Kain, Wenn & Aber

Who is not familiar with the pleasure and burden of decision-making? How much courage does it take? How much freedom is involved? Using symbols and snapshots that alternatively strike a chord or alienate, the ensemble approaches these existential questions and takes a look at life decisions as well as the daily agony of choice.

Kain, Wenn & Aber

Are there really no ifs and buts?

How are decisions made?

If we don’t make them ourselves, who makes them for us?

Is there suuch a thing as destiny? Are there any signposts?

Or are we alone with our decisions?

In their production Kain, Wenn & Aber, the NICO AND THE NAVIGATORS ensemble deals with bread-and-butter questions, but also with the little torments of every-day choices. Who doesn’t know the pleasure and trouble of decision-making? How much courage do they demand? How much freedom do they imply?  

In emblematic images and instantaneous pictures that rouse, touch and surprise, the ensemble approaches these existential questions. 

 

A production by NICO AND THE NAVIGATORS and the Sophiensæle, supported by Berliner Senatsverwaltung für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kultur, in coproduction with Le Carreau Forbach, Inteatro Polverigi and Grand Theatre Groningen, in cooperation with Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau.

Dates

play-button-svgrepo-comc

Press reviews

Sandra Luzina / Der Tagesspiegel

…Die Regisseurin Nicola Hümpel, unterstützt von ihrem famosen Mitstreiter, dem Bühnenbildner Oliver Proske, ersinnt ein wundersam-surreales Bildertheater… Selten werden die alltäglichen Entscheidungsnöte von Thirtysomethings in der Multi-Options-Gesellschaft so umwerfend komisch dargestellt. „Die erste Entscheidung heißt, zu mir selbst, mutig, allein …“, so beginnt das Stück um die Lust und Last der Selbstbestimmung…

Sandra Luzina / Der Tagesspiegel

Nico and the Navigators - that sounds like the name of a pop band. But the Navigators are one of the most idiosyncratic and successful ensembles on the Berlin scene. The director Nicola Hümpel, supported by her excellent collaborator, the stage designer Oliver Proske, creates a wondrous-surreal picture theater. The precisely choreographed scenes balance between amusing slapstick and philosophical nonsense. And you will hardly ever find such wonderfully wacky performers on stage. Nico and the Navigators are now showing their successful play Kain, Wenn & Aber once again for three performances in Berlin. Not in the traditional Sophiensäle, but in the Radialsystem. Rarely are the everyday decision-making hardships of thirtysomethings in a multi-option society portrayed in such a stunningly funny way. "The first decision is called, to myself, bravely, alone ...", so begins the play about the pleasure and burden of self-determination. Of course, notoriously decision-weak brooders, shirkers, and fall-guys also creep across the stage here - a small typology of the confused and confused, in which everyone can feel caught at times.

Berliner Morgenpost

…Unmistakable, how the “navigators” move in Proskes’ multifunctional transformation spaces, which have a life of their own. Constantly something opens or closes, shifts or warps. In between: young, comical contemporaries. They seem nostalgic and with their slapstick poses and gestures they could have come out of a silent movie… a charming little world theater…

Berliner Morgenpost

Next year, Nico and the Navigators will celebrate their 10th anniversary as a free theater in Berlin. During this time, the ensemble around director Nicola Hümpel and set designer Oliver Proske has created a charming little world theater. Unmistakable, how the "navigators" move in Proske's multifunctional transformation spaces, which have a life of their own. Constantly something opens or closes, shifts or warps. In between: young, comical contemporaries. They seem nostalgic and with their slapstick poses and gestures could have sprung from a silent movie. They are looking for their place in the world and in their silly seriousness they become sympathetic. Because, of course, much of what they do is futile, banal and profoundly tragic - just like in real life. The play "Cain, If & But" is a much-traveled success production from 2003, which is finally being played again in Berlin and deals with Nico's theme of success: Is personality fate or can one choose? The ensemble is playing at the Radialsystem for the first time.

Christoph Müller / Schwäbisches Tageblatt

…the most original, innovative and melancholic but still funny troupe of the German off-theatre-community is playing on two evenings, each time in front of about 500 spellbound, almost enthusiastically reacting people in the audience… “Nico and the Navigators” are having so much specific within their language, thereby enlarging the language of theatre… The rest of the theatres in Germany could learn a lesson of how to support great contemporary art by experimenting with small means…

