The second piece in the ‘Human Images’ cycle presents a host of ludicrous horror scenarios drawn from everyday working life. Seven enduring archetypes, from the boss to the lowly employee, bring insight and humour to their close examination of the all too familiar daily struggle for existence.
…So that they also maintain their dignity, the characters remain as stern and stiff as the ties and hairstyles they wear. They only leave the silence when they formulate their little, bittersweet sentences: “Don’t listen to yourself like that. There’s nothing there.”, “I want to go upstairs! Do you want to go up, too?” The surreal observations are cleverly strung together. It is a dance of indecision, presented in the form of a collage, of situations in limbo….
Part 2 of the cycle ‘Human Images’
The piece Eggs on Earth shows ludicrous horror scenarios founded in everyday working life. In a multifunctional, cool, blue, business world, 7 headstrong archetypes, varying from bosses to employees, meet in different constellations. The spectator experiences a variety of interpersonal encounters ranging from mobbing, rebellion, adaptation, humiliation and deformation. With pin-sharp perception and a good serving of humour, Eggs on Earth goes through all too well-known moments of the struggle for existence with a fine-tooth comb. And there is only one aim: ‘I would really like to talk to Mr Fock now!’
BETWEEN ALL CHAIRS
How does the image of work change in a time when one sees not the world but only its atlas? Where does the alienation from things begin when money has long become the actual commodity? And how does one endure the humiliation when, instead of the overdue and firmly agreed conversation with the enigmatic Mr. Fock, one only hears more postponements on hold? In the second part of “Human Images,” Nico and the Navigators inquire about the disruptions in the modern working world, where careers seem as fragile and vulnerable as the biographies behind them. Through life stories like “Peter from Dessau” and “Hanno from Hanover,” they sketch melancholic portraits of the “intern generation,” who in Proske’s multifunctional kiosk are visually fragmented into upper and lower bodies time and again. The furniture of the production consists almost exclusively of chairs missing their back legs, so they cannot stand on their own, even though they could easily be combined into benches and tables. With this eloquent accessory, the Navigators are not only sitting at, but literally over the abyss. They display the stoic smile of salesmen or build up and release the pressure to succeed through nervous tics and absurd loops. At the turn of the millennium, Nicola Hümpel demonstrates with her ensemble the physical transgressions dependency leads to in a society where sheets of paper can snap like whiplashes and machines have taken over – and where a naked man is questioned about his special skills in a job interview, while on his belly, in large letters, his true longing is tattooed: “When will I become a father?” This is Patric Schott, that Navigator who still shapes the face of the ensemble today.
“Eggs on Earth” brings Nico and the Navigators their international breakthrough; in addition to German organizers, they are now also invited by festivals and stages in Holland, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Hungary, and Serbia.
… “Are you brilliant?” the preening department head asks the audience head-on – a question that, referring to the Berlin theater troupe Nico and the Navigators, can be answered with an unqualified yes. They are young, playful and devilishly talented, the last discovery of the last century…
"Are you brilliant?" the preening department head asks the audience head-on - a question that, referring to the Berlin theater troupe Nico and the Navigators, can be answered with an unqualified yes. They are young, playful and devilishly talented, the last discovery of the last century. In 1999, the group around Bauhaus graduate Nicola Hümpel and designer Oliver Proske was still considered an insider tip, but in the meantime they have played their way into the charts of the theatrical avant-garde with a mixture of unflinching naiveté and highly professional dilettantism, somewhere between Buster Keaton, Wilson and Marthaler, and yet with an unmistakable musical stubbornness right from the start. "Eggs on Earth", as guest in the unfortunately only half-filled Muffathalle, is the middle part from the cycle "Menschenbilder", and this time the seven smart self-promoters conduct their subversive research on living and dead objects in the thematic context of company and career. A sky-blue magic container opens fragmentary insights into mental abysses and bureaucratic hierarchies. In vain, an ominous Mr. Fock is demanded on the phone, secretaries dream of promotion to the upper echelons. Shy applicants with hair standing on end recite resumes of almost shocking banality. Office existence becomes a dizzying tightrope walk, slowed down in slow motion, like a surreal dream sequence. Working can be so beautiful - you could watch them do it for hours!
…Eggs on Earth, a pictorial work, layered one on top of the other like a series of short, spartan and extravagant dialogues, very close to human puppetry, of deep poetic power and absolutely free of apparent narration and meanings. It is an hour and a half of vivid paintings, built in front of a wall of sound, which lifts the spectator to the level of enjoyable and pleasurable, plastic climax…
Characters go in search of their creator, a certain Mr. Fock - a sonic interplay of fuck and God , who, at least it seems, runs the show, the president of the company on which everything depends. From then on, no other narrative thread intertwines the one and a quarter hour long piece Eggs on Earth that Nico and the Navigators performed in the small and experimental Hall B of the Teatro Central in Seville on Friday and Saturday. It didn't need more narration, because Nico and the Navigators put more emphasis on reproducing an experience, on exploring the surreal and the hidden, than on creating a meaning. Eggs on Earth, already performed at the Alhambra Hall in Granada, is a series of particularly kinetic and extraordinarily poetic prints and paintings that thrive on grand gestures, on being a new hybrid between theatrical and dance performance, on just the right amount of acrobatics, of plastic architecture and an extremely refined, exquisite and eclectic sound background - with music from Janis Joplin to Rachmaninoff - from which impressions gradually grow and anxiety and laughter are evoked in the context of what forms the Gordian knot of the performance: Insanity, impersonal conditions that reify the worker, and lack of communication within a worker's existence, which the actors express in no uncertain terms. They confront the spectator with impressive gestures and isolation. Such alibis can also be superfluous, as we fortunately experienced at Central in Seville. Eggs on Earth, with its great ups and downs between wonderfulness and failure, can be easily consumed like much of modern theater. Like taking a shot at a wonderful, plastic world exercise model, or like a cultural device on which to experience influences from Breton or Artaud - with doctrinally surrealist texts - to the immeasurable Jacques Tati or Pina Bausch. Everything is very postmodern, aimed at the visualization of a vile and unhinged world. Poetic power Eggs on Earth, a pictorial work, layered one on top of the other like a series of short, spartan and extravagant dialogues, very close to human puppetry, of deep poetic power and absolutely free of apparent narrative and meanings. It is an hour and a half of vivid paintings, built in front of a wall of sound, which lifts the spectator to the level of enjoyable and pleasurable, plastic climaxes. Only the ominous ambush of a Mr. Fock, similarly annoying as God, interrupts this without ever being present, and whom to look for proves absolutely futile, which turns out to be Mc Guffin of the piece. With performances like this, Teatro Central once again dedicates itself to successful and brilliant actuality of the best, intuitive and cosmopolitan European theater of the present.
