By taking on the family, the Navigators shine a light on yet another building block of society and investigate the mysterious rules and rituals of this constitutional human constellation. At the piece’s conclusion the spectator decides which family history he wants to enter into with which protagonist.
…And there they are again, the long-loved human animals, doing very relaxed whimsical things and quite en passant – after all, this is about family and therefore also about the horror in it – a horror that at first you almost do not notice. But phrases like “he knows what he should want, but he doesn’t” refer to well-intentioned parenting terror, “she was so beautiful and so thin” to eating disorders; a dear aunt smooches in greeting that the child cringes in disgust, and anyone who had a Nazi grandfather will be reminded of him. “The Family Council” opens with a light hand a huge space of private and thus individual associations – some causes a shiver, some a wistful smile, some triggers nothing at all, but looks good…
Her shining eyes formed the basis of his life. From one balcony to the other they exchanged telepathic abilities. The calm in the herb garden was better than any pension scheme. He knew how to lie, how to squint and how to delight his wife; she was wild and dreamy. Sometimes they simply enjoyed themselves without speaking at all. In the family car everybody had his own story. He was too thin to carry any responsibility. To preserve the picturesque harmony he argued charmingly against certain rules. In the garage he dreamt that he could fly.
Der Familienrat (The Familiy Council) is the fifth production of the ensemble created by Nicola Hümpel and Oliver Proske. The imagery of Nico and the Navigators is used to tell us about the mysterious andunique rules and rituals that preserve natural constellations of human beings. The Family Council explores different family members; the real play takes place in our heads.
SOMETIMES THEY FELT SIMPLY SPEECHLESSLY CONTENT…
After bravely saying goodbye in the “Menschenbilder” cycle, working hopelessly, and testing the world of objects for social suitability, the fifth production digs even deeper to uncover the roots of human malfunctions and reveals the source of all mischief. For the first time, the title of the play also unmistakably points to this. The beloved family. It is the breeding ground for all social development and, as the primary cell, plays a crucial role in how well or poorly its charges will fare later in life. It reflects in miniature all the variations of societal order and disorder, creates many a rulebook without a clear purpose, insists on its rituals even in dire circumstances, and is always keen to maintain its shiny external appearance. However, when, despite all efforts, some rust appears on the gold paint, Nico and the Navigators lurk outside the cozy home and offer a clandestine peek behind the red cabinet facade. Perhaps the father is caught by the son indulging in the sensual polishing of a woman’s shoe, or the daughter threatens to choke on the family baggage shaped like a roll. The little brother bitterly learns what it means to be the last, and the husband eventually associates his wife’s unbearably good mood with her yellow coat. “Her radiant eyes were the foundation of his life.” Yet, time and again, the perspective shifts, role attributions blur, and the viewer decides for themselves when they see the lover behind the sister or the grandson in the uncle.
After its premiere, the play tours Europe and is mentioned by several critics in the Italian theater yearbook Patalogo 2005 in the category “best foreign guest performance.” The “Familienrat” is so far the only production of the company that, after a prolonged performance break, gets a new staging: in 2008, it is picked up again as “Familienrat II” after five years. Shaped by very different developments, including those of the ensemble members’ own families, the material still offers an exciting playing field for all involved.