Christoph Müller / Schwäbisches Tageblatt

Manual for the awkward daily intercourse with oneself Nico and the Navigators are exploring a new ease in the off-theatre-community The Free Troupes are having their centre in Berlin. The worse the situation for the traditional theatres, the more the off-theatres are growing and flourishing. Recently the most unique style has been developed by the ensemble of Nicola Hümpel, which is concentrating on absurd performances. It is touring through the whole of Europe. Forbach/Berlin „Le Carreau“, red cinema seats in an anonymusly looking, ugly space, is the sociocultural habitat at the most uninviting place: Forbach, the first village of Lorraine at the western periphery of Saarbrücken. Germans are remembered of the GDR by witnessing this distinctive urbanistic dreariness. And just here the most original, innovative and melancholic but still funny troupe of the German off-theatre-community is playing on two evenings, each time in front of about 500 spellbound, almost enthusiastically reacting people in the audience. This theatre, being a charmingly absurd project in opposition to a world without meaning and soul, unfolds pure enchantment at such a location, thereby letting everyone forget time and space. Originating from the Dessauer Bauhaus six years ago, they are now stars among the off-theatres in Berlin. And the amount of off-theatres in Berlin is higher and their connections and networks are denser than anywhere else. There are evenings in Berlin when the productions of the off-theatres are not only higher in number than the ones by the well-known traditional theatres but also more interesting. But also this has to be recognized: Without the gurus of the established art – in our case mainly Pina Bausch, Achim Freyer, but also the absurd comedian and director Jacques Tati – as a recognizable model they would not exist in this form. But “Nico and the Navigators” are having so much specific within their language, thereby enlarging the language of theatre, and so much elaborate ambivalent sense of style, that they should have been invited to the Berliner Theatertreffen a long time ago. The titles of the diverting sequences of scenes, which during their field study survey called “Menschenbilder” for the mysteries of a deranged everyday-life are following a surreal logic, are already the first promise preparing for the following tender, but lasting nonsense absurdities. „Ich war auch einmal in Amerika“ (I have also been in America), „Lucky days, Fremder!” (Lucky Days, stranger), „Eggs on Earth“, „Lilli in Putgarden“, „Der Familienrat“ (The family council) and now, totally unfounded, „Kain, Wenn und Aber“. Nicola Hümpel, the director of seven impromptu players with amazing acrobatic abilities, both physical and vocal, has her origins in the fine arts. The characters are chiselled accordingly, like sculptures, before they are setting themselves in awkward motion, either solitarily or in a chaos of communication, playing a trick on the rules of game and the rules of behaviour in this paralysed postmodern world. The aimless Navigators start to take course somewhere in the nowhere, out of the moment and for the moment. But they are doing this with a stubborn and playful-vague cussedness-of-the-matter-insistence which is systematically shaking the perception of the amazed audience. They are quite literally making the circumstances dance using the Free Will of Kant, right in accordance with Ernst Bloch. Just without any missionary impetus or any intense and forced philosophical superstructure. A self-sufficient, self-reliant, seductively flickering ease of being-that-way. The soundtrack being tender, the light being mild, the designed and styled tousle-hairstyles fixed aslant, the clothes not every time only on the body – and already the bell tolls adamantly, for we were meeting ourselves and, even more fateful, the matter. „Nico and the Navigators“ are now harboured in the Sophiensaele in Berlin. Nevertheless they are rarely in their harbour, but are happily cruising the courses of the international festival. The complex plays of words in „Kain, Wenn und Aber“ are always faithfully transposed according to the country, with perfect subtitles. In the off-theatre-community the absolute and precise perfection of the Hümpel troupe, concerning both their art and their craft, is quite unusual. On tour internationally After France there are already tours scheduled in the Netherlands, Russia, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, and probably in the inevitable USA. The off-theatre-community in the Sophiensaele, in the Podewil and now in the thrice distributed Hebbel theatre – those are advantages of location in Berlin, which are smartly kept alive by the senate of Berlin and the endowment fund of the capital. The rest of the theatres in Germany could learn a lesson of how to support great contemporary art by experimenting with small means…

Reinhard Wengierek / Die Welt

…Never give in to the need to finish something. – And indeed, the scenic fragmentation almost touches the genial. One is amazed, perplexed, enraptured, confused. But in the end – and often only in retrospect – all the dadaistic, anecdotal, dreamy, madcap things seem extremely plausible…

Reinhard Wengierek / Die Welt

"The first decision is: to myself - courageously, alone." So goes the first sentence in the new play "Kain, Wenn & Aber" by Nicola Hümpel. Yet the word "play" may not slip from one's lips at all. The events of Hümpel's nine-member troupe Nico and the Navigators are, after all, meditations that are as perfectly highly artificial as they are naively playful: this time on the subject of self-determination. And from this follows the question: How self-determined do we actually decide? Nicola Hümpel, bursting with imagination and awareness of form, is a sister of Tati, Allen, Keaton and studied not only at the Kunsthochschule Hamburg, but also - and this is clearly noticeable - at the Bauhaus Dessau. The 36-year-old says that her collective of experts builds its pieces (after all!) like a painter builds his pictures - somewhere between instinct and intellect. Her credo: never give in to the need to finish something. And indeed, the scenic fragmentation almost touches the genial. One is amazed, perplexed, enraptured, confused. But in the end - and often only in retrospect - all the dadaistic, anecdotal, dreamy, lunatic stuff seems extremely plausible. "Comparatively temporarily accomplished", it is then self-ironically said about the "communication success" between Hümpel art and spectator head. True. Comparatively temporary - and flying by. Nevertheless, these eighty minutes remain unforgettable. Strange. A beautiful mystery of art. A lasting enchantment, so to speak. Together with Michael Thalheimer's Hauptmann production "Einsame Menschen" at the Deutsches Theater, the Navigators were the most beautiful theater Christmas present at the famous off-studio Sophiensaele presenting the stars of tomorrow. In the meantime they are on tour in France. And then on through all of Europe.