…Under the title “Eggs on Earth”, Nico & the Navigators present the second piece of their triptych “Menschenbilder”, which addresses interpersonal communication problems. Its burning and topical theme is the drama of labor relations: the entrepreneur, the worker, the production and the producer, professional alienation. But they are viewed through a surreal, bitterly comic prism reminiscent of the brilliant works of the great American silent film comedians. Something more than a suggestion: a must-see!…
Teatro Central continues to offer an increasingly sophisticated program, incorporating the boldest novelties from around the world. Thus, it meets the desire to show interesting European productions to the most rigorous audience interested in the latest trends. This strict criterion was confirmed at Freiteg, together with the persistent effort to achieve the desired goals, overcoming the most diverse difficulties. The Spanish premiere presented the original Berlin ensemble Nico & the Navigators, directed by Nicola Hümpel, composed of a heterogeneous group of performers - there are not only music and dancers, but also architects, designers and even sculptors, who developed a surprising, mainly visual performance (which is why the Spanish spectator is not limited by the language barrier). Their reduced German text can be read in subtitles. Titled "Eggs on Earth", Nico & the Navigators present the second piece of their triptych "Menschenbilder", which addresses interpersonal communication problems. Its burning and topical theme is the drama of labor relations: the entrepreneur, the worker, the production and the producer, professional alienation. But they are viewed through a surreal, bitterly comic prism reminiscent of the brilliant works of the great American silent film comedians. Something more than a suggestion: a must-see!
…To the theatrical characters is added a seeming emptiness of content, the omission of a red thread, and cold interpersonal relationships that freeze everything. But they come alive through Nico’s actors to tell us that there is another kind of theater….
This is something new on Granada's stages. Something different from the usual plays and the mediocrity so often repeated ad nauseam. Even if this icicle is turquoise play with icebergs, humming glacial cold of aimless people. Perfect actors in the service of thoughtfulness and absurdity. Bare ugliness on the faces in the abstract environment of an office or a street or a place where there is neither a keypad a typewriter nor understanding. Everything is calculatedly cold, drawn with purifying straight lines, as if it were a foursome of chairs or meaningless objects. At most, curves are found in the corners of a box or in a seductive gaze. It is theater in which one can drift because of its surprisingly successive scenes, only to acknowledge desolation as the companion of our uncertainty. In it there is implied dance and a touch of old-fashioned mime. Within him pulsate thoughts of all the worn things that populate our world. These are books that serve as shelters and idioms that our language chokes on. Such theater is beyond good and evil, and in this particularity lies its value.... To the theatrical characters is added a seeming emptiness of content, the omission of a red thread, and cold interpersonal relationships that freeze everything. But they come alive through Nico's actors to tell us that there is another kind of theater, one that comes from the North, that shakes us awake from our lazy siesta that we suffer from here in the South.
…In der neuen Unübersichtlichkeit ist offenbar kein Platz für menschliche Wegweiser und Pfadfinder, es sei denn, sie würden sich “Nico and the Navigators” nennen und das Problem der allgemeinen Orientierungslosigkeit als selbstbewußte Stellvertreter zielstrebig ausleben… Nicola Hümpel hat sich mit nur drei Inszenierungen zum Publikums – und Kritikerliebling der Berliner Off-Bühnen entwickelt… Ausgerechnet mit diesem fröhlichfrechen Sprach- und Bilderrätsel ist der Durchbruch endgültig gelungen… Die 33-jährige Nicola Hümpel versteht sich inzwischen meisterhaft auf die Entwicklung konzentrierter Bilder aus gemeinsamer Improvisation. Unterstützt wird sie dabei vor allem von Ihrem Lebensgefährten Oliver Proske, der sich vom Industriedesigner zum fantasievollen Szenografen entwickelt und für “Eggs on Earth” eine multifunktionale Box voll überraschender Spielebenen entworfen hat. Dies ist die Manege für die traurigen Clowns deren Realitätsverlust zum Pas de Deux mit simplen Haushaltsgeräten oder zum grausamen desinteressierten Betasten der fremden Körper führt. Daß dieses melancholisch-groteske Generations-Portrait ausgerechnet an den Rändern der subventionierten deutschen Theaterlandschaft gezeichnet wird, gehört freilich zu den Paradoxa der Kulturpolitik… Das aus Fördertöpfen gespeiste Ensemble funktioniert bis heute nach dem Prinzip der Selbstausbeutung. Da wirkt der Aphorismus, daß ein Lächeln am Fuße der Karriereleiter eben zwangsläufig mit dem Verzicht auf den eigenen Aufstieg bezahlt wird, nur noch zynisch. Denn zwischen den Interims-Spielstätten in den Sophiensaelen und dem Bauhaus hätten die Navigatoren ein festes Domizil inzwischen längst verdient. Zumal es hierzulande bekanntlich allzu viele Bühnen-Schiffe gibt, die ziellos auf offener See kreuzen.
Celebrated in Berlin as stars of the independent scene: "Nico and the Navigators" make a guest appearance at home Every era weaves its own network of coordinates: Where stars and sextants were enough to set off for new shores in the unmeasured world, people now turn to GPS guides and search engines on their journey into real or virtual expanses. In the new confusion, there is apparently no room for human signposts and pathfinders. Unless, that is, they would call themselves "Nico and the Navigators" and purposefully act out the problem of general disorientation as self-confident representatives. Since its founding at the Bauhaus in Dessau in 1998, the group around Nicola Hümpel has become the audience and critics' favorite of Berlin's off-stages with only three productions. In the process, the increasing foreignness has apparently served her well: after bringing back only the idiomatic greeting "Lucky days, stranger!" from her first excursion "Ich war auch schon einmal in Amerika" ("I've been to America once, too"), she now stoops to the cryptic neologism "Eggs on Earth" in her current work. But it is with this cheerfully cheeky language and image puzzle, of all things, that the final breakthrough has been achieved. The Navigators now fill their new home in Berlin's Sophiensaele effortlessly, and a few weeks ago they were invited to the renowned "Impulse" festival of the independent theater scene in North Rhine-Westphalia. What can also be seen today and tomorrow at its place of origin in the Bauhaus presents itself as an educational program in the age of zapping: short, sharply cut slapstick scenes tell of the lives of those young up-and-comers who have to distance themselves from themselves with every step up the hierarchy. In the weird chic of trendy magazines, they costume themselves to the point of uniformity, from which even their language is not unaffected. And when they're not anxiously wondering about the moment they've missed or struggling for an appointment with a higher being called "Mr. Fogg," they're writhing on designer furniture to more or less discreet background music like they're on a Procrustean bed or fighting with a fax paper snake like the legendary Laocoon once did. The 33-year-old Nicola Hümpel, who after studying fine arts gained her formative theater experience with Achim Freyer in 1991 during the notorious stage class at the Dessau Bauhaus, is now a master at developing concentrated images from joint improvisation. She is supported above all by her partner Oliver Proske, who has developed from an industrial designer into an imaginative scenographer and has designed a multifunctional box full of surprising play levels for "Eggs on Earth". This is the ring for the seven sad clowns, whose loss of reality leads to the pas de deux with simple household appliances or to the cruel disinterested groping of other people's bodies. The fact that this melancholic-grotesque portrait of a generation is drawn on the fringes of the subsidized German theater landscape is, of course, one of the paradoxes of cultural policy. For although Nico still describes the handmade makeup of her actors as a "tender gesture," the ensemble, which is fed by embattled funding pots, still functions according to the principle of self-exploitation. The aphorism that a smile at the foot of the career ladder is inevitably paid for by foregoing one's own advancement seems merely cynical. For between the interim venues in the Sophiensaele and the Bauhaus, the navigators would have long since deserved a permanent domicile. Especially since, as is well known, there are all too many stage ships in this country that cruise aimlessly on the open sea.