…They are pedestrians in the air, pathfinders of bliss, astonished, confused, bewildered, and show that on this thoroughly organized earth one can indeed be – indeed must be – from another star. With them, everyday tasks take on gently crazy slapstick dimensions. They stumble, they float through life, unthreatened, because dozens of guardian angels catch them again and again. They fit into no grid, no scheme, no system. They are immune to education and standardization,…
Enthusiasm for "Nico and the Navigators" at the premiere of their new play "Der Familienrat" at the sophiensælen in Berlin Berlin. "Family ties" is a word with a double meaning, the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus once sined. Der Familienrat" (The Family Council), the title of the latest creation by "Nico and the Navigators", which was acclaimed at the Berlin sophiensælen, also carries such family ballast that leaves one perplexed. Frustrated, one carries around the relentlessly well-intentioned burden of parental upbringing on the youthful hump of life, feels how it prevents the upright walk, the leap into the air even. And almost wants to go crazy. Nico and the Navigators" do not do that. The small, fine, original and special ensemble around Nicola Hümpel started in 1998 at the Bauhaus Dessau and quickly found itself in the dilapidated charm of the avant-garde breeding ground at Hackescher Markt in Berlin-Mitte. In the new play, the actors show once again that they are no iconoclasts, no protest criers, no profile neurotics. No longer an insider tip, not yet in danger of becoming routine, their trademark is the fine humor, the quirky poetry, the quiet thinking around the corner, the wafting of at first glance confused, at second glance abysmally thoughtful slivers of language such as "They know what they should want, but they don't want anything at all". They are pedestrians in the air, pathfinders of bliss, astonished, confused, bewildered, and show that on this thoroughly organized earth one can indeed be - indeed must be - of the other star. With them, everyday tasks take on gently crazy slapstick dimensions. They stumble, they float through life, unthreatened, because dozens of guardian angels catch them again and again. They fit into no grid, no scheme, no system. They are immune to education and standardization, gifted with scatterbrainedness, dreamy smiles, thoughtful wit, beautifully unworldly, because such a cruelly bland world does not exist in their poetic imagination. These knights of the cosmic-comic shape, in which ground and abyss, sense, background and nonsense imperceptibly merge into one another, therefore also live in a cabinet wall furniture with an astounding life of its own, again deviously ingeniously constructed by Oliver Proske. The austerely beautiful wooden wonder bag is a surprise coup. Exactly the right playground for this art crossover, which Annedore Kleist, Verena Schonlau, Patric Schott, Peter Stock, Isabelle Stoffel, Sinta Tamsjadi and Julius Weiland perform in eighty thoughtfully amusing minutes. What goes on there in small stories, gentle dramas, laughable catastrophes under the seal of family custody and forced administration, will now also cheer up contemplatively between Krakow, Granada and Groningen, between Mulhouse and Montreal. It ends in Christmas peace: the snow quietly trickles as a freshly grated breadcrumb blessing and lambs bleat and mow softly and stupidly "Silent Night".
…Behind the repressions and compromises that seem necessary for the survival of every family, they discover the pecking orders of generations and genders…. The experiences express themselves directly in physical defects, which begin as a nervous tic and can end in small disasters. The fact that even from such disasters one has to find one’s way back into an everyday life in reality visibly suits the ostensibly anecdotal and yet psychologically interlocked way of playing of the ensemble….
Nico and the Navigators show their new piece "The Family Council". Dessau/MZ. The rolls of childhood are pale and dry, they swell in the mouth like suffocating gags or crumble at the slightest touch. Certainly, you could form small balls of dough from them or pierce them with your finger - but of course you shouldn't want to. And even if you believe the nutrition ideologists, who supposedly prefer healthier bottom halves to the actually more desirable counterpart: Crumbs always remain in the end, which crunch underfoot and can only be removed with great difficulty. With their new piece "Der Familienrat" (The Family Council), which after performances in Berlin and Düsseldorf can now be a guest at the Bauhaus Dessau thanks to financial support from the National Performance Network, Nico and the Navigators search for childhood patterns in a present. In the process, they appear more lost and thin-skinned than ever in the dark corner under the stairs, at the climbing frame or at the festive table - which, of course, does not degenerate into dreariness with the troupe, which is now at home at the sophiensælen in Berlin-Mitte. The ensemble around director and costume designer Nicola Hümpel is already protected from this by Oliver Proskes' stage design, which once again turns out to be a chamber of wonders: double doors here unexpectedly turn into actual wings, solid walls open up into secret chambers and a shoe rack gives itself justified hope of a new life as a show staircase. The dark red and the brass fittings give the room a prestigious appearance that certainly makes one think of a "good parlor". It is also such a protective and shameful space in which the seven performers develop their surprisingly consistent characters. Behind the repressions and compromises that seem to be necessary for the survival of every family, they discover the pecking orders of generations and genders, the culmination of which was last seen in Michael Thalheimer's film adaptation "Das Fest". In the case of the Navigators, however, no cascades of words are needed to stir up or cover up what has been kept silent. The experiences express themselves directly in physical defects that begin as a nervous tic and can end in small disasters. The fact that even from such disasters one has to find one's way back into an everyday life in reality visibly suits the ostensibly anecdotal and yet psychologically interlocking style of the ensemble. The two new actors fit into the acting spectrum in an almost ghostly way: One almost has the feeling as if exactly these two faces had been missing until now. That they now mingle in that "Family Affair", which is once described in the somnambulistic soundtrack as "brothers under arms", remains a happy coincidence.