Peter-Hans Göpfert / Berliner Morgenpost

…Already at the beginning the seven actors, three women, four men, present themselves with slanted hairstyles and speaking mute facial expressions. There are echoes of parental or social education, attempts to nail the individual down to a certain direction in life, astrological banal promises…. The present performance is the most beautiful, the finest for a long time!…

Peter-Hans Göpfert / Berliner Morgenpost

For a long time Nico and the Navigators haven’t been this good: “Kain, Wenn & Aber” (Kain, If & But) at the Sophiensaele The sentence at the beginning goes: “The first decision means: to myself”. In fact Nico and the Navigators have decided to leave for new artistic shores. For the present there will be no productions as an ensemble after the recent one: “Kain, Wenn & Aber”. The troupe, just five years ago founded at the Bauhaus Dessau, is famous and renowned for quite some time. But the last productions of Nicola Hümpel showed mild signs of weariness and emptiness. And now this surprise: This recent production is the most beautiful, the finest for a long time!Even the date of the first night, the evening of Santa Claus [in German: Nikolaus], had been chosen excellently by the Navigators. Even a sock exists. But it is not being filled with cookies, but it disappears in the mouth of an actor. And soon he does the hair of a colleague by hand and foot, both by force, in a way not being offered by any hair stylist in Berlin, Moscow or Ancona – of course at those cities performances are already scheduled and settled. The ensemble doesn’t speak much in their plays, which are arising from improvisations. In the beginning the notion “definition” is been worked through by a chain pun – “who does actually define who defines?”. Then it is obvious how the cat is going to jump. The subject is, somehow, somewhere, the ancient question of mankind: is man free to shape his destiny, or isn’t destiny rather holding man in its strong grip. By knowing Nico one can be sure: The evening will never be determined fundamentally or obviously. Already from the beginning the seven actors, three women and four men, are presenting themselves with hairstyles fixed aslant and descriptively quiet mimics. There are reminiscences to paternal or social education, attempts to fix individuals to specific ways of life, and trivial astrological prophecies. Globalized poultry, the ups and downs of indices at the stock market, they are agitatedly discussed. And in one scene it is requested to take off everything personal, the jacket, the credit card, the last piercing. This time no vacuum cleaners are taken out. No egg experiences unexpected flights on the air cushion of a household appliance. The collage of scenes obeys for itself restlessly the law of surreal weightlessness. Of course one can ask for the meaning, but the troupe plays amusingly, profoundly ostensibly and charmingly silly, thereby avoiding any answer. This sentence we noted immediately for daily use: “The ability to understand intellectual correlations is increasing drastically. ”This sensitive and crazy, this affectionately mad Nico and the Navigators have never been before. Outside in the foyer, which was saturated with nicotine, we almost got a feeling of a cocktail party for the long time we had to wait until the door opened. But then the fun ran so smoothly that we never even checked the time. Therefore we wept for the (slow) farewell a tear into our own sock.

Renate Klett / Die Zeit

… “Nico and the Navigators”: One of Germany’s most original theater groups becomes famous – Some discovered them late, others knew immediately, and all agree: A ghost is haunting Europe that needs no manifesto to be cult, and that goes by the name of Nico and the Navigators. It sounds like a pop band, but it’s a theater group, probably the best in Berlin’s independent scene and beyond…

