Monday, 21 March 2011


With my limited grasp of German at trip to the cinema or theatre, here in Germany, can be a trial. However, recently I saw a performance that I was able to follow quite as well as any of the native born Germans. This was Wunschkonzert. This is a remarkable, one woman, seventy minute stage play without dialogue. It premiered on the 18th March 2011 at the Altstadt Theatre in Ingolstadt.

Susan Oswell plays Frau Rasch in this unique, silent, one woman performance. The story, set in her, tiny, sparsely furnished apartment, opens as she gets home from work. She has a little shopping, some flowers and a scarf. She is perhaps a business lady or, more likely, a smart personal secretary to an older executive.

She commences her chores. Sorting the mail, putting out a bill to be paid tomorrow. Putting her clothes away carefully for the next day. Nothing is hurried, nothing is dropped carelessly or half done. Frau Rasch is able to give everything she does quite as much time as it needs. In fact, it gradually emerges, Frau Rasch has very little in her life apart from her chores.

On the wall are two photographs of the younger Frau Rasch. A ballet dancer. This present woman shows little connection to music. Although she moves with the economy of a dancer all her motions have the flat, relentless inevitability that tell of endless repetition. As she chops the tomato for her supper she might be fitting the  one millionth left, rear brake light on the Audi production line.

Even smoking a cigarette is a meaningless activity of no more pleasurable than wiping the cream from her face.

At last, apparently on a whim, she decides to put some music on. Some animation comes to her face and some extra motion. She even shows a little joy in her food. The one time dancer revealed by her pictures is still in there, somewhere.

But the music ends and Frau Rasch reverts to her earlier mode and her motion resumes its spare, machine like, efficiency. Even posing with her new scarf she demonstrates no more pleasure in the action than does a set of traffic light endlessly stopping and starting the cars. 

By now we wait anxiously for her to restart the music. Finally she does and again she is energised. But this time it doesn't last. The music has invoked some memory, perhaps of an old lover, perhaps a memory of a life glimpsed and now more painful on account of its loss.

In this play, with its pace and lack of dialogue, the audience are all observers with  time to reflect and decide what remembered  tragedy the music might have invoked. What, 'road not taken' our one time dancer might be contemplating. We cannot know what is in Frau Rasch's mind but we all have such memories to feel as kin with her.

This moment of sadness has sets the narrative on its final trajectory. We realise that there is something damaged within her that she is unable to repair.  She has no one to turn to. Her phone, which she has carefully placed to charge, does not ring. There are no siblings, children or parents to need her, or help her. Each prosaic domestic activity occupies her completely. She is neither stressed, nor rushed, nor weary, nor in pain. She is nothing.

The one, 'path not taken', may not be contemplated. Its loss is too painful. Instead, Frau Rasch, on this night, and for no more reason than on this night she also has a headache, on this night she chooses oblivion.

Wunschkonzert, by Franz Xaver Kroetz, is performed by Susan Oswell and directed by Ingrid Cannonier.


  1. A truly great performance and an excellent production in a perfect, intimate little theatre. A rare treat.

  2. Great review this Terry. Makes me want to see it.

    Pity it's half a continent away!