeulein Milford; but for my money the most truthful and interesting performance goes to the manipulative and conniving worm, Wurm, played with a wicked glint in the eye by Elena Pavan.

It is hugely commendable that Manchester can advertise a German language production of Schiller, and marvellous that it can be performed at such a prestigious venue. It is such a pity that the audience was made up mainly of fellow students and few others, and even then managed only to fill the first few rows. Maybe the 11:00am performance time put people off. I sincerely hope that more original language theatre can be produced in the future. We are now living, more than ever before in a multi-cultural society, and Manchester houses the greatest diversity of nations outside of London. We should embrace this opportunity to be proud of cultural differences - including language and literature.

As part of The Palaver Festival, The Contact Theatre are also hosting productions of Satre's Huis Clos, and a Chinese language play called Bus Stop.

More details here -

Reviewer: Mark Dee

Reviewed: 16th March 2016