Renate Klett / Die Zeit

"Nico and the Navigators": One of the most original German troupes gets famous. Some noticed them just late, others knew it immediately, but everybody agrees: A spectre is haunting Europe, needing no manifesto to earn adoration, and it answers to the name of Nico and the Navigators. While sounding like a pop group, they are a troupe, most likely the best in the off-scene of Berlin and beyond. Their career developed rapidly, and this story of success culminates in the fact of being so untypical and contrary to the Zeitgeist, being without any calculation. Everything you do on stage nowadays, the video-grumbling and the blood-sperm-adulteration, they refuse it right from the beginning. Instead just old fashion: Humour and poetry, stubbornness, melancholy and misfortune. Again this Swiss way of soft subversion, one tends to believe, Häusermann, Kienberger, Marthaler – and now this: They are from Lübeck, from Hamburg, Dessau and Berlin. But nevertheless: Nico and the Navigators are Swiss by honour of their art. “Why deny your descent at the slope” – thus, they say it themselves! That sentence originates from their scenic setting „Lucky days, Fremder!” (Lucky Days, stranger). Red carpet, a green wall, and in between six solitary islands in man-shape. The wall consists of several drawers, which are sometimes bright yellow and moreover not really reliable: When needed most, they stay shut or, one needs to see it by himself, they swallow the staircase. “Never again forever proud” says a beautiful sentence in this play, in which the distance already starts with the next human being. “Vote for the horizon” is only another way of saying “I love you”, it just sounds cooler. „Lucky days, Fremder!” dealt with parting, came out at the Sophiensæle in Berlin in 1999 and succeeded, soon becoming a sleeper. Previously there had already been two productions at the Bauhaus Dessau, “DenkVorGang” in 1996 and “Ich war auch schon mal in Amerika” (I have also been in America) in 1998. Like everything that followed they were directed by Nicola Hümpel, with stage design by Oliver Proske, and illumination by Peter Meier. In 1997 the name of the group emerges, and from then on they gain momentum : Every year a new production, all of them modules for a monument of Sisyphus-like size called “Menschenbilder” (Images of man). “Edith, the pharmacy is arriving!” The director, born 1967 in Lübeck, took courses at Achim Freyer and at the Bauhaus in Dessau. But you cannot learn how fantasy makes fools of everybody and doubles. You cannot learn it anyway, at best the method you need. The performances are coolly composed, they are alert, clever and sly, their Dada-like logic makes the universe and the perception at one, and the perspective resembles one of a somnambulist shortly before the fall. Wonderful sentences like Morse messages out of the gutter or from outer space are announcing what nobody understands but what is evident to everybody: “comparatively temporary accomplished” matters to be a legitimate statement, and a threat (or maybe promise?) is “Edith, the pharmacists are arriving!” At the same time there are games almost without words, through which each nested sentence doubles its significance. Tamer of speech and miming are at work here, poets of the absurd working with their whole body, who are taking each sense as literal as possible until it evaporates. It is shown how one walks, lies, dreams, and why one aspires upward but never succeeds, but also why just this quickens one. Contradiction as aim in life, the brightest smile as the most toxic arrow, and a consequence is anyway just shown in a mess - many silent, evil picture puzzles about failing and its glory. In the first scene of Eggs on Earth (2000) the actors are approaching a shoeshine machine like one finds in hotel corridors. They use it and disappear. Only the legs are still visible, and they are delivering chased character sketches by striding to the machine or by philandering, by maltreating the on/off switch or by caressing it and then starting the day shining freshly. When one sees the legs again afterwards, one knows already everything about those they carry. They are creatures who intend to get ahead. One sees them already tumbling upstairs, in free fall. Hümpel does not denounce her characters, she just exposes them, but still loves them. Her mockery is tender, not cynical; the butcher knives nevertheless are sharpened. “We want to show the bare human soul”, she says, “to take away all possibilities of shelter and stabilisation, so that the actor is reduced just to his face, his existence and his two sentences.” The character, settings and situations are created by improvisation. One agrees about a topic, a colour, a taste, and than one starts to spin, each for himself and everybody together. A controlled collective frenzy, not adding but multiplying the creativity of the individual, and catapulting them in not anticipated levels of inspiration and association. Such a method can only work in a group being old enough to be connive together but young enough to surprise each other. In the spirit of Tati, Allen and Keaton Additionally there is the work at the table, an écriture automatique, where countless pieces of phrases are de- and each time newly reconstructed until they finally have attain the obviousness of the abstruse for which N & N are famous. We construct our productions like a painter is constructing his paintings,”, Nico Hümpel says, “which is a complicated process concerning instinct and intellect, where you should never yield to the desire of finishing something.” By composing the performance out of the abundance of the material she pays attention to keep everything in abeyance. She avoids motivations and messages. ”It is important to find the second where a scene has to be stopped in order to stay open.” The method reminds of Pina Bausch, and the results therefore are often labelled as “dance theater”, sometimes also as “image theater”. But this crazy mixture of ordinary life and crash can of course not be pegged as something . Where “the meaning of an item proves itself merely after its use” (Oliver Proske”, there is each attempt to characterize in vain. Logically The Items, following Parting and Work, the topic of the next production Lili in putgarden in 2001. It deals less with the functional, but more with the emotional added value. After all one can fall in love with a vacuum cleaner. It just depends on the story by which one is tied, and on the degree of sentimentality one permits to oneself. “Tyrannical souvenirs” and unfamiliar teacups are able to complicate life quite a lot, and the foldable stage design, partly tent, partly bed for lolling and lounging, is swallowing people and spitting out coat-hangers. In 2002 originated “Familienrat” (Family council). Proskes stage is now a particularly cunning all-purpose trap, where shoeshelves are mutating to staircases, tables to shower booths and swords not to plowshares for a long time. Here the items are changing and not the people. Only the fortress family is eternal and invincible. Christmas, the festival of fear, makes flakes of bread snow and unites the cripples of the family in an affectionate mendacious round. Evil to him who evil does, nonsense to him who doesn’t. But they are not opposed to families, they are one for themselves, merely without any tenure. This includes surrendering of internal copyright; each scene invented by an actor may be used by each other, may be changed, and plagiarized. This works for the trust they have for each other, on stage and in real life. While talking to them they revel about their honesty and their liberty in their relations, about love and security which does not cramp, and loyalty which does not lead to indifference. A group of commons, each one a poet and athlete, in the spirit of Chaplin, Allen, Keaton and Tati. All are about 30 years old, and only few of them are actors by education – maybe therefore they appear to be so authentic and clear: each face a landscape, each body the tempest raging over it. Their names are: Martin Clausen, Annedore Kleist, Lyon Roque, Verena Schonlau, Patric Schott, Peter Stock, Isabelle Stoffel, Lajos Talamonti, Sinta Tamsjadi, Julius Weiland. One should remember these names, for it is possible to encounter them elsewhere soon. Their newest production, having its first night on December 6th at the Sophiensæle in Berlin, will be the last one in this combination. With growing success, already across Europe, the horizon widens and the desire for discoveries increases. Therefore Nico Hümpel will participate in an international coproduction next. The old productions are being played – there is no lack of invitations. But now there will be the Navigators once more, pure. “Kain, Wenn und Aber” (Kain, If and But) is the name of the new play, being about decisions and their impossibility. To be or not to be has never really been answered – maybe it is easier by slapstick than by Shakespeare. All great questions have a slightly nagging core. So then: “The first decision means: to myself – brave – alone”, thus the play begins, and one anticipates already how the tiny eyes are sparkling, while fidgety fingers are disproving it at the same time.

Caroline Uhlig / Russland Aktuell

… “Nico and the Navigators” illuminate the unfathomable paths of decision, its parameters and above all its (in)freedom. Scenically simple, these existential questions are brought to the stage in a very minimalist way. The decorations and props are small but fine, a large part of the effect is created by lighting effects. But the play lives especially from the brilliant actors, who become true mimic and physical acrobats…. Without exaggeration, one can indeed speak of new German theater – of contemporary, creative theater, which reflects the conflict of the manic-depressive present with a winking eye…

