Premiered on 16th October 2020, National Theater of Kosovo
By: Jeton Neziraj | Directed by: Blerta Neziraj | Cast: Arta Muçaj, Adrian Morina, Armend Smajli, Ylber Bardhi, Shpetim Selmani | Stage and Costumes: Jelisaveta Tatić Čuturilo | Choreography: Gjergj Prevazi | Music Composer: Gabriele Marangoni | Dramaturge and Artistic Collaborator: Alban Beqiraj | Collaborator for Scenography: Mentor Berisha | Video: Ilir Gjocaj | Stage Manager: Lendita Idrizi | International Outreach: Maud Dinand | Coordination: Beqir Beqiri | Translation into English: Alexandra Channer | Lights: Mursel Bekteshi, Yann Perregaux | Technical Director: Fatlum Idrizi | Photos: Atdhe Mulla
Watch trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xf-90xRjXPQ
Produced by: Qendra Multimedia, National Theater of Kosovo, Volksbühne, Berlin
ABOUT THE SHOW
The Return of Karl May confronts the audience with the almost demonizing approach taken by Western Europe towards the East – an assumed cultural, political and intellectual superiority – which, according to Aleksandar Hemon is deeply rooted in colonialism and racism. In our play, Kara Ben Nemsi, the famous protagonist of Karl May’s books – escapes the East and, together with a group of actors, from Kosovo, heads towards the German Lands. In this almost-epic journey, he meets Slavoj Zizek, Peter Handke, a member of Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund and several other characters. An idealized West, a nest of wisdom, science, culture and civilization, peopled by skillful and bright Catholics who keep their word, on one side; an exotic and despotic East full of ignorant people who have no dignity, thieves and Muslims for whom to plunder is God, on the other: this is part of the literary heritage of some of the novels of Karl May, the cult German author. What is the impact of May’s work in the West today – especially in the Germanic lands, from which he comes? The play takes a scan of today’s Europe, its assumed cultural and civilizing values, its democracy that is proclaimed as holy, and which, in the babel of bureaucratic letters of the EU, comes to us in the shape of Eurovision – the music contest – that is, as a Europe of love, harmony, glow and diversity that, at its core and in reality, is also an arrogant, Euro-centrist and even racist Europe with anti-Muslim and anti eastern sentiments! It is a Europe that glows from the outside, and revels in stereotypes on the inside! While Karl May and his literary works can be ‘excused’ with the justification that he lived in a century of ignorance, darkness and limited communication opportunities and access to information, how can we excuse and justify an author like Peter Handke? An author of our time who denies the genocide in Bosnia and who [in the name of artistic freedom, of course] has been taken under protection by many European intellectuals and journalists, furthermore, whose contribution is acknowledged and appreciated not only with the Ibsen Award, but also the Nobel Prize for Literature! Here is the overview of a Europe that, besides the four freedoms and egalitarianism, is creating itself another side with a gloomy and a dark future, even. The European Trumps are on their way! The curtain is open, their path is being paved beautifully with flowers and confetti, even literary ones! The speeches of Handke and his ilk are there for those who will want to create a “Let’s make Europe great again,” a Europe from which the new Kara Ben Nemsi will take off – this time not with horses but probably with tanks – to explore, educate and civilize the barbaric East – and every other East that is not like their West. It is in this way that frustration and racism towards Balkan refugees and those from third world countries, continues to flourish in the East as well.
SELECTED QUOTES ABOUT THE SHOW
“Subtitled ‘an entertaining play for German people’, “The Return of Karl May” opens with the National Theatre of Kosovo dispatching a troupe of actors on a quest to Berlin – the Volksbühne is in trouble and Kosovars are good at conflict resolution, the play jokes – and also to educate a German audience that, in the world of the play, still thinks of the Balkans like the Wild West, lawless and chaotic”. Natasha Tripney, nachtkritik.de.
“Return, a co-production with the Volksbühne theatre in Berlin and that began as a joke at the artistic demands of the German company, is a parodic and comical critique on popular German author Karl May’s racist attitudes—his writings are full of clichés and stereotypes of Albanians and Balkan people in general”. Verity Healey, Howlround
“What appears as a public faux pas is in context a very well integrated stylistic decision made by Neziraj. Throughout the play, Neziraj stretches the gray zone between political criticism and entertaining cynicism in an assemblage of elaborate scenes and the restaging of the production process itself”. Edona Kryeziu, KOSOVO 2.0.
“Jeton Neziraj’s controversial and avant-garde text, The Return of Karl May sparked the notion of “the minor” in my mind. “The minor” is a concept coined by Gillez Deleuze, the French philosopher and thinker, and his friend and colleague Felix Guattari. It concerns social subjects who have been marginalized from the “major thinking and discourse”, and form a “Machine of Desires and Powers” so that they can make changes to the society in which they reside. Director Blerta Neziraj has the capacity to charge every visual element, movement, and character in the play into a performance in which the spectators can feel the text, not only by listening to the dialogue, but also by seeing, smelling, touching and conceptually tasting the concepts which run through the play”. Alireza Mahvelati, Kosovo Theatre Reviews