Every child knows the fairy tale of the little cricket who spent her entire summer dancing and making music instead of collecting food. When the winter came, the cricket had nowhere to stay and nothing to eat and went to the ant to ask for a share of the ant’s food. In the fairy tale the ant refuses the cricket but another kind animal offers her shelter and food in exchange for music. In real life, the cricket becomes the sex slave to the cruel ant and is mutilated by many men over a long time.
This surreal scenario is a parable embedded in the terrific new play by Roland Schimmelpfennig. Five actors embody 17 roles that couldn’t be more different. All these persons live or work in the same house that is the home of the “Thai-China-Vietnam”-restaurant “Der Goldene Drache” (“The Golden Dragon”) around which the story revolves.
The completely modern and abstract stage design consists of a larger-than-life aluminum take-away box that serves as the overheated kitchen, in which the five cooks of the restaurants prepare the meals. Those meals are also dropping from the ceiling permanently, hit the floor with a thud and are greeted by the cooks with a negligible comment:
“No. 23, Thai soup with chicken, Thai basil, ginger, coconut milk and peppers”.
The sterile silver scenery however, plays only a supporting role next to the incredible performance of the actors. With a swift movement, they shed a shirt or an apron like a snake its skin and turn from illegal immigrants from china into drunk, cuckolded husbands, from rheumatic pensioners to delicately dancing crickets. Female actors become “Barbie fuckers” and male actors move with the grace of prima ballerinas. Each transformation is unexpected and persuasive.
Especially the performance of skinny 32-year-old Sören Wunderlich is so painfully heartbreaking on the one hand and thoroughly repulsive a minute later that you want to run on stage and do something. Make the pain stop, or inflict some pain where appropriate. The fate and fortune of a Chinese boy without health insurance but with infected teeth, people in power- and love¬less relationships, lonely men, despaired women, lonely women, despaired men, they all merge at “Der goldene Drache” into a colorful prism of a society of conflicting opposites.
I can’t remember the last time that a play made me laugh, cringe and gasp within seconds. Just as it covers all variations of human misery and fate, it also manages to pack the gamut of emotions into this piece brimming over with black humor. Touching but not soppy. Nasty but not exaggeratedly so. You might feel the urge to sneak a peek of your local Asian restaurant’s kitchen, because who knows what the cooks are doing there with the big red pipe wrench?
This is not a “maybe-you-should watch-this”, but a “watch!this!now!”.