Caroline Uhlig / Russland Aktuell

What sounds like the name of a pop band is in fact a young theater troupe from Berlin, but at the moment they are being celebrated like little stars all over Europe. "Nico and the Navigators" are different from the rest of the theater troupe, because they take up the spirit of the times without general lamentation. Their new program, with which they visited Moscow on the occasion of the Berlin Days, is called "Cain, if and but" - the title alone sends cold shivers down the spine. The biblical Cain, the one who slew his brother in anger, is immediately present in the mind. The question arises: who is held responsible for what in the play and why? Against this background, it is also frightening that contemporary theater today can hardly do without elaborate video projections, vulgar shouting and obscene gestures. What is offered, however, is something different. Although the neuroses of contemporary homo sapiens are also addressed here, this is done with humor and the courage to create paradoxes. The core question of "Cain, if and but" deals with the topic of decision - its burden and pleasure. Quote: "The first decision: to myself - courageously - alone", this is how the piece begins and introduces the basic tenor. "Nico and the Navigators" illuminate the unfathomable paths of decision, its parameters and above all its (in)freedom. Scenically simple, these existential questions are brought to the stage in a very minimalist way. The decorations and props are small but fine, a large part of the effect is created by lighting effects. But the play lives especially from the brilliant actors, who become true mimic and physical acrobats. The masterpiece, however, lies in the wordplay, which at times rises to the absurd. "Who actually determines here, who determines? We determine a determiner, who then determines all of us, and that's certainly the solution, then it's certainly right." Without exaggeration, one can indeed speak of new German theater - of contemporary, creative theater that reflects the conflict of the manic-depressive present with a twinkling eye. And that is certainly true!

Nina Peters / Theater der Zeit

…Nico and the Navigators is certainly one of the most striking things Germany’s independent scene has to offer. Why? In a short time, the ensemble has developed an idiosyncratic signature, which also in “Cain, If and But” moves aesthetically between Buster Keaton slapstick, Grand Guignol, dance and precise movement theater and the everyday high-pressure realism of TV shows and German regulars’ table speeches …

Nina Peters / Theater der Zeit

Sophiensaele: "Kain, Wenn & Aber" by Nico and the Navigators Directed by Nicola Hümpel, Stage Oliver Proske At the beginning, order still reigns. Illuminated in blue, the stage in Berlin's Sophiensaele radiates the cool elegance of a showroom. Three movable stage modules give the space a clear architecture: in front of a screen in panorama format, two high cuboids face each other; in front of them is a curved element, a low bench. In the end, disorder triumphs: paper lies on the floor, as if someone in the office had opened the window at the wrong time. The leather seat of the wooden chair, which stood in a cone of light in the foreground at the beginning, has been folded upwards. And a jacket lies crumpled in the stage periphery. "You have to fool the chaos inside you," says a character in Nico and the Navigators' latest production, "Cain, If and But," which revolves around the theme of life choices and the everyday agony of choice. So it's about nothing less than so-called free will. First of all, you can think about it philosophically. And how does one arrive at decisions despite personal chaos? That probably lies again in the psychology of the individual. Nico and the Navigators is currently the most successful ensemble in Berlin's independent scene. The group was founded in 1998 at the Bauhaus in Dessau. It was discovered by Berlin's Sophiensaele, where the young performers with the rather unconventional professional biographies around director Nicola Hümpel continue to produce as artists in residence. This year they will be touring France, the Netherlands, Budapest and Russia. Nico and the Navigators is certainly one of the most striking acts Germany's independent scene has to offer. Why? In a short time, the ensemble has developed an idiosyncratic signature, which in "Cain, If and But" also moves aesthetically between Buster Keaton slapstick, Grand Guignol, dance and precise movement theater and the everyday high-pressure realism of TV shows and German regulars' table speeches: "What's going on in Colombia? And what about the CIA? And the destruction of money? To which account has the money been destroyed?" rages Lajos Talamonti from the ceiling of one of the cuboids. Meanwhile, Peter Stock sits mute and uptight in a pale light in a wooden chair. For in the Navigators, the principle of the simultaneous stage prevails: the viewer looks into a production and improvisation workshop of three female and four male performers, who are not working on an existing play text, but on an impressive image theater. The big meaning is lost anyway. "You must have a vision," Annedore Kleist shouts at her male counterpart. And he remains silent once again. And perhaps this is the recipe for the success of Nico and the Navigators: that the male actors in particular, with their water-blue suits, pale complexions and serious faces, do not embody decision-makers at all, but are dream dancers with diagonally coiffed, subversive hairstyles. This is the identification offer that Nico and the Navigators make to the viewers in this "accredit-me-with-a-couple" world, in this "high-gloss boulevard hustle" world (according to the actress Sinta Tamsjadi): Voilà, the oddball! He caresses a basket, huddled together, with the passion of an autistic person (Peter Stock). And he (Lajos Talamonti) explains the connections of the world with such edgy sentences as: "On the earth hangs man, on him the sky." Then he laughs briefly and brightly.

Simone Kaempf / Süddeutsche Zeitung

… “Do I actually determine what happens, or does my destiny determine,” it says at the beginning of the evening…. There were once decisions that were made and evoke memories of them being made. The stories that took place in between float silently like balloons above the characters, who move like lemurs in time loops. An oppressively beautiful evening, as sure of form as it is gentle, which wrings a few happy moments from human states of exhaustion….

