This performance took place in the Schaubühne Studio, where the audience typically gathers before the show in a small upstairs lobby before being allowed into the main theatre, where they take their seats. Sei, Wer Du Nicht Bist subverted this format: the performance began in the lobby. When I arrived, a woman in a headscarf and white cloak was already looming over a hooded, bound figure on the floor, who occasionally cried out in pain or fear. The audience huddled around the edges of the room, silently watching.
After a few minutes, another actor (Saman Arastou, the director and founder of Avaye Divanegan) appeared, handing a bundled bandage to a member of the audience, then taking one end and using it to bind his chest. Almost immediately, another actor entered – Iranian, like the others, and young, bearded, with all the accessories of cis-heterosexual masculinity – and grabbed Arastou by the arm, knocking him to the floor, lifting him up, slapping his face.
Just as the aggressor removed his belt, holding it in his fist like a whip, another new actor appeared. She was white, with a short blonde bob. She put out her arms and stood directly between the man with the belt and Arastou, staring at the attacker calmly. “No,” she said. “I don’t like it.” The attacker circled around, and she followed, always staying between them, repeating several times, “I don’t like it.” He dropped the belt. She kicked it out of the way.
The worst of the danger seemed to have passed, for the moment anyway, and a few minutes later we filed into the theatre. This last actor, though, seemed to lag behind. “Are you a performer?” I finally asked her. “No,” she said. “But when I see a beating, I interfere. It was several minutes and we were doing nothing.”
Later, she told me:
“I would never go on stage and interfere with a performance, but when the actor is coming to my space, and they do something which I really dislike, then I act. I react to their acting. I was some years ago in Denmark – there was an Austrian group of about fifteen people. They had a house and we were put together in small groups and they… did things to us. Psychological terror, things like that. And I reacted to that, too. After some time, they let me go. If the actors come into our space, they must take that I react to their acting. I have never gone on stage to interfere with something. You can shout “boo” after the performance. But when they come into my space… [I recently went to a talk about] radicalism, feminism, and respect. The lady doing the talk, she said she can feel now that things are going back to old times. She gets hate mail, things like that. I’m from Denmark – we were the first country to legalize partnership between same-sex couples. We took homosexuality and transsexuality away from being like a psychic illness or something. I always have learned – I was the only child, raised in Germany but I’ve lived in Denmark for over 40 years now – my father told me things he would have given to a boy, and my mother told me things I could do as a girl. I was never, “I would like to be a boy” – I just did what I want. “You cannot smoke on the street!” Why? “You are a girl!” But you’re a man. You can smoke. Then I can smoke too. This is the thing: as long as my freedom doesn’t interfere with another person’s freedom, nobody can interfere. […] My friend told me tonight, “This hurts me inside. I would like to interfere.” I said, “Go in and do it.” If the actors feel I’m disturbing them, they can give me an eye and say, “Go away.” But they didn’t do it. Or they didn’t dare."
Annelyse for DRAFF