And with this, the company’s third production, it finally crosses the borderline from hot tip to top of the heat… The best aspect is the frivolity… It is not Oskar Negt or Peter Grottlan, rather Buster Keaton the Master of this type of theatre work. This is quasi a slapstick version of “Top Dogs”. Off and on one of the actors try, after disappointment and confusion, to get a Mr. Fock on the telephone – which sounds like a mixture between Fuck and God. All of this can be interpreted or not: Meaning is not forced, instead remains as a playful offer which is there to be used or left aside. The new world atlas as head protection, the dancing pepper-mill, the stuffed bird; red briefcases, white shoes; and chairs like lighting made of wood which are put together by being stuck into a pedestal. Later heads are then sandwiched between these chairs. “Do not listen to deep within yourself, there is nothing” says one worker clone to another. But behind each of these worker clones lies a whole world of histories.
“I want to go to the top, don’t you also want to go to the top?” is another key phrase of the evening. If Nico and the Navigators continue in the direction they are heading, nothing can stand in their way.
...You don't have quite so much time left, ladies and gentlemen, if you want to get to know Nico & the Navigators. Their performance "Eggs on Earth" can only be seen once again today, Tuesday and Wednesday at the sophiensaele in Berlin's lively Mitte district. Nicola Hümpel founded this small company in 1998 at the Bauhaus in Dessau, meanwhile it is based in Berlin. "Ich war auch schon mal in Amerika" was the name of the first piece, still developed in Dessau, followed by "Lucky Days, Fremder", and now "Eggs on Earth". And with this third production, the troupe has finally crossed the border from being an insider tip to a big name in the scene. To say it right away: the best thing about it is the recklessness. I hadn't expected it at all, because I had read such terribly profound things about it beforehand, namely that - in this play - it's about - "the subject of work"... and about "what it means to find a job in the 21st century"... and "what our identity would look like as a product of working life"... and even more sententious things of that kind. But then it is not Oskar Negt or Peter Grottian, but Buster Keaton who is the doctoral supervisor of this theater thesis. It is a slapstick version of the "Top Dogs". Whereby the men in their correct, yet shapeless, deforming suits look more like middles or low dogs, actually all like little sausages. The two women on the team also look more alienated than self-confident, yet more individual, resistant, or at least disgusted, where the men are merely conformists. The whole game comes out of a box. It's not from Augsburg, but clearly from Dessau. A kind of Bauhaus furniture: a twisted cube, composed of many rectangular modules, which sometimes glows blue, sometimes gray, sometimes white and is all sorts of things: kiosk, Punch and Judy stage, pulpit, shrine. Sometimes you see two pairs of legs coming off at the bottom, while two heads grow out at the top. Once there is one standing on the top of the ledge, paddling his arms like a young bird about to fly out of its nest for the first time. He starts to take off, leans forward, but then doesn't dare, pulls back and looks for a foothold on a chair. From the cracks between the box modules comes an arm that grabs a red lady's handbag. Or an endless fax that reaches the rows of spectators. A strip of paper only; but it seems somehow threatening, and at the same time very funny. Like everything and everyone on this evening, even such harmless phrases as the salutation: "Dear team, dear employees, dear colleagues" or "The buffet is open". Every now and then, one of the contributors tries - downright desperately - to phone a Mr. Fock, which sounds like a contraction of Fuck and God. But all this can be imagined or not. Meaning does not impose itself, but always remains a playful offer, of which one can make use or not: the new big world atlas as head protection, the dancing pepper mill, the stuffed bird; red bags, white shoes; and chairs like lightning bolts of wood, which can be plugged together on pedestals to form rows and leave just enough space for heads to sit between them, to push, to drop. Don't listen to yourself, there's nothing there," says one to the other employee clone. And yet, behind each of these characters, as they are played, is hidden a world story. "I want to go up, do you want to go up," is another key phrase. If "Nico and the Navigators" keep this up, nothing should stand in their way on this path. "Eggs on Earth" will be performed again today, Tuesday and Wednesday, both at 9 p.m. at the sophiensaelen just behind Hackescher Markt in Berlin, Mitte.
…This time, the phenomena of the working world are addressed with astonished seriousness, with dreamy craziness, with grotesque, mostly quiet comedy… Oliver Proske, who has gone from being an industrial designer to an inventor of deceitfully versatile, confusingly simple spatial solutions, places the “Glorious Seven” in the adventure playground of the working world in an office furniture with ever new surprises, insidiously funny traps. In it the performers move like birds that have fallen out of the nest, like people also on the wrong steamer between Kafka’s surreal fears and the sovereign clumsiness of the Marx Brothers they tumble like butterflies, fail with all seriousness like office Don Quixotes…
"Eggs on Earth" or about the feints, traps and crashes in the modern working day Berlin. The cheerfully whistled and stomped applause in the broken charm of the Sophiensaele, just around the corner from Hackescher Markt in Berlin's breezily lively Mitte makes it clear: "Nico and the Navigators," a small cross-border ensemble from different disciplines and countries, has become a cult favorite of the off-scene in just under two years. All around 30, from theater, dance, but also from the design sector, they came from the Bauhaus in Dessau to the guest performance with the claim "I've also been to America before" and stayed in Berlin with the wish "Lucky days, stranger!". Now they are familiar and friends and devote themselves to the phenomena of the working world with astonished seriousness, with familiar craziness, with grotesque, mostly quiet, comedy. With a title that should not and cannot be taken broodingly seriously. For Nicola Hümpel, who has long since developed her own signature from Achim Freyer's environment and who, with amiable, unobtrusive determination, is the head of the troupe responsible for direction, concept and costumes, likes to leave things in the fog of the pensive and mysterious. "Eggs on Earth" probably stands for the perfect archetype and for the fact that the beautiful simple "eggs on earth" there among people, employers especially, can probably only harm. Don't worry, this is not an ideological-aggressive agitprop show. Oliver Proske, who has gone from being an industrial designer to an inventor of deceitfully versatile, confusingly simple spatial solutions, places the "Glorious Seven" in the adventure playground of the working world in an office furniture with ever new surprises, insidiously funny traps. In it, Verena Schonlau, Sinta Tamsjadi, Martin Clausen, Lyon Roque, Patric Schott, Lajos Talamonti and the spilling Julius Weiland move like birds that have fallen out of the nest, like people on the wrong steamer. Between Kafka's surreal fears and the sovereign clumsiness of the Marx Brothers, they tumble like butterflies, failing in all seriousness like office Don Quixotes. From their blue, old-fashioned business suits, with red ties and red briefcases, they look amazed, dumbfounded and always a bit confused from the success laundry that brings them no luck. "Mr. Fock," the big, powerful stranger, is not available to them. "Your case is being processed" echoes anonymously and frighteningly from the off. "I would like to expand worldwide" wishes the ambitious businesswoman-to-be. But "When will I become a father?" is written on the washboard belly of a business offspring, which probably brings us to the topic: that there must also be a "life" besides, in front of, behind, in addition to "work," and that one must be able to bring all of this under an individual hat. There must be a solution between the "adventure life" and the accounting calculation and filling of lifetime. The Nico-Navigators, being quite clever and modest, of course don't show it. But they sail between all kinds of rituals and dangers, between a mysterious world of riddles and everyday guidelines like innocent, imaginative children: endangered, but still determined not to let their thoughtful reverie be cut off as a guideline for life. For this they are celebrated like adventurous, enterprising friends, cheerful and thoughtful and enthusiastic at the same time.
