In an age when fear produces minor heroes and major quacks, when boredom induces us to buy antibacterial soap for deep-down-clean hygiene, but all the while we do nothing in the face of the real threats to our existence, Nico and the Navigators question their own fears, deviations and excuses.
…Six adorably faint-hearted, procrastinating people travel through these barren rooms, carrying a suitcase or two, committing hara-kiri (and getting back up laughing), fighting a plastic bag stuck to their bare feet. Experience the normal madness of life. And do, although it is not always easy for them, their best – in the middle of the craziness of existence. Even without a strategy…
In an era when fear produces small heroes and great quacks, when out of boredom people buy antibacterial soap for the security of cleanliness while minimizing the real threats of our society, NICO AND THE NAVIGATORS question fears and getting sidetracked. HELden & KleinMUT is a theatrical meditation on anxiety and daily fears, which marginally become neuroses. Lying between absurd humour and touching sadness, Oliver Proske’s stage is filled with strong pictures, subtle light, almost dance-like choreographed scenes and stories in German, English, French, Flemish and Japanese.
“They turned off the lights to switch on the night… “
“…Fear can be compared to dizziness. If someone looks down into a deep abyss, he becomes dizzy. But what is the reason, it is just as much his eye as the abyss; for what he had not looked down. So fear is the dizziness of liberty that comes up, when the intellect wants to synthesize and liberty is looking down into her own possibility and then seizes finiteness to hold on to it…” Søren Kierkegaard
AT THE SURFACE OF THE ABYSS
The Helmut that is visible in the title’s uppercase letters is hardly mentioned during the evening. Instead, the piece narrates in fragments about the ancient and ever-present fears that life casually presents – and about the possible stances with which one can confront them. How much of an abyss is hidden beneath the surface of a table? Why do humans often cast shadows larger than themselves? And what strategies must one develop against these fears? “HELden & KleinMUT” demonstrates how one can talk oneself into and out of apprehensions, how one can downplay, laugh off, or overcome them. The staging plays with the ambivalence of the unfamiliar, which one longs for yet fears at the same time, telling stories of the shy or paralyzed posture in the face of the unpredictable. Hair is combed as a visor, and lips are drawn in bold red, humorously desperate forms are maintained in the battle against unwelcome surprises. The stage design, with balconies and a seemingly bottomless but in reality just ground-level well rim, suggests the precipice of the existences presented to the audience. And ultimately, a harmless but inescapable impediment or a malfunctioning meat grinder provide the best descriptions for what can threaten a person if they imagine it intensely enough.
With “HELden & KleinMUT”, not only does a new stage ensemble with international artists from Belgium, Japan, South Africa, and Austria take shape, but Nico and the Navigators are also accompanied by live musicians for the first time: Steffen Martin & João Orecchia provide a subtle approach to musical theater with guitar and electronics. As a result of the production, the CD “Each of us is one of them” is also created.
…The foundation of the ensemble is pictorial independence and accuracy… All the more conclusive, clear, assertive succeeds here a re-enchantment of the world, as it has not been allowed to be so beautiful for a long time. The narrow evening (one hour, ten minutes) is dominated by the almost laughably broad theme of “fear”. Of course, it is about less and more, also about the fear at the sight of a child without a helmet on a bicycle…
A good start of the Donaufestival with the beautiful tableau-vivant-picture theater "HELden & kleinMUT The German performance team Nico and the Navigators opened the Danube Festival with their beautiful tableau-vivant picture theater "HELden & kleinMUT". A good start! Krems - With their gentle form of subversion, the members of the German performance collective Nico and the Navigators have earned themselves the touching title of "honorary Swiss of art" (Renate Klett). Their large-scale tableau-vivant-theater is kept in good shape by a deliberateness, precision and slowness that is considered to be Swiss. And they do their own thing, which is also the same attitude, away from the fashionable contortions of contemporary performance