…the behavioral rituals and processes in everyday interaction are translated into a specific theatrical language. Nothing tangible is offered to the spectator, there is also no plot line to follow…. The spectator suspects and feels more than he knows and thinks. Only the composition of all moments leads to a realization, namely, to have experienced something special…. you have to see it…
It is often difficult to do justice with mere words to a play that is conceived for the stage; that is, that wants to be seen and heard. However, it is even more difficult to write about a play when the intention of the event is to portray something that lies beyond linguistic communicability. And that is perhaps already the most important statement that can be made about the new play by the Berlin group "Nico and the Navigators": you have to see it. "The Family Council" is the fourth production that director Nicola Hümpel and her Navigators are showing at the FFT Juta. Inspired by the Scandinavian Dogma film "The Feast," the group's new play deals with the complex roles and rituals within the family. It is about rules of the game and patterns of behavior that maintain the family system: They range from cleaning mania to sexual abuse, from falling in love to being an outsider. None of this is actually played out on the stage of the Wilhelm Marx House. Instead, the behavioral rituals and processes of everyday interaction are translated into a specific theatrical language. Nothing tangible is offered to the audience, nor is there a plot line to follow. The emphasis in the play is on each individual moment. And from each moment images, associations arise. The spectator suspects and feels more than he knows and thinks. Only the composition of all moments leads to a realization, namely, to have experienced something special. "He knows what he should want, but he doesn't want it at all"; "he was too thin to carry responsibility"; "sometimes they felt comfortable speechless" - again and again such statements of the actors echo through the theater space. They form the framework for the otherwise predominant play of facial expressions, gestures and movement, supported by different rhythms, yellow cups, rolls and a stage set of a special kind that can transform itself. For an inconspicuous red wall suddenly becomes stairs, hidden rooms and garage doors. This is the work of Oliver Proske, who together with Nicola Hümpel conceives the plays of the Navigators. He always supports and underlines the stage action with his unusual conceptions. And when all the secrets have been elicited from the red wall, the family council closes. In the background, sheep bleat "Silent night, holy night", and on the outsider of the flock the bun snow quietly trickles.
…Poetic and surreal is the effect of the production… The variety of human behavioral rituals, the often rationally unjustifiable processes in everyday family life, are translated by the seven actors into their specific theatrical language. In the process, words have become almost superfluous. The production lives from a visual language that gives the audience the possibility to associate freely and sets no limits to their imagination…
Christmas can come: "The Family Council" of the ensemble "Nico and the Navigators" meets at the FFT Juta The music gives it away: it's Christmas, and at no other time of the year does the family intrude so much into our consciousness and allow subliminal conflicts to emerge. Even the writer Heimito von Doderer knew that "whoever enters the family will perish in it". Family, a concept as complex as a therapy session. Each member has tacitly assumed his or her role in it, putting on a good face so as not to endanger the superficial holiday harmony, even though violence and aggression are seething inside, in danger of suddenly erupting. The ensemble "Nico and the Navigators" around director Nicola Hümpel approaches with their new play "The Family Council" these for outsiders mostly strange rules of the dear relatives. The seven actors translate the diversity of human behavioral rituals, the often rationally unjustifiable processes in everyday family life, into their specific theatrical language. In the process, words have become almost superfluous. The production lives from a visual language that allows the audience to associate freely and sets no limits to their imagination. In the process, things are robbed of their ordinary meaning. A coat hanger can also be used for writing and the shower becomes a closet. This changeability is supported by Oliver Proske's red stage. Flap open, flap closed: sometimes a door, then a garage roof, finally a house. The stage design offers many possibilities for retreat and hiding - just like the family. They also seem to like to exchange their roles, so that one wonders "Who is actuallyfather, mother, brother or sister now?" The stage family acts in slow-motion dreaminess, but also in slapstick comedy. Their moods are musically underscored, so that a unity of movement, sound, language and space images develops. The production appears poetic and surreal. Words hardly play a role, and so even phrases such as "He was too thin to take responsibility" or "The peace and quiet in the herb garden was better than any old-age provision" evade any context of meaning. There is a speechless sense of well-being, sometimes even at family gatherings.
…Freud lurks in every detail, and the props become symbolic traitors to their users….