…The exercise takes place from a total immobility of the actors, to then realize silent play and gestures as subtle as yielding and rounded expression. All this happens at a slow pace, a vehement “pianissimo” that depresses the spectator and infects him with the inner turmoil from which the fictional characters suffer….
The leadership of the Teatro Central deserves the thanks of art lovers who want to see the latest experimental productions of the most advanced European theater, because it has brought to its stage the Berlin ensemble Nico and the Navigators. This play, in fact, under the title Eggs on Earth, incomprehensible to me, surpasses the curiosity of the most curious, since it deals with the inner turmoil, struggle, disappointment, grief and defenselessness of the worker in the current Western world, from the highest employee to the humblest office worker. And it expresses this inhuman and antisocial lifelessness pantomimically. Immortal classics of music history in the background support the whole. The exercise takes place from a total immobility of the actors, to then realize silent play and gestures as subtle as rich and rounded expression. All this happens at a slow pace, a vehement "pianissimo" that depresses the spectator and infects him with the inner turmoil from which the fictional characters suffer. Visual theater The promising Nicola Hümpel, from whom we expect more convincing glimpses of life, sees in this piece more theatrical dance than dance theater, since the choreography - authentic choreography - through which the movement of the performers on stage is set in motion, includes sketches and "ticks" of various tendencies of modern dance. But it nevertheless approaches more to the theater, since it pays particular attention to expression through gestures, through which symbolism can be undeniably seen in the faces of the actors. Silent orchestra Each performer is like an instrument in this silent orchestra; an instrument exceptionally well tuned to the euphony of the whole orchestra. It flaunts exemplary - why not - German discipline and artistic adaptation to create, with outrageously dreamlike and surreal aesthetics, a performance as distressing as it is stimulating, in which the cast displays excellent physical and acting training.
…Is it too late to start early?” A young man asks himself helplessly… The actors move as if on raw eggs, on and in front of a sky-blue multifunctional box (stage design: Oliver Proske). Business suits, tense grins, correct behavior – the slow egg dance to soft music slips again and again into the grotesque and into the (body) oblique position…
Berlin-based theater company Nico and the Navigators performed "Eggs on Earth" at the Muffathalle. Is it too late to start early?" Perplexed, one young man wonders. Another keeps trying to get through on the phone to a Dr. Fock who is in denial. Seven people, visible only from the waist down, parade past a shoe shine machine - one has to look proper when looking for a job. Behavioral rituals and phenomena of the working world are shown in the performance "Eggs on Earth," with which Nico and the Navigators from Berlin made a guest appearance at the Muffathalle. The theater troupe around director Nicola Hümpel, founded in 1998 at the Bauhaus Dessau, already has an international reputation and could be seen at the last Spiel-Art-Festival in Munich with "Lucky Days, fremder" and "Lilli in putgarden". Both performances form with "Eggs on Earth" the trilogy "Menschenbilder", a bizarre society panorama. The performers move as if on raw eggs, on and in front of a sky-blue multifunctional box (stage design: Oliver Proske). Business suits, uptight grins, correct behavior - the slow egg dance to soft music slips again and again into the grotesque and into the (body) oblique. When Julius Weiland - a younger brother of Buster Keaton - takes a run-up on the roof, you don't know whether he wants to fly or jump. Eventually, he makes himself comfortable on a chair in the air. "I want to go up. Do you want to go up, too?" Despite this credo, heads jam between chairs as if on a guillotine. Surreal slapsticks, dreamy pictorial puzzles, crazy perspectives, objects and bodies that take on a life of their own: Nico and the Navigators invent a wondrous, melancholic-comic world.
…For the confectioner, citric-acid is a commuter between tart and sweet. It tickles the tip of the tongue and usually ends in your mouth, round as a polished gem, but sharp as glass. The young Berlin troupe, Nico and the Navigators, serve up a theatre sweet and sharp as sour-balls. The characters, drawn as if with Magic Marker, watch the sugar coating dissolve around their overlarge portions of good intentions, eaten away by an acerbic, daily existence, leaving only a precious, tiny rest. …Nicola Hümpel (concept, direction, costumes) and Oliver Proske (set design) are distant cousins to Pina Bausch (the human condition), Kraftwerk (the desperation) and Charles Schulz (what now, Charlie Brown?).
In confectionery, the sour is sandwiched between the sour and the sweet, tickling the tip of the tongue and ending up in the mouth like a cuttingly polished gem. The young Berliners of Nico and the Navigators make a theater as delicious as sour drops. Their characters are colored with a felt-tip pen, dissolving the sugar of a measureless good will in the sour margins of a bleak everyday life to filter out the precious little stones. In Eggs on Earth, Nico's navigators could be the supervisors and employees of some multinational corporation. Their boss, the unreachable Fock (indecision between the offending fuck and the disturbing doc) is up there scratching at the clouds of the business world. Before they come on stage, they give a first lesson on proper corporate behavior in an ironically performed dance prayer where the sneakers get shined. Moments of tension In Germany, the egg dance symbolizes indecision. The 5 boys and 2 girls stammer in delicious French when they're not being silent, saving the screams for the roof terrace of their office. Sometimes they burst out (backstage) in maniacal laughter that doesn't seem to stop. They are specialists in moments of tension. The one standing on the roof would like to fly away: he will jump, he will not jump ? Sitting above the nothingness, he mysteriously remains balanced. In order to maintain a dignified posture, they become as stiff as their ties or their hairstyles. Nicola Hümpel (conception, direction and costumes) and Oliver Proske (stage design) are distant nephews of Pina Bausch (the condition), of Kraftwerk (the hopelessness) and of Charles Schulz (the situation). They wrap themselves in the music as if it were the décor and choreograph their little tragicomic movements, which are then distributed frozen: " Il est trop tard pour commencer tôt " / " It's too late to start early " (sweet); " Au fond de mon cœur j'accepte la variété de ma vie de tous les jours " (sour) / " At the bottom of my heart I accept my varied daily life "; " Je veux monter au top " / " I want to go to the top " (sweet) ; " La technique s'apprend, mais quant au talent, on l'a ou on ne l'a pas " / " The technique can be learned, but the talent must be brought from home " (sour). They have a good laugh because they have both.
…a truly worthy conclusion for a theater festival like the “Impulse”…
...It was the details that helped this contribution make the densest statement on an outrageously minimalist level. Details from the excellent soundtrack to the props, whose mutability took the reduction principle of the performance to the extreme. A reduction, which just by the merciless evaporation of its figures to the essentials triggered a grandiose flood of associations - a truly worthy conclusion for a theater festival like the "Impulse"...