theater. This time it is called HELden & kleinMUT and opened the new Lower Austrian Danube Festival on Thursday. It is the seventh work of the group, which has existed since 1998, and it is visiting Austria for the first time (!). An omission that neo-director Thomas Zierhofer-Kien is now making up for. Visual independence and accuracy are the foundation of the ensemble. Director Nicola Hümpel (alias Nico) is not the only member of her off-group to come from the visual arts; she attended the stage class at the Bauhaus Dessau, worked with Achim Freyer and, with her navigators, sailed far around the "Sprechtheater" right from the start. All the more conclusive, clear, assertive, she succeeds here in re-enchanting the world in a way that has not been allowed to be so beautiful for a long time. The narrow evening (one hour, ten minutes) is dominated by the almost laughably broad theme of "fear". It is of course about less and more, also about the fear at the sight of a child without a helmet on a bicycle. Figures, states, images find only momentary validity here in a loose, scenically puristic connection. People (types) push themselves with or without suitcases into the nested gray cube mountains of stage designer Oliver Proske, let their long hair hang over the edge of a mezzanine or lift the skirt for the pregnant belly. Noble off troupe Nico and the Navigators allow - Achim Freyer plus silent film mimicry - the re-enchantment of the world, quite precisely. In shades of lilac and olive green (phenomenal lighting by Peter Meier), with silky guitar and drum sounds by Steffen Martin and Joao Orechhia. Off-theatre? Nico and the Navigators are the noble troupe among the free. The (striking) hairstyles are at least as expensive as the dreamlike couture, and because they have successful designers in the crew, the beauty of everything that occurs is spacey. Likewise the six actors, three women, three men, their names (for example Annedore Kleist) as extravagant as the corresponding faces. And when a plastic bag is left pecking at their clean bare feet, the ensuing act of liberation is always at least a ballet. Humor counts here, even in singing chansons. "Do you want to buy my paradise?" the perky Frenchwoman in the red puff-sleeved dress calls out enticingly. And you don't want to. A wonderful work.
…With a wonderful sense of slowness and states of excitement, “Nico and the Navigators” strings together moments of hope and failure in small scenes, showing heroes as quirky as the skew called life in which they move…. Nevertheless, there is a magic over all things. Because “Nico and the Navigators” look lovingly ironically at life…
In his hands he holds brochures labeled "Strategies for a life without death and dying. I beg your pardon? It looks as if Christoph Glaubacker is holding out this maximum life insurance policy to the world as a promise. But actually he clings to his brochures like a last hope. In "HELDEN & KleinMUT" by "Nico und the Navigators", comic misfortunes and strange clumsiness once again haunt the stage: stubborn, tender, angry, melancholic, defiant, mean, clumsy - and mostly fragile like life itself. Instead of living, they practice survival. Nicola Hümpel (direction) and Peter Meier (lighting) immerse the cool stage of clear forms (Oliver Proske) in charming light and soft sounds. But beneath the beautiful surface lurks fear. And fear speaks many languages and has many faces: envy, meanness, anger, procrastination - to name just a few. But where fear is the only hero, Hümpel demonstrates, people become extras in their own lives, navigating their way through a world of blocked possibilities. Fear is a poor advisor. With a wonderful sense of slowness and states of excitement, "Nico and the Navigators" strings together moments of hope and failure in small scenes, showing heroes as quirky as the skew called life in which they move. If courage were for sale, they would certainly have plenty of it in the bags and suitcases they drag behind them. Nevertheless, a magic lies over all things. Because "Nico and the Navigators" take a lovingly ironic look at life.
…the current production “Helden & Kleinmut”… seems at first glance like a relaxation seminar for stressed business bosses. The visual worlds of Hümpel and her set designer Oliver Proske are passage foyers of fragile people, carpentered with icy precision…. As pusillanimous heroes, they advertise a “life without death and dying” as if they were standing on the street corner with a watchtower. They extol the blessings of life insurance and play out disembodiment, loss of self, and madness….