Simone Kaempf / Süddeutsche Zeitung

"Kain, Wenn & Aber" - Farewell to Nico and the Navigators You turn the semicircularly bent wooden box around for the last time: Just a gray-blue wooden box? Depends on what you make of it. And so the box is suddenly a seesaw, the seesaw becomes a bar, behind which someone is shaking invisible cocktails, while in front someone leans up as only drunks do, and a woman asks for a light with a lascivious gesture, as if it could be all night. This scene is the encore of Nico and the Navigators' new evening, and it sums up with timeless beauty the group's six years of work: figuring out what things tell us about and how they reflect back on people, whose sentences in turn become objects. Director and artist Nicola Hümpel, set designer Oliver Proske, and their seven performers unleash worlds with this style of play. Whereas other independent groups in recent years have resisted psychologizing narrative on stage through experimental deconstruction, Nico and the Navigators have been concerned with unobtrusiveness, designing more than playing, and creating pieces in which people are kneadable primordial matter. On stage, one transforms into a barber, parting his client's hair right, parting it left again, until the decision-making problem dissolves in the dishevelment of the hairstyle. The title "Cain, If & But" suggests that it is about a modern catechism of individual self-assertion in awareness of Old Testament forces. "Do I actually determine what happens, or does my destiny determine?" is the title at the beginning of the evening, which is announced as the last in this ensemble constellation. Nicola Hümpel, head of the group, wants to work internationally in the future, after having won hearts at numerous festivals at home and abroad. So the decision-making process could be tried out right away. Which strategy does one choose? One creeps concentratedly with a pendulum over the stage, another trains box punches, tarot cards are laid. The multi-functional wooden elements on the gray-blue painted stage rise to platforms on which incendiary speeches are held - appeals that are unobtrusively addressed more to the speaker himself than to the audience. A paper that is studied closely turns out to be a horoscope. But things have their cracks, any hope is chilled with gentle irony. "Fucking astrology," the woman later curses, ushering in the second part of the evening: There were once decisions that were made and bring back memories of them being made. The stories that took place in between float silently like balloons above the figures, who move like lemurs in time loops. An oppressively beautiful evening, as true to form as it is gentle, that wrings a few happy moments from human states of exhaustion. Nico and the Navigators are now touring Europe with "Kain, Wenn & Aber" after their farewell piece was first shown at Berlin's Sophiensaele.

Katrin Kruse / TAZ

…The Basque-robed one, for instance, hands out leaflets; agitatorily but silently she forms her messages from the semicircle of the stage down, while her colleague below shoves a sock into his mouth. Two others wrestle their clothes off. Later, the flyers become passports, then tarot cards, holding a promise in a bygone language: “There’s someone in your circle of colleagues who is very fond of you.” Sometimes the sentences fall in passing and when a realization is reached, it remains a bit of a mystery….

Katrin Kruse / TAZ

Metamorphosis as a continuum: In "Kain, Wenn & Aber" by the Berlin-based performer group "Nico and the Navigators", movements, meanings and images begin to flow. In the beginning there is the confession. There is the chair on stage, behind which the performers step individually, their gaze directed into the distance. The gaze speaks of the decision that has been made. The first one resolutely pulls her beret over her head; the one with the golden buckles on his shoe, on the other hand, seems to have forgotten his mission, hesitantly feels the backrest. For this, his colleague stands all the more wide-eyed with the "Yes, I do" look in the organ sound. "The first decision is to myself - alone," she will say later, when the other ensemble members of "Nico and the Navigators" have spread out on the stage and unfold their parallel worlds there. "Cain, if & but," the Berlin-based performing group's new production, is metamorphosis as continuum. Not a telling of a story, but a succession of scenarios, not so much plot lines as moods, sometimes gliding into one another, sometimes sharply severed. Cohesion is provided by the motifs; sentences that reappear and, spoken by another, change their meaning, or movements. The Basque woman, for instance, hands out leaflets; agitational but silent, she forms her messages from the semicircle of the stage down, while her colleague below shoves a sock into his mouth. Two others wrestle their clothes off. Later, the flyers become passports, then tarot cards, holding a promise in a bygone language: "There's someone in your circle of colleagues who is very fond of you." Sometimes the phrases fall in passing, and when a realization is reached, it remains a bit of a mystery. Ah, one might think, meaning in the balance: drawing an arc of tension from the both to the also and then letting the wide field shimmer. Hasn't one had enough of ambivalence, this most popular of all gentle attitudes? As the play says, "Rien ne va plus, and now." Director Nicola Hümpel is not concerned with the indecisiveness that ambivalence is usually understood as. That is a "nuisance of the times." What does interest her is the "dualistic principle": the simultaneity of pain and happiness, for example. The moment is always decisive, says Hümpel. At this moment, the story begins, but in the mind of the viewer. The stage set, this gray-blue divisible semicircle - gray as the color that leaves everything in limbo - is the open, undecided space. Is it a wall, a grove or a parlor? Everyone may see something different in it, and in any case it is always concretizing itself anew, becoming a revolutionary cellar, a marketplace, or a space station. Hümpel pushes the moment further, then comes the cut. As in the visual arts, from which it comes: the line that is not smothered in ornament. Transferring the pictorial process to theater means "making a poked question visible." The successful viewer thus navigates in the piece as in another medium. In doing so, he follows the procedure of the Navigators themselves: To transfer principles of one medium into another. This leads to the question of how to actually describe what comes out of it: "design theater" sounds just as disrespectful as "puppet theater" and leads to wrong paths: as if it were all about the pretty surface. Hümpel herself does not know how to describe her work. But she is all the more precise about what she wants to achieve with it: to lead the viewer back into thoughtfulness."