…At the intersection of design and consciousness, they observe their own generation concealing its existential insecurity through demonstrative self-dramatization. The fact that all these exaggerated portraits are presented with the necessary seriousness, but also with a sovereign cheerfulness, makes them finally an exceptional phenomenon among all the wing-beating exciters in their neighborhood…
Actually, it was only a matter of time before the era of Internet search engines and electronic route planners would filter through to the stage. The likelihood that this impulse would come from the free-floating scene rather than from the firmly anchored municipal theaters also seemed relatively high. But that an ensemble would demonstratively call itself "Nico and the Navigators" and then elevate this name to a program for a spatial survey with seemingly conservative coordinates was not foreseeable by any stretch of the imagination. Since their debut, however, this unexpected group around the studied architect Nicola Hümpel has been present quite naturally and extraordinarily successfully. The Bauhaus Dessau, where after the predecessor "DenkVorGang" the actual first work "Ich war auch schon mal in Amerika" (I've been to America before, too) was launched in 1998, is now the only constant asset on the otherwise languishing Schlemmer stage. And at Berlin's Sophiensaele, where they made themselves at home last year at the latest with "Lucky Days, Fremder," their current production "Eggs on Earth" recently secured not only sold-out performances, but also participation in the "Impulse" festival. So it is hardly surprising that Nicola Hümpel, who was born in Lübeck in 1967, sees herself exposed to many desires and, in addition to declarations of loyalty, now also has various denials in her repertoire. In particular, she fends off the comparison with Sasha Waltz and Friends, which is at least spatially obvious, precisely because she can still count their dramaturgical mastermind Jochen Sandig among her friends and supporters, even after the company's move to the Schaubühne. Hümpel's Bildertheater, which also owes its suggestive power to the functional aesthetics of Oliver Proskes' stage designs, provides the reason for such comparisons, which limp along the feuilletonistic middle course, because of its incompatibility. For with the help of a peculiar working method that may seem to outsiders like a mixture of therapeutic self-experience group and associative appropriation of the world, Nico and her navigators create sequences of scenes that are difficult to describe and whose unagitated charm is hard to resist. At the intersection of design and consciousness, they observe their own generation concealing its existential insecurity through demonstrative self-dramatization. The fact that all these exaggerated portraits are presented with the necessary seriousness, but also with a sovereign cheerfulness, makes them definitively exceptional among all the wing-beating exciters in their neighborhood. The flip side of this care, however, lies in comparatively sprawling production intervals that require a special degree of discipline and self-exploitation. Because Nico's navigators practice the slow-motion rhythm of their performances even as they work them out, they must re-establish themselves in the fast-moving novelty market every year. A way out of this misery, which is compensated by all participants with side jobs, would be a continuous promotion you the improvement of the so far unsatisfactory rehearsal situation. The impulse of the "Impulse" could be just as helpful on this path as the increasing media presence, which the ensemble would like to strengthen soon with its first own film production. But given the seriousness of their claim, no quick sprint to the next best goal is to be expected here either: Nico and the Navigators, whose name seems to so accurately assert its place in a pop culture, will probably continue to prefer the next, well-considered step to an ill-considered leap into the whimsical hit parades.
…Out of their multi-variable cube-box, cleverly constructed by Oliver Proske as an elegant construction kit, the seven performers emerge: accurately and correctly dressed office people, who have internalized the rituals of the working world and now sell them out… No matter if we call it dance theater, performance or surreal slapstick. The stage-image Polaroid is an excellent everyday exposure. Mechanics meets psychology. This will have been another happy day!…
The "Impulse" festival of off-theaters began with "Eggs on Earth!" by "Nico and the Navigators" from Berlin. Man carries a heavy load - on his briefcase: the Sisyphus stone in employee Hades, into which "Nico and the Navigators" pilot us when they get "Eggs on Earth!" rolling. Opening the "Impulse" festival at JuTA, we first see only half the person - the bottom half with legs in skirts or pants and shoes that it takes to set the poetry of a shoe shine machine in motion. The seven performers emerge from their multi-variable cube box, which Oliver Proske cleverly constructed as an elegant building set: accurately and correctly dressed office people who have internalized the rituals of the working world and now externalize them. A play with postures, states, constraints, problem positions, free exercises and disturbances: meditative, minimalistic, weightless, reduced and slowed down. As if an unpretentious Bob Wilson had set the tempo and Achim Freyer had designed the scene. A secretary leafs through papers; someone requests his appointment; a youth with aspiring hair lolls aesthetically in a chair. Suits hang in the air. Heads jam between chairs. The order of things and objects of use shifts by a small but decisive tic. It is a kind of slow-motion rampage, linguistically very sparing, artificially balanced, beautifully colorfully embellished and enriched by a permanent soundtrack. As if for a tea dance, the music plays and sings classically, Chopin and the "Valse triste" mourn, the Beatles lament "Eleonor Rigby", machines punch and rattle; the "Unanswered Question" arises. Nicola Hümpel's notes from reality store and rewind: Phrases of management, advertising and communication jargon, standard formulas like "Your process is being handled," pre-printed resumes, presentation programs. The brilliant ensemble sketches subordinates, underlings, up-and-comers, dropouts, failures, workaholics and specialists. One thinks that a soft-soft comic requiem is being performed in an enchanted fairyland or toy world, where career children play in guileless, amazed terror Whether we call it dance theater, performance, or surreal slapstick. The stage-image Polaroid is excellent everyday exposure. Mechanics meets psychology. This will have been another happy day!
…The movements of the characters, whether they sit down or contort the corners of their mouths, are all precisely timed. The personnage becomes part of the stage set, which slowly and enigmatically transforms until it freezes into a meaningful composition for a snapshot…. A dreamlike production that the spectator cannot forget so quickly…
Nico and the Navigators fascinate with "Eggs on Earth" in Dessau Dessau/MZ. Show me how you clean your shoes and I'll tell you if you're made for the working world. According to this credo, Nicola Hümpel first introduces the young men and ladies from the waist down, lets them walk through a half-opened container and pass the first testing station on their career: A shoe shine machine. Then they swarm out of a container into the blue in their entirety, young people, more or less conforming to the wardrobe regulations of the business class, staring intently ahead: "Nico and the Navigators" choreograph life paths around a large office cube in "Eggs on Earth": it is equipped with hatches, sliding doors, entrances and exits, rises and falls, which suddenly open or close, providing imponderables, by overcoming which winning types are easily recognizable. All this is mechanically commented on with a few repetitive snatches of phrases from job interviews, self-instructions and telephone calls. Who gets past the anteroom of the ominous, unreachable Mr. Fog? Patience, your case is being processed, they say. Winning poses are already practiced or posture is maintained during initial aptitude tests. Who will immediately cry at sexual harassment? For one, the whole thing is too much, he dreamily cranks a pepper mill and himself back into embryo position. Or he fastens the tie tightly around his neck like a rope. Anyone who shows a little nerve - playfully twists his belly hair into curls - is immediately whistled back by the company commander. The company as superego. The movements of the characters, whether they sit down or twist the corners of their mouths, are all precisely timed. Personnage becomes part of the stage set, which slowly and enigmatically transforms until it freezes into a meaningful composition for a snapshot. The characters are unique, swaying incessantly toward Mr. Fog with music ranging from waltz to rock, melancholy and somehow serene. A dreamlike production, which the spectator cannot forget so fast. Nor do they want to: many people from Dessau set out on Friday to experience it a second time.
