Black Battles with Dogs

Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Berlin, Germany, 2004
Author: Bernard-Marie Koltès
Directed by Dimiter Gotscheff

about the production

“Black Battles with Dogs definitely does not speak about Africa and black people – I am not an African author – and it does not speak about neo-colonialism and racial question. For sure, it does not express any opinion.
It speaks simply about a place in the world. Sometimes we encounter places that are like a metaphor – the metaphor of life or its part, something very serious and apparent like, for example, the rivers flowing in the jungle in Conrad... I have spent a month in Africa staying with my friends on a state construction site. Imagine a small camp in a bush, consisting of 5 – 6 bungalows, surrounded with a barbed wire, and watchtowers. About ten white men living inside in a more or less permanent horror of what is going on outside, and with armed black guards everywhere. It was a short time after the war in Biafra and there were looting gangs around. The guards shouted at each other at night, they made very strange throaty sounds in fear of falling asleep... It went like this all the time. The shouts of the guards made me write this play. Inside, in the circle, sub- urban dramas took place like in the 16th district in Paris: site manager slept with the wife of the foreman, and so forth... My play may speak a little about France and white people: it is viewed from the distance we can sometimes solve it better. My play is mostly about three people isolated in such place in the world, which is strange to them and surrounded by most mysterious guards. I have thought – and I still do – that the shouts of the guards in the middle of Africa, delimiting the territory of unease and loneliness, this is a theme compelling enough to write about.“
Bernard-Marie Koltès (1948 – 1989)

... Big colourful confetti are sprinkled on the empty stage from the beginning to the end of the performance. This simple stage-design idea (Katrin Brack) creates an almost plastic change in different directions and light intensity, and it makes a lively scenery contrasting with the rather dark play of Koltès. Falling confetti can be anything, firework, rain, flowers, tiresome insects, or something more abstract. Gotscheff incorporates the imagination of the spectator and by no visual limits and vagueness he lets the language of Koltès play a major role. Koltès‘  dialogues resemble monologues. The characters are lonely and strive for self-assertion in mutual relationships, but everybody lives his/her own story of hopeless- ness looking for “something“. The play speaks about the conflict of civilisations, about the conflict of the North and the South (or the western and the “developing“  world), about loneliness in an alien place, about search for identity.
Martina Vannayová, from festival documents

The one who wants to stage this play should bear in mind the author‘s comment. The author was aware that he painted with black and white letters: the black ones are good and the white ones are bad (they are the dogs from the play‘s title). However, Koltès claims: „Starting from this decision I could begin to love the whites.“ (Patrice Chéreau said after the death of Koltès: „He could not bear that his plays were designated as stifling, hopeless or the plays about outcasts.“) The play is topical in this bitter conflict, especially today when all speak about globalisation (the period of colonialism was not a kind of globalisation?).
Knut Lennartz, Die Deutsche Bühne

Gotscheff has shortened and enlarged the play at the same time. Yet, his updating’s, smuggled in the text, do not make a thrilling drama from the stream of monologues. The fact that in spite of this the performance fascinates, and the viewer laughs out loud at slapstick numbers, is first of all due to the triumphant actors who make from the Koltès metaphoric drama about loneliness and fear a Lehrstück about hopeless attempt to understand the strange and to accept one’s own culture.
Frank Dietschreit, Westfälische Rundschau

In the places where there is no way out of racism, institutionalised exploitation and unsatisfied desires, the director Gotscheff responds fully in the style of the aesthetics of Volksbühne, that gave up long ago any ideologically biased model of the world: he responds by mixing sharp cynicism and comedy. On an empty stage with a never-ending “rain“  of bright confetti, each of the four protagonists develops his character as a kind of personal psychogram of madness.
Thomas Heinold, Nürnberger Zeitung


directed by Dimiter Gotscheff
stage and costume design: Katrin Brack
music: Bert Wrede
dramaturgy: Andrea Koschwitz
light: Henning Streck
characters and cast:
Horn: Wolfram Koch, Alboury: Samuel Finzi, L´eone: Almut Zilcher, Cal: Milan Peschel


Dimiter Gotscheff (1943)
The career of the Bulgarian-born director Dimiter Gotscheff started with the successful staging of the play Philoctetes by Müller in the theatre in Sofia in 1983. He has staged Brecht, Büchner, Lessing and contemporary Bulgarian playwrights in the theatres in Ruse, Sofia and Vratsa, as well as translated plays from German (Büchner, Müller). Since 1995, he has been working in many prominent German theatres (Schauspielhaus Bochum, Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf, Thalia Theater Hamburg, and Deutsches Theater Berlin), and in the Theater Basel in Switzerland. He has often staged Heiner Müller (Weiberkomödie, The Quartet, Der Auftrag, Philoctetes, Sophocles/Oedipus, Shakespeare/Macbeth), directed the plays of Euripides (The Women of Troy), Strindberg (Miss Julie), Chekhov (The Seagull, Cherry Orchard), Ostrovsky (The Forest, The Storm), George Büchner (Leonce and Lena, Woyzeck), Sorokin, Kleist, Lorca, Beckett, Hans Henny Jahn, Dea Loher, Arthur Miller, Lessing, Koltès, and other authors. In 1991, he was awarded the Director of the Year Award by the Critics of the Berlin Academy of Arts, presented by the journal Theaterheute.



Materials available

Script of the production: SK, DE

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