Katja Oskamp / Berliner Zeitung

…The evening is a result of improvisation. It lives from strictly guided sevenfold fantasy, from lack of words and body diversity. The scenes – sensitively underlaid with diverse music – flare up and ebb away, sorted and arranged by director Nicola Hümpel with a sure hand. As concrete as necessary, as open as possible, the stories are a charming, almost reserved invitation to think and empathize…. What emerges is a melancholic comedy, including the necessary laughter…

Katja Oskamp / Berliner Zeitung

Nico & the Navigators are presenting a new production at the Sophiensaele Steps, a woman, a chair. She places herself behind it and looks at us steadily. The hands are placed on the chair-back. It seems as if the woman presents herself. She turns, disappears in the dark, appears again in half the distance, with her back turned toward us. Her view is a round horizon, strong, invincible. But the colours, which will be reflected on it in the course of the evening, will let appear the people in front of it in an ever changing light.Seven times this scene takes place, always similar, never identical. Then the three women and the four men of "Nico and the Navigators" have entered the stage completely for the test arrangement "Kain, Wenn und Aber". The subject: Decisions. Up to this point we have already seen seven of them. A woman does stick a man to herself. He is resisting, breaks free, can’t balance himself and falls with impetus on another one who was by accident lying around. Now he is sticking to the next. Someone is dressing the hair on another one but gets desperate for he can’t determine where the parting belongs. “Just do have a vision” someone is shouting, kicks her neighbour in the butt and faints. Two are folding little ships out of paper, take them to their lips like duck peckers and kiss each other. “My dilemma is at risk” says someone in the emptiness, without consequence. Each one is running according to a sketch map or to a city map, the nose hung over the paper as if it were a manual for one self. One could walk in a few directions at the same time, but still every straddling, even ones with gruelling effort, ends in the splits. After each performance of this play one would like to rename the ‘way of life’ in ‘cross-roads’.The evening is a result of improvisation. It is based on strictly directed fantasy of seven kinds, on want of words, and on diversity of bodies. The scenes –added with several pieces of music delicately – flare up and die down, sorted and arranged by director Nicola Hümpel with firm grip. As concrete as necessary, as open as possible the stories are a charming, almost reserved invitation for compassion and understanding. Always there is happening more than one is able to see, but never so much that one would miss the connection. After adjusting ones perception to the whole view, the stage design of Oliver Proske, something between an interior view on a silo and a circus arena, unfolds as a graceful world. In cool light costumes the actors are working themselves close to becoming clowns: Far away of every irony they are pursuing their aims with earnestness and courage. Arising is a melancholic humour, including the necessary laughter. Close to the end they are peacefully sitting in the circus ring, calling themselves by first names and asking questions to each other: Have you used all powers and abilities you have? Do you think that there are still many chances waiting for you? Have you used all your chances? The answers are not coming yet. Between audience and stage there are hundred silences to hear. The answers are finally coming. They are short. And there are only two: Yes and No. Nevertheless they are sounding like novels.

Peter-Hans Göpfert / Kulturradio

… “Kain, Wenn & Aber” is a funny play on words, but the biblical Cain does not come along here with a mutant and a third brother…. The age-old question, to what extent man is free to take his fate into his own hands, or whether it does not rather hold him tightly in its fist, this question remains throughout the evening in the many improvised scenes…

Peter-Hans Göpfert / Kulturradio

The premiere date was exquisitely chosen: St. Nicholas Eve for Nico and the Navigators. And indeed, a sock also appears in the play of the theater group, which has long been cult and now announces, however, that this is for the time being the last in a series of ensemble productions before they will set out "for new artistic shores". A premiere with a tear in the eye. Said sock is not filled with sweets here, of course, but one of the actors stuffs it into his mouth. If the ensemble around Nicola Hümpel, which was founded only five years ago at the Bauhaus Dessau, now sets a caesura, this seems consistent at first glance, because recently one thought to notice signs of fatigue, the productions showed empty spaces. And now comes this new production, and it is the most beautiful, the finest in a long time. Of course, one should not be misled by the title. "Kain, WEnn & Aber" is a funny play on words, but the biblical Cain does not come here with a mutant and a third brother. At the beginning is the sentence "The first decision is: to myself," and a little later the concept of "destiny" is kneaded through in a chain pun: "who actually determines here, who determines?" The age-old question of the extent to which man is free to take his destiny into his own hands, or whether it does not rather hold him tightly in its fist, this question is in the room throughout the evening in the many scenes that emerge from improvisations. But as is the case with this group, it does not make so many words, it never becomes instructive, analyzing, let alone philosophical or religious in principle. Just the way the seven players, three women, four men (all with slightly slanted hairstyles, by the way), - as they individually step in front of the audience and make a silent facial play with them, is exceedingly charming. There are indeed scenes in which trace elements of parental or social upbringing can be discerned, attempts to fix the individual to a certain direction in life. There are self-statements ("Have you ever disappointed anyone?" is the question, and the short answer simply "yes"), or crazy astrological banal promises. And a scene in which the individual is supposed to give up everything, the coat, the credit card, the body jewelry. And there is the perplexity in the face of globalized chickens and before the ups and downs of the Dax on the stock exchange. The determination of this scene collage itself, however, obeys completely the law of a weightless surrealism. This time no vacuum cleaner is taken for a walk, no chicken egg experiences flights of fancy on the air cushion of a household appliance. All sens and nonsense has become looser, lighter this time. Played again with enigmatic deceleration. Apart from moments like the one where one man literally maltreats another man's hair with his hands and feet, as no hairdresser would be able to do in Berlin, Ancona or Moscow, where of course guest performances have long since been booked. There is a sentence to remember in the shapely room, whose box walls are shifting: "The ability to comprehend intellectual connections is now increasing drastically". We already notice, we are to be navigated again and again on the glue. But this as sensitively as crazy, as madly as lovingly. And the actors thereby figure as in a constantly changing absurd tableau. That is the most beautiful destiny of theater, to be allowed to ask for the meaning, but to be cheated of the answer as amusingly, as cryptically, as playfully, as delightfully silly as here.