The scenes abstract various steps of fitting in: humiliation, subjugation, deformation and dependency, abuse. The objects with which the actors fight are objects of resistance, which set the material society against its luck – like once with Harold Lloyd, Keaton or Chaplin. Of course like with Chaplin or Keaton, art provides the opportunity to take the hopelessness of the labourers’ world and raises it up to grander proportions. All of the static and weight disappears and the Sophiensaele appears to soar.
The very first character you used to come across in the fifth grade textbook "Learning English" was called "Mr. Fog." Almost 30 years later, we encountered the Fog Man again in Eggs on Earth. As Mr. Fock/Mr. Fog, he is the great telephone phantom in Nicola Hümpel's production, to whom the seven characters repeatedly want to be put through - in vain, because in the youth cult of communication capitalism, "It's too late to start early." After the rather intimate situations that Nico and the Navigators explored in "Lucky days, stranger!", this time they have taken on the deforming world of work. The steps from the private to the social have served the troupe, founded at the Bauhaus in Dessau, well: In the past, the horrors lurking behind the word "picture theater" often came true in cramped, irrelevant prettiness. This time, it is not only the 1000 splendid possibilities offered by Oliver Proske's constructivist sewing box stage design that are spellbinding - this time, pictures also become scenes, play almost becomes dance. The scenes abstract different levels of adaptation: humiliation, submission, deformation, dependence, abuse. The objects with which the actors struggle are reified resistances that the relations of production oppose to happiness - as was once the case with Harold Lloyd, Keaton, or Chaplin. But as with these, art lifts the bleakness of the white-collar world into something higher: All static and heaviness disappears, the Sophiensaele seem to float.
…Nicola Hümpels figures are, in their appearance, grotesque types who climb steadily into the comedic with choreography of simple gestures manipulated through over-exaggeration, slow motion and repetition. Like other great masters of the genre, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, the actors wear serious faces…
Nico and the Navigators belong to the representatives of the second Sophiensaele generation... The stage is a multifunctional installation, a magic box from which various acrobatics and scenic surprises miraculously appear with a visually impressive sense of humour. Nicola Hümpels figures are, in their appearance, grotesque types who climb steadily into the comedic with choreography of simple gestures manipulated through over-exaggeration, slow motion and repetition. Like other great masters of the genre, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, the actors wear serious faces.
Nicola Hümpel formed her company four years ago at the Bauhaus in Dessau. Since then she has been present in the top league of independent theatre with different works containing very powerful images… With variations on the theme “Modern times 2000” the group, by way of body language, feels related to the anti-heroes – Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin – of the modernization of the 20’s and 30’s.
Waltzing with the Pepper Mill: Nicola Hümpel lets "Nico and the Navigators" dance the modernization losers Slim guys with wide ties or oversized shirt collars. They make strange contortions, sometimes dance-like movements, and ask questions like, "Is it too late to start early?" The young men, as well as the women who soon join them, are sad figures. Yet they all look very fashionable. Spread a similar hip atmosphere as people in commercials for Internet services and telecommunications. The blue tones of the clothes are carefully coordinated. Even the obliquely composed red tones of a stuffy women's costume obey the fashionable trash aesthetic that famously defines the collections of Gucci and Prada. But that's how people have to look these days in order not to be seen as modernization losers. And that's what "Eggs on Earth," the new play by "Nico and the Navigators," which has been on view at the Sophiensaele since early June, is all about. "What does it mean to get or lose a job in the budding 21st century?" one asks at the very beginning. And then, over the next hour and a half, we see what that can mean: namely, that seven rather attractive young people are slogging away in rather absurd gestures, always on the edge of the abyss. Or at the foot of the career ladder. Sometimes one carries a Z-shaped chair across the stage to plant it somewhere, sit on it and stare into space. Sometimes a red suitcase is carried through the area. A man grabs a woman's breast, who stoically lets this happen. Later, she grabs a man's pants. Pardon is not given. A man dances a waltz with a pepper mill. A couple is holding the "New World Atlas" open on their heads as if it were a traditional costume cap: a pretty picture for globalization. Everything is almost without words, but with a lot of music that ranges from Chopin to the Beatles, Maria Callas and Janis Joplin. Sometimes, however, all you hear are the sounds of hot-running motors of completely antiquated household appliances. Nicola Hümpel founded her troupe four years ago at the Bauhaus in Dessau. Since then, she has played her way into the first league of independent groups with a few very strong visual pieces. At the beginning of the year, her piece "Lucky days, Fremder" was shown in Berlin. There, too, the most diverse forms of expression were sampled into a very concentrated performance: elements from video, dance, performance, music and theater. The new piece is more economical with all the set pieces. Variations on the theme of "Modern Times 2000", which clearly show their body language kinship with the anti-heroes of the modernization push of the 20s and 30s, with Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Oliver Proske has built a coolly styled cube-shaped container that can be turned and walked on from all sides. At the beginning, it opens and you see legs walking by. Later, one staggers on top of the roof, and you don't know: is he thinking about whether he can fly, or does he just want to throw himself off. "I want to go up!" someone finally said at some point. And once you're up there, you'll fall down again faster than you'd like.
…Before they enter the fabulous business world, they first have to shine their sneakers, because somewhere above their heads reigns Mr. Fock, the nebulous, unreachable boss… In a sky-blue cube, a multifunctional surprise box, the office clowns fight with the insidiousness of the furniture, director Nicola Hümpel shows in surreal reflections the everyday rituals of adaptation, humiliation, deformation, the nightmarishly creepy game of repetitions…
Nico and the Navigators - the employee performance Before they enter the fabulous world of business, their sneakers have to be polished, because somewhere above their heads reigns Mr. Fock, the nebulous, unreachable boss. "Eggs on Earth", the second part of the cycle "Menschenbilder" by the group Nico and the Navigators, founded in 1998 at the Bauhaus Dessau, leads right into the middle of working life. A virtuoso slapstick version of Widmer's "Top Dogs" is what one critic called the series of scenes in which Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin say hello. In a sky-blue cube, a multifunctional surprise box, the office clowns fight with the insidiousness of the furniture, director Nicola Hümpel shows in surreal reflections the everyday rituals of adaptation, humiliation, deformation, the nightmarish game of repetitions. A collage of movement, sound, language and space images, in which seriousness and sadness, frivolity, playfulness and grotesque comedy are paired.
The ensemble with its first three works has gained an outstanding reputation for strong images, nonverbal oriented performances with its charming, playful and absurd comic way of story telling. “Eggs on Earth” takes the path between dance-theatre and living images turning everyday chit chat into an impressive exchange. They are in command of the art of serious comedy and maintain a well-tempered distance to their figures. ‘Eggs on Earth’ is the exposing of surreal observations, condensed and spun with great ability.