...In fairy tales we know that things are in alliance with secret powers and that dealing with them often means a test. In everyday life, this is usually forgotten. That's why director Nicola Hümpel has been working with her ensemble for five years to uncover the buried meanings of things...... Freud lurks in every detail, and the props become symbolic traitors to their users.... a stylish refusal of fashionable attribution....
…This is how the ensemble approaches the rules of the game and bizarre rituals in the dear family, which are usually strange to outsiders. From the sacred customs and the ingrained patterns, they try to decipher the matrix of what holds the world together at its core. Without fear of clichés, hot irons and the familiar traumas. Family celebrations included…
Nico and the Navigators show "The Family Council" at the Sophiensaele The father cuts the roast on Sunday. The mother cleans the windows in spring. The little sister whines in the cellar. The big brother fetches the once again missed ball from the neighbors. The grandmother wears an apron. The grandfather can fold paper airplanes. Ah, happy family! But even Heimito von Doderer, the Austrian writer who looked skeptically at the blank bourgeois facades, remarked: "Whoever enters into family, perishes in it." Family, a concept as complex as a therapy session, a subject as multi-layered as a golden wedding - and in this respect an ideal challenge for Nico and the Navigators. This remarkable independent group around founder and director Nicola Hümpel now presents its fifth work with the premiere of "The Family Council". Since their founding in 1998 at the Bauhaus Dessau, the Navigators have earned an international and festival-tested reputation as form-conscious, style-conscious, absurdly witty everyday kibitzers. In a mixture of dance theater, slapstick, and pantomime, supplemented with crude verbiage and artful wit, things get out of proportion for them. The meanings tumble until nothing can be relied on anymore. Madness has a charmingly choreographed method here, the chaos radiates in disciplined grotesque gymnastics, the nonsensical tirades tickle unexpected associative fields: "The peace in the herb garden was better than any old-age provision," they say, or: "He was too thin to take responsibility." In this way, the ensemble approaches the rules of the game and bizarre rituals in the dear kin, which are usually alienating for outsiders. From the sacred customs and ingrained patterns, they try to decipher the matrix of what holds the world together at its core. Without fear of clichés, hot irons and the familiar traumas. Family celebrations included.
…Nico is always about things and our attitudes towards them; and how our attitudes dig into things; and how our attitudes become sentences and these sentences in turn become things. Which then look like Proskes’ ingeniously serviceable alienation boxes.
So this time, when it’s about the family, it’s again about the formations and deformations that each of the seven Navigators has witnessed in their own primary group, they are again so soothed to form, cooled to laconicism, relieved to irony, that the effect is gentle and lasting….
"Nico and the Navigators" convene the "Family Council" at the Forum Freies Theater Düsseldorf. The world is beautiful. Pleasant, colorful, bright, clean and of practical emotionality. Here everything is good. Everything is design here. We have benches that can also be tables, tables that were shower stalls, walls where garage doors open up to pointed gables. Have closets in which to hide, to be discovered immediately. Because here is no place for chasms. Here, after all, is us, the family. In our house, by the way, we say sorry. Doesn't it look nice how our sad little one sits there quietly for hours on end? We have a shoe rack that slopes and becomes a staircase. And a raised homeowner's platform in the back, because life can be uphill sometimes. For the fourth time, Nico and the Navigators are guests at Düsseldorf's Forum Freies Theater, now with their latest production, "Der Familienrat." Since its founding in 1998, the Berlin group led by director Nicola Hümpel and set designer Oliver Proske has been searching for the sadness in the happy. Proske finds it in coolly elegant stage cases that are so multifunctional that it is tantamount to a lack of character. Hümpel and her players find it in unhappy-comic postures, a freezing in the face laughter, in the ambitiously failing interaction with the objects of the stage - in the discrepancy between the empty-dreamy looks of the people and their promising accessories. A mixture between dance and spoken theater, music and design: ambient with cracks. Nico is always about things and our attitudes towards them; and how our attitudes dig into things; and how our attitudes become sentences and these sentences in turn become things. Which then look like Proskes' ingeniously serviceable alienation boxes. So when it's about family this time, it's about the same thing again; and the formations and deformations that each of the seven navigators has witnessed in his or her own primary group are again so soothed to form, cooled to laconic, relieved to irony, that the effect is gentle and lasting. Constantly someone comes in with an embarrassed air; at length a little one lies under the bench; piteously a determined one gymnasts; somnambulistically a lanky one bounces. "He was too skinny to take responsibility," he says. - "He knows what he should want. But he doesn't want to." These are such phrases that fall. The word family ties smacks of truth, Karl Kraus once found. We all know them, even "family council" does not go beyond that and thus into the garbage. But rarely has the bitterness of this truth tasted as sweet as it does here.