"Nico and the Navigators" at the Muffathalle At some point in Nicola Hümpel's life, she must have looked beyond the surface of the world around her. And she saw a horror. She saw fear and envy and resentment and a desperate clinging to a functioning that was understood as a seemingly necessary condition for survival. But now, at the same time, she came to the realization that, as an artistically inclined person who is struck by such horror, one would perhaps deprive oneself of a lasting effect precisely if one were to tear down the surface and place all the background naked on, let's say, a theater stage. Because with the loss of the surface surrounding us, the horror then exhibited would also be just any horror, in case of doubt one that would no longer have anything to do with the prevailing worlds of life. It is the time of over-clearness, and Ms. Hümpel is an anachronism. At the Kammerspiele, Hamlet reads Michael Moore; at the Gärtnerplatztheater, Butterfly finds herself in a cabaret of rotten everyday types; at the Residenztheater, East and West collide with Botho Strauß with the mystery of a barbecue. When theater becomes political in the broader sense, the text often becomes as unambiguous as the staging is straightforward. There is then no more room for secrets; the specific statement can be grasped in every conceivable psychological and physical state without restriction. But what lies completely clearly before the eye of the beholder often does not find access to the heart. And a brain without a heart has no pain. Since Nicola Hümpel founded the ensemble "Nico and the Navigators" in 1998, the whimsical undertakings of these behavioral physical theater animals have been seen all over the world, several times also in Munich, where the current production "Helden & Kleinmut" can still be seen today in the Muffathalle. At first glance, it looks like a relaxation seminar for stressed-out business bosses. The visual worlds of Hümpel and her set designer Oliver Proske are passage foyers of fragile people, carpentered with icy precision, whose self-assertion in style and pop would hardly leave a reflex on the retina, were they not all a bit strange. As pusillanimous heroes, they advertise a "life without death and dying" as if they were standing on the street corner with the watchtower. They extol the blessings of life insurance and play at disembodiment, self-loss and insanity. Actually, it would all look beautiful. The six actors are beautiful. The costumes are beautiful. The stage is beautiful. The music by two musicians and by band is beautiful. But the search for the self is in vain, it sticks like a lump in the throat of fear, and in the end only a rustling in the wind remains of the tender caution. The evening wanders along a fine line between the assertion of surface and what it conceals. Which side one wants to see, can see, is up to the viewer.
…Once again director Nicola Hümpel sends her noble off-group to the edges of the theater: between dance, farce and tableau vivant they demonstrate abstract postures with choreographic acuratesse; they play with sense and nonsense, cite fear and other feelings…
Once again, director Nicola Hümpel sends her Edel-Off group to the edges of the theater: between dance, farce and tableau vivant, they demonstrate abstracted postures with choreographic acuratesse; they play with sense and nonsense, cite fear and other emotions, and as long as you follow the scenic rhythm, you carefree search for the meaning of it all, as if listening for a melody in the sounds of everyday life.
…They are always quite despondent contemporaries who take NICO AND THE NAVIGATORS as their target. Heroes of comical and courageous failure. When they face their own fears in their seventh production “Helden & Kleinmut” (Heroes & Pusillanimity), it is a guaranteed unheroic undertaking. Instead, the evening in the Sophiensälen delights with surreal visual fantasy, absurd wit and strong performers. Six navigators have set out to learn to fear. Most of all, they are afraid of fear…
NICO AND THE NAVIGATORS are always quite despondent contemporaries. Heroes of comical and courageous failure. When they face their own fears in their seventh production "Helden & Kleinmut" (Heroes & Pusillanimity), it is a guaranteed unheroic undertaking (further performances until 16.10.). Instead, the evening in the Sophiensälen delights with surreal visual fantasy, absurd wit and strong performers. Six navigators have set out to learn to fear. Most of all, they are afraid of fear. Director Nicola Hümpel reserves the first appearance for a fearless woman, the Frenchwoman Anne Paulicevich. A femme fatale who plays with love. And in the end is afraid of herself. Apart from that, frightened and confused young men with their hair blow-dried up parade across the stage, carrying their despondency around with them like a wondrous piece of luggage. Oliver Prose's stage towers are both hiding place and trap. They swallow up the performers, only to reveal a fleeing leg to the gaze. The actual motifs lie in the dark. So the stage haunting, bathed in pastel light, is pleasurable to watch: Fear and Lilac. Miyoko Urayama hides behind her mane of black hair, transforming into a little demoness. Then, when a comb moves toward her head in slow motion, one becomes terrified. The malicious Lajos Talamonti paints a register of horrors with relish, warning of cheap airlines, reheated spinach and monster waves. The newly formed ensemble conjures up the danger in several languages. At the end, one knows how to be afraid in Japanese and to give courage in French. How reassuring!