From the world of work: "Eggs on Earth" at the sophiensaele. Actually, the topic sounds more like adult education than theatrical pleasure: "What does it mean in the budding 21st century to have, get or lose a job?" Such and similar questions have been explored by the independent group "Nico and the Navigators" for their new play "Eggs on Earth." That's certainly laudable, but even better is that the dry history of development is no longer apparent in the result at the Sophiensaele. Founded in 1996 by Nicola Hümpel at the Bauhaus Dessau, the ensemble has been at home in Berlin since 1998, and with only two works to its credit has earned an excellent reputation for visually powerful, non-verbally oriented performances in a charmingly playful, absurdly comic narrative style. "Eggs on Earth" impressively continues down this path between dance theater and living images with everyday phrases pushed to the point of madness. The stage set by Oliver Proske consists only of a magical white cube complete with doors, compartments and a walk-on roof. At the beginning, people pass through it as if on their way to work. One after the other uses a simple shoe shine machine, timidly, prudently, sloppily, energetically. Someone leaves the red sample case perhaps of a fabric collection, another takes it. The performers can be seen from the sole to the shoulder at most, but as they move about so completely without their heads, a wide horizon of individual expression opens up. Later they come out and turn out to be young, correct and, despite their fashionable wardrobe, like contemporaries who have quite some problems with their time. Hiding these, they go to enormous lengths, serious as Buster Keaton, fidgety as Jacques Tati. The five men wear muted business suits and look like branch managers at the savings bank, the two women like their neat assistants. In small, colorful scenes they play success, failure, waiting for the big chance, practicing for promotion. Or leisure time: two men lounge in light blue, s-shaped chairs and ostentatiously enjoy the sun. They roll up their trouser legs, push their shirts up to their necks, scratch each other unabashedly, and hum something jazzy together. The tie remains tied, but is laid over the shoulder. The potential hopefuls can't get out of their skin, though at least parts of it are allowed to see the light. "Can you use me for this?" is the key phrase they always follow. One woman's face contorts in anger and disgust when the boss goes to her blouse and rummages in it with a stoic face as if in a toolbox. But she perseveres and cheers at the end, carrying her chair from there like a trophy above her head - one less unemployed person. "I'm the company commander," the man says later, falling over like a board. In general, "Nico and the Navigators" like to let themselves fall, whether into nonsense - "I'd like to expand you a bit worldwide" - into bureaucratic nowhere - "Your case is being processed" - or simply to the ground. They've mastered the art of serious comedy and well-tempered distance from their characters. "Eggs on Earth" consists of surreally revealing observations, condensed and spun with high art. The performance is carried by an unforced musical collage between tango, Janis Joplin and Hammond organ mishmash. The basic color of the production is blue, the basic mood is dreamy melancholy. So apart is a life "in the shadow of self-sacrifice" according to the motto "I want to go up" probably only to be had on stage.
… “Eggs on Earth” is 90 minutes of brilliant visual theater of the quiet, intensely resonant kind…. “Is it too late to start early?” is an anxious question. It and many others in the area of tension between work stress and the need for leisure on the edge of the abyss and isolation are portrayed in an immensely intelligent, funny, absurd, even melancholic way….
Reflection on the work: "Eggs on Earth" by Nico and the Navigators Everyone knows the phenomenon. Those who have work almost roll over. The rest is bored to death. Nicola Hümpel deals with these contradictions between being busy and having to be busy. "Eggs on Earth" is 90 minutes of brilliant visual theater of the quiet, intensely resonant kind. Just like life, Oliver Proskes' stage, ingenious in every detail, is a practicable modular system. As a blue cuboid with sliding walls, opening flaps and a walkable roof, it is labyrinth and snail shell, devouring working machine and sheltering refuge. Half-concealed, unsecured working people parade through the structure in endless loops at the beginning and finally emerge. In proper blue suits, files or bags in their hands, two as tourists with the world atlas over their heads. Seven young people wander questioningly through everyday life and marvel at its inconsistencies. They whisper only a few sentences into the room, worn-out phrases and platitudes, but also wishes for the future. "I want to go up - do you too?" or "What can you do?" they say several times, and "Patience, your case is being processed." The balance sheet gobbledygook of a team boss is smothered in sneers. No room for failure in a success-oriented world. When abstruse curricula vitae are reflected on, who began halfway around the world after graduating, only to end up as a hairdresser or bistro owner in some small town, this reduces the much-publicized mobility of young cadres and their unlimited opportunities for advancement to absurdity. "Is it too late to start early?" is an anxious question. They and many others in the area of tension between work stress and leisure time constraints, on the edge of the abyss and isolation are pictured in an immensely intelligent, funny, absurd, even melancholic way. In her slow, thorough staging, Nicola Hümpel does not disown her former teacher Achim Freyer. Ravel's "La Valse" and Chopin's funeral march, opera aria and country, Beatles and Janis Joplin underpin a highly sensitive piece of dance theater with excellent performers - actors, dancers, a playing industrial designer. "Onward" optimistically reads one of the last words. Good not only for Nico and the Navigators.
…Seven well-dressed people in their fit years who use all their strength to glide. They put off teasing, they swallow their emotions. Success is their life, and that’s how it tastes… The miracle of this evening is that one can watch the cast-offs without gloating and with pleasure. The director Nicola Hümpel knows how to trust. She builds on the talents of her players, because such a thing cannot be prescribed. What never works out in the world, she succeeds in, everything fits together – stage, play, music, light. Nico and the Navigators are a bunch of con geniuses. A happy evening about unhappiness…
Nico and the Navigators play "Eggs on Earth" at the Sophiensaele The blue world is furnished. Practical like a fitted kitchen. Everything in it is straight, functional, compatible. Everything superfluous has dried away. Almost everything. Seven people are left. If you don't look closely, they too seem to have blended in. They live in the office. Their home is a container. Through flaps, drawers, hatches, it releases them from itself and reabsorbs them. A coming and going, but no encounter. People do not fit together, but they are soft and do not notice it immediately. The edge of a chair snaps into the joint much more satisfactorily: Schnack. Holds. Even that is too much to ask of people - no wonder, the prototype made of clay was His first attempt. And we have the effort. That's what they play. Seven well-dressed people in their fit years, using all their strength to slip. They put away teasing, swallow affects. Success is their life, and that's how it tastes. The characters are circling in the absurd, they have lost their center. At least you can see in their looks that they can still wonder about it. They search for their equilibrium, wobbling: "Basically, it's quite good like this. Now it's getting better. Aha, now I'm losing it." Splat. Eggs on the ground. A gentle despondency in slow motion. Giving up is their task. They search until they resign. It's going, but it's going wrong. "Is it too late to start early?" one ponders until he sinks into phlegm - with each passing moment it's even more too late. Another has the career behind her, she is on top, only she does not know on what. Many such arias sing a song of futility: feet do not want to shine, as much as they are polished. Hair is brushed in such a way, as if one could do the brain with it at the same time. Love is called "fruitful cooperation" and in a lofty top position one is first left alone with and then also from one's problems. The miracle of this evening is that one can watch the disenfranchised without gloating and with pleasure. The director Nicola Hümpel knows how to trust. She builds on the talents of her players, because such things cannot be prescribed. What never works out in the world, she succeeds in, everything fits together - stage, play, music, light. Nico and the Navigators are a bunch of con geniuses. A happy evening about unhappiness.
