Music Theatre for the 100th Anniversary of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land
“Nicola Hümpel and her Navigators have freely adapted T.S. Eliot’s lyrical jubilee text for an evening of theatre that grabs you right by the jugular … Pleasantly, the production refrains from any hammer-and-peen updates; its strength lies in its reliance on the poetic word. At the centre of the evening is Ted Schmitz, a US singer and actor of the highest order … he speaks Eliot’s poem in British English with such tonal beauty and archaic urgency that everything around him sinks in during his recitation on the dark empty stage.”
+++ NICO AND THE NAVIGATORS show “Wasted Land” using T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” in English. At the beginning there is an approx. 15-minute introduction by the poet Norbert Hummelt in German. Duration in total approx. 95 min. +++
When the American author Thomas Stearne Eliot (1888-1965) published his long poem “The Waste Land” in 1922, he struck a chord with the times: Four years after the end of the First World War and under the impression of the immediately following pandemic, the “Spanish flu”, which went down in history, the poet, who was himself plagued by severe psychological problems, described in a total of 433 lines and five paragraphs the lonely and meaningless existence of modern man in a dreary, parched and broken environment.
For the 100th anniversary of “The Waste Land”, Nico and the Navigators want to create a scenic-musical revision of the poem that asks about the lasting validity and increased relevance of the text.
Externally, of course, it’s about irony as a mask of despair, which Eliot expert Mary Karr compares to David Letterman’s sarcasm, to Cindy Sherman’s erotic conundrums or to non-linear leaps in Quentin Tarantino’s films – a technique of associativity that has been familiar to the Navigators since their beginnings and which now predestines them for the continuation and rewriting of “The Waste Land”.
In terms of content, however, it is about escalations that the author could not have foreseen and that still affect us today in changing variations – about wars and drought catastrophes, about the artist’s progress “as a process of perpetual self-sacrifice with the aim of the complete annihilation of the personality” (Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent”) and, most recently, about a pandemic that forces every individual behind a mask.
The title “Wasted Land” is meant to allude to Homo sapiens’ wasteful treatment of the earth and the consequences that follow.
At the same time, the production will deal with the biographies of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, who became “persona non grata” for a time because of anti-Semitic statements on the one hand and active enthusiasm for the Italian fascists on the other, and who are still critically discussed today. Thus, the play can and should also ask about the role of intellectuals in political debates, about elitist positions as a starting point for right-wing thinking.
A production by Nico and the Navigators, funded by the Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe and by funding from the "dive in. Programme for Digital Interactions" from the Federal Cultural Foundation. In cooperation with Radialsystem.
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