…Carefully dressed in shades of beige to pink, the little people in “HELden&kleinMUT”, who are nevertheless always determined to be the boldest and best, push and fold out of the scenery in slow motion, but actually the futuristic model city pushes and folds those out of itself. It chirps and chirps cheerfully to the careful human displacement until someone names the horror…
"HELD & kleinMUT" by Nico and the Navigators Actually everything as usual: The world of "NICO AND THE NAVIGATORS" is a beautiful, awful construction kit. Very elegant, very sensibly functional, only the people in it never quite work with it, which is why this lilac Bauhaus world is always a bit sad and a bit ridiculous. Carefully dressed in shades of beige to pink, the little people in "HELden&kleinMUT", who are nevertheless always determined to be the boldest and best, push and fold their way out of the scenery in slow motion, but actually the futuristic model city pushes and folds those out of itself. It chirps and chirps cheerfully to the cautious human displacement until someone names the horror: "You see a kid on a bike, and he doesn't have a helmet on!" Renewed back Fear is breathing down the necks of the heroes of "Nico and the Navigators," but like the people in their new production, that fear seems to have long been stuck somewhere in their model world. Almost a year ago, the successful theater troupe embarked on a European tour and announced that they would return creatively renewed. Now, in addition to Lajos Talamonti and Annedore Kleist, four new actors from four different countries grope their way through the large, constructed world of stage designer Oliver Proske, and two musicians play the small, human intervals live. English, French and Flemish are spoken, but only the gestures and things are communicative. And in this, Nicola Hümpel, the head of the ensemble, ties in with her best early days at the Bauhaus Dessau: To a human-bound object theater, which she had lost sight of in her last production "Kain, Wenn & Aber" to the disadvantage of pseudo-philosophical texts. Now the riddles are representational again. Windows slide open, actors fit into the gaps. A fountain deforms into a bench, which turns into a treadmill. Despite their unconditional will to master form, the six Buster Keatons with their modest human functions of course never get behind these multipotent cultural objects. Thus, ridiculous fear peels from grand fantasies of domination, slapstick stumbles from menace, and Punch and Judy shimmers in the Robert Wilson ritual. At the end, an actor slowly pulls out montage parts from his clothes, as if pulling them out of his own body, and builds a meat grinder out of them: subject-object sausage-making à la carte.
…Now everything revolves around fears, aberrations and alibis. And once again the ensemble confronts the audience with their childhood experiences…
All this takes place in the cool, multifunctional design of stage designer Oliver Proske in rapid change, but mostly simultaneously. And still, that is the miracle of this troupe, it becomes an artistically coherent whole that confuses but does not bore, that puzzles but does not overwhelm. And which earns well-deserved cheers…
When Nico and the Navigators announced a year ago that they wanted to strike out in a new direction in the future, collective wailing broke out. Of all things, the pop stars of the German off-scene, who brought a new language to the theater, threatened to lose Berlin, Germany, and indeed the entire world after only five years. Fate proved to be merciful. The troupe is back, albeit with many new faces. And it is precisely this feeling, the fear that has afflicted their fans, that is now the subject of their seventh production "Helden & Kleinmut". The stage for the premiere is once again the Sophiensäle. From here, Nico, i.e. director Nicola Hümpel, and her performers navigate their way through the big, wide world. The long tours show interaction: with the new, international cast, additional languages and movement patterns come into play, and two musicians contribute specially produced live sounds. This results in further alienation effects in the play with images and meanings, with scenes and moods, which the Navigators continue to perform with virtuosity. Actually, it's like in therapy: you throw a term around and everyone tells what they associate with it. "Lucky Days, Stranger!" 1999, the breakthrough of the cult troupe, was about parting, "Cain, If & But" last year about decisions. Now everything revolves around fears, aberrations and alibis. And once again the ensemble confronts the audience with their childhood experiences. The platitudes that Lajos Talamonti spreads about the risks of life we have all heard, if not from parents, then at the latest from insurance agents. There is no such thing as a "strategy for a life without death and dying," as Christoph Glaubacker, like the "Watchtower," holds out to us. The Navigators show us how to deal with this realization, sometimes successfully, sometimes disastrously, with means ranging from quiet poetry to slapstick to violence. The Japanese Miyoko literally plays tricks with horror in her Harakiri parody. The French Anne Paulicevich gives the femme fatale, tenderness, which she wants to express in chansons, quickly turns into hatred. The technocrat Niels Bovri, on the other hand, believes he can master emotional abysses with sober noncommittalism. All this plays out in the cool, multifunctional design of stage designer Oliver Proske in rapid alternation, but mostly simultaneously. And yet, as always, the wonder of this troupe is that it becomes an artistically coherent whole that confuses but does not bore, that puzzles but does not overwhelm. And that earns well-deserved cheers.
A production by NICO AND THE NAVIGATORS and the Sophiensæle co-produced with the Donaufestival. Supported by the Senatsverwaltung für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kultur, Berlin.
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