…Of course, as a spectator one is immediately ready to understand these seven players, four women, three men, as one family. But no family saga is told and no family council is held. If you absolutely want to, you can identify individual motifs of middle-class family life. For example, shuffling in in the morning in a bathrobe…. Nico and the Navigators have become something of a cult…
People who go to see Nico and the Navigators don't usually expect fundamental discussions and in-depth analyses. In this respect, one is somewhat surprised when the Sophiensaele now announce that "the unique ensemble" will take a look at "the unique rules of the game, strange rituals and peculiar patterns of behavior" with the help of which the family's life together is organized and made more bearable. Of course, as a viewer, one is immediately ready to understand these seven players, four women, three men, as one family. But no family saga is told and no family council is held. If one absolutely wants to, one can identify individual motifs of middle-class family life. For example, the shuffling in in the morning in a bathrobe, although it might be quite unusual what individual gentlemen do quasi-erotically with a pair of ladies' gold shoes. There is also a common meal. However, it is very surprising that only totally dried up bread rolls are consumed. No jam, no Nutella. It crumbles what the stuff holds. In general, there is a certain inflation of bread rolls. They are choked and munched and crumbled. In the end, they tip out of a flap by the fistful. If you like, the woman embodied by Sinta Tamsjadi could be seen as a caricatured formulaic mother figure. Always schematically keep smiling. On the road with the dustpan. She feels loved without reservation. And she proclaims some crazy parenting or behavioral maxims. The audience has an effortless reunion and recognition effect here. For Nicola Hümpel and her players again handle familiar stylistic elements. The play is determined by an occasionally almost trance-like slowness. But it is also the use of props. In the last production, "Lilli in putgarden," quantities of porcelain cups played a significant role, so much so that the end of World Cup Day was even proclaimed. This time plastic cups are handled and stacked. Oliver Proske has also again built a multi-functional stage furniture, which can be wonderfully folded out, opened and closed. There is dancing with a shelf without its contents falling out, which then turns into a staircase you can step down. Mom drinks coffee in the fridge at some point. Above all, parts of this furniture construction kit can be used for wonderful silly gymnastics. Nico and the Navigators usually don't talk much. But there are such remarkable phrases as "He was too skinny to take responsibility", "too much root vegetables"; there is a very funny monologue about the father, who drove a car backwards as well as forwards, advised the American president, owned the biggest apiary, but never got a stitch. An album is turned without looking inside, suggestively oil is poured over the pictures. For this time, too, the motif of "memory" is turned back and forth. Mother's memory of her parents, for instance. Nico and the Navigators have become something of a cult. And last night, the Sophiensaele was claustrophobically crowded. In the foyer, people stomped their toes and blew their cigarettes around their ears. This special nimbus naturally heightened the experience. The regular audience, which also includes more mature celebrity faces, is itself family. This production also oscillates, washed around with different music, between scythe and nonsense, slapstick and crazy acrobatic movement. But it seems clearer to me what was already apparent in the last production: the Nico method becomes routine, it grinds in or out. This affectionate goofing off is always funny and cute. There's a theory about the stupid upper-half eaters (we're back to the Schrippen) and the more intelligent lower-half eaters, who also happen to be even better people. But sometimes it gets quite boring. And such completely crazy ideas as the walking stick vacuum cleaner or the egg balanced on the air cushion of a household appliance - ideas of comparably wonderfully stupid quality I have not seen this time. The "Silent Night, Holy Night" mowed down by sheep is not that grandiose after all. And the performance has abundant, meaning-pretending empty runs. But then again there were pretty moments of bashfulness, of approach or also of complete introversion. The Navigators, I think, have to be careful not to keep putting out a new production for international tours and fall into pure routine.
A production by NICO AND THE NAVIGATORS and the Sophiensæle Berlin. Coproduced by La Filature, Scène Nationale de Mulhouse. Supported by the Berliner Senatsverwaltung für Wissenschaft Forschung und Kultur and the Kulturfonds Foundation. In cooperation with the Forum Freies Theater Düsseldorf, and the Bauhaus DessauFoundation.
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