…For this, Oliver Proske has designed a congenial stage set with his multifunctional light blue container, in which the performers either disappear completely or can alternately be viewed only from the waist up or down. The director assembles seven performers gifted with an enviable penchant for the grotesque…. This is slapstick at its best. Which is not to say that “NIco and the Navigators” degrades the misery of business to a painless amusement…
How business rituals deform the individual: "Nico and the Navigators" show "Eggs on Earth" at the Sophiensaele in Berlin Man defines himself through work. But it is not so much the workaholic who is the focus of "Eggs on Earth," the new production by "Nico and the Navigators," nor is it the average after-work pub-goer or a member of the "after-work clubbing" movement: For their descent into the shallows of gainful employment, the group led by director Nicola Hümpel has chosen the type who strides onto the stage with a bright red briefcase, after a brief moment of silence the sentence. "At the bottom of my heart I accept my varied everyday life" and then lays down emotionlessly. Everyone - including the briefcase carrier - naturally wants to "get to the top. The only thing is that they would first have to make contact with the ominous "Herr Fock", at least by telephone. What happens, however, is the drama of the eternal failure of the receptionist. Nico and the Navigators", whose powerful conglomeration of speech and movement theater has already generated enthusiasm with their earlier productions in the Sophiensaele - "Ich war auch schon einmal in Amerika" and "Lucky days, Fremder! - aroused enthusiasm, also translated this subject into their very own surreal images. Stubbornly, the actors are overtaken by the collected platitudes of the working world. Sentences like "Your process is being worked on," "You can learn the technique; you have to bring the talent," or "He's got time now!" follow from nothing; and nothing follows them in "Nico and the Navigators." At least nothing that would amount to a stringent storyline. Rather, the elaborations hover over the "upwardly" oriented personnel like malicious visitations. The humiliation that emanates from them is conveyed through a stylized language of movement that is obsessed with detail. Oliver Proske has designed a congenial stage set for this with his multifunctional light blue container, in which the actors either disappear completely or can alternately be viewed only from the waist up or down. The director assembles seven performers gifted with an enviable penchant for the grotesque. Julius Weiland most objectively demonstrates those deformations that business rituals leave on the modern individual: How he attempts a casually sovereign supporting posture at a table that is far too low and, after initial respect, becomes visibly enraged and jams himself in the hostile piece of furniture - this is slapstick at its best. Which is not to say that "Nico and the Navigators" degrades the misery of business to painless amusement. Not only that job interviews or good-humored speeches about groundbreaking company balance sheets perish in a nightmarish sentence repetition compulsion: Even topics such as sexual harassment in the workplace are negotiated with a casualness reduced to a few unerring gestures in such a way that the banality of the proceedings becomes horribly apparent.
Nicola Hümpel and her company Nico and the Navigators have created a new form of improvisation theatre… the type of actor represented by a “navigator” wins the audience over with a combination of charm and carefree at the same time… Nico is celebrating a theatre of slowness that lives from the art of reduction. She invented an editing technique for the collage-like scenes. The works of Nico and the Navigators always deal with the integration of human behaviour. Rituals of everyday life are alienated, and processes are driven into the artificial and the absurd. The set design in its graphic clarity provides a contrast to the hovering mental conditions.
With her group "Nico and the Navigators", Nicola Hümpel has invented a new form of improvisational theater. The name makes you think of a pop band: Nico and the Navigators. But Nico is not a singing siren, it is the nickname of theater director Nicola Hümpel, who quickly put her Navigators on the road to success. With only two productions, the ensemble, founded in 1998 at the Bauhaus Dessau, has gained a growing fan base. The troupe, which plays to sold-out crowds at the Sophiensaele, is committed to its own way of working. "We work exclusively through improvisation. So each member of the ensemble navigates the play along with it," Hümpel says. With the Navigators, a type of performer entered the off-stage that captivates with its graceful insouciance. Nico gave them a fashionable look. But she knows how to effectively showcase the idiosyncrasies of her actors. "I study my Navigators to the core," she confesses. With her images of space, sound, movement and language, Hümpel wants to evoke associations and thus "generate thoughtfulness," says the graduate of the Hamburg Art Academy. A decisive factor was her encounter with Achim Freyer at the Bauhaus Dessau, where the student took part in an international stage design class. Freyer's working method has developed her further. Nico's pieces always revolve around the exploration of human behavior. Everyday rituals are alienated, processes driven into the artificial and absurd. The graphic clarity of the stage design contrasts with the floating mental states. Nico celebrates a theater of slowness that thrives on the art of reduction. She has developed an editing technique for her scene collages. "In visual art, I was interested in the cut. In a sculpture, I look for the moment of greatest tension and make a razor-sharp cut. In doing so, I give the viewer the opportunity to continue the line in their own imagination." Nico and the Navigators' theater relies on the co-producing imagination of the viewer. It always lays out new tracks. And refrains from any rash explanations. The actors navigate with pleasure into the unknown. Sometimes the director slips an actor a note with a brief instruction before the performance begins. Martin Clausen is an expert in this form of free play. The young actor moves through the performance with droll wonder. And thus provides a guide for viewing this theater that shuns all determinations. "I realized that I will never fully understand the world," Nico says. Her navigators give the appearance of entering an unknown continent each time. The last production, "Lucky Days, Stranger," was about the ceremonies of saying goodbye. May green was the color of loneliness. In the new production "Eggs on Earth", blue is the dominant color when it comes to dress for success. That's because this time everything revolves around the theme of work - a topic that is being taken up remarkably often by artists at the moment. "My observation is that my fellow human beings are increasingly turning from life adventurers into life administrators. They increasingly have to organize themselves and in the process don't get to live at all." Hümpel is not worried that the topic won't stir much emotion. "During our research, it turned out that the topic is on everyone's mind. We are, after all, the generation of insecure existences." A gallery of types from the workaholic to the slacker is presented. She herself is obsessed with her work, says Nico. Before each performance, she puts makeup on her actors. "It's a tender gesture," Nico points out. "And then we go into a love process together."
…a theatre which sets the staging over the spoken word, which is open for the use of different artistic languages and for which making sense is less important than the quality of the experience offered to the audience…
…The theatre group Nico and the Navigators is an heir of the experimental and avantgardistic theatre which changed the European and Northern American stages in the 20est century. A theatre which sets the staging over the spoken word, which is open for the use of different artistic languages and for which making sense is less important than the quality of the experience offered to the audience...
A production by NICO AND THE NAVIGATRS and the Sophiensæle. Supported by the Berliner Senatsverwaltung für Wissenschaft Forschung und Kultur, La Filature, the Forum Freies Theater Düsseldorf and the Grand Theatre Groningen, in co-operation with the foundation Bauhaus Dessau.
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