Tom Mustroph / Neues Deutschland

…As members of the generation in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties – and representative of them – the ensemble faces the question of the meaning of life, of their lives…. But the seriousness of the self-questioning is engaging. It is wonderfully balanced with the ironic, frivolous approach that is always attributed to this generation and which has also become the hallmark of the aesthetic of Nicola Hümpel and her navigators…

Tom Mustroph / Neues Deutschland

Nico & the Navigators" are considered Berlin's best off-theatre troupe, and with their new play "Cain, If & But" in the Sophiensälen, the artists may not quite live up to this predicate, but they happily confirm their class in terms of lightness and bizarreness. Living up to their name in the literal sense of the word, the Navigators have launched themselves into the infinite expanses of space. Aboard a space station, they design a life experiment that seems like a cross between "Space Patrol Orion" and soul-searching. Very slowly, almost sacredly, the crew takes their places at first. The seven performers seem to be still in cold sleep. Warmth slowly seeps into the bizarrely frozen bodies. They now create mini-scenes in which they imitate the distant earthly life. The causality of life is stated, responsibility and accountability are thought about, even a will to act is demanded. Then again, the action shifts to the level of self-questioning. As members of the generation in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties - and representative of them - the ensemble faces the question of the meaning of life, of their lives. Nothing concise - in the form of instructions for action, for example - comes out of it. Should not, must not come out. After all, theater is not an advice show. But the seriousness of the self-questioning is engaging. It is wonderfully balanced with the ironic, frivolous approach that is always attributed to this generation and that has also become the hallmark of the aesthetics of Nicola Hümpel and her navigators.

Christine Wahl / tip

…Decision-making weakness rarely looks so perfectly formed: Nico and the Navigators, who in their new production “Kain, Wenn & Aber“ deal with the dilemma of decision-making in various situations in life – and in the usual loose sequence of scenes – sit out their decisions in the tastefully designed gray stage semicircle (Oliver Proske)…

Christine Wahl / tip

Nico and the Navigators at the Sophiensaele Decision-making weakness rarely looks so perfectly formed: Nico and the Navigators, who in their new production "Cain, If & But" deal with the dilemma of making decisions in various situations in life - and in the usual loose sequence of scenes - sit out their decisions in the tastefully designed gray stage semicircle (Oliver Proske). The duty to make decisions and the tendency to fatalism are discussed in costumes of exactly matching colors. A daily horoscope reading is followed by a dance interlude prevented at the highest level. And even when a man rails against all attempts to explain the world, from psychology to astrology, or a woman passionately lashes out at a colleague blessed with such a mature lack of decision-making that even a yes to self-defense overwhelms him, all the sequences are arranged with a sense of form. After all, Nicola Hümpel's troupe, founded in 1998 at the Bauhaus Dessau, is known for its wonderfully light-handed stylized theater. And with this, they are - rightly - successful - after all, this is one of the rare cases in which the formula of one's own theater language really applies, regardless of all fashions. However, after five years, the improvisational spirit of the perfectly attuned navigators sometimes seems to get the better of them: Between very precise, unerring decisions and indecisions, the one or other passage generously emancipating itself from theme and audience has to be bridged. With a cast gifted with such a fine nerve for the absurd, this is not uncharming to watch, but nevertheless results in slight signs of fatigue. In this respect, it is a good decision for the Navigators to set out for new inspirational shores: "Kain, Wenn & Aber" is the last production with this cast for the time being. Next, Nico will realize an international project.

Peter Laudenbach / Der Tagesspiegel

…A gentleman in a suit pushes himself along a wall with his head down, another utters curses (“Shit psychology! Shit philosophy!”) while he repeatedly falls off a bench: a human perpetuum mobile of hopeless agitation. The Navigators, the most charming group of Berlin’s independent scene, perform about a hundred such mini-dramas in just under two hours, mostly wordless and as laconic as they are funny…

Peter Laudenbach / Der Tagesspiegel

They can't decide, not for each other and not for what they want to do with the rest of their lives. The lonely city dwellers who populate the stage in "Kain, Wenn & Aber," the new production by Nico & the Navigators in Berlin's Sophiensaele, seem like chance visitors in their own lives, late, somewhat ironic relatives of the hurried and melancholy ones from Handke's "Stunde, da wir nichts voneinander wussten. They seem very lost on the stage, which is bordered by walls in a semicircle: indecisive and uninhibited, who, even if they sometimes roll over each other for moments or circle each other coquettishly, pining for each other or kicking each other's butts energetically ("Have a vision!"), seem slightly autistic. One gentleman in a suit pushes himself along a wall with his head down, another utters curses ("Fuck psychology! Fuck philosophy!") as he tumbles off a bench again and again: a human perpetual motion machine of hopeless excitement. The Navigators, the most charming group of Berlin's independent scene, perform about a hundred such mini-dramas in just under two hours, mostly wordless and as laconic as they are funny. The ego and the world - both seem to be lost to these existential clowns. "That's me, that's all just there, I can't do anything about it and I can't do anything against it." Nicola Hümpel, director of the Navigators, has staged an evening that prances beautifully and somewhat aimlessly through the perplexities.

<< Back to projects overview

Date Notification

Tickets for this date are not available yet. Leave your mail adress to get notified when tickets are available.

Unbenannt-2