We understand that when you put words like "German absurdism" and "constantly disintegrating reality" together in a show description, it's enough to make some people head for the hills, while others will clutch the nearest soft toy. But be not afeard, this collection of frequently asked questions will help unperplexify this existential comedy.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
At its core, Perplex asks a big philosophical question: if God is dead, how do we find meaning and purpose in living?
But as playwright Marius von Mayenburg points out in this Q&A, it is a question that can easily be thought of in theatrical terms: "Who is the writer who writes our lines? Who makes us king or servant? Who's the audience?"
So, in Perplex, we watch four actors dealing with sudden character shifts and scenes that change direction in a moment. It might all get a little confusing, but that's the point, and the source of the humour. Without God as a director, life can seem a mess.
Theatre of the Absurd is a term coined by critic Martin Esslin in 1960 to describe a new crop of plays by writers like Samuel Beckett and Jean Genet that were challenging the predominant style of naturalism (e.g. the plays of Henrik Ibsen and Anton Chekhov).
Broadly speaking, Absurdist plays dramatise characters' reactions to a world without meaning. Theatre of the Absurd can trace its roots to Shakespeare, vaudeville and the likes of Charlie Chaplin. And its legacy is apparent in the work of playwrights like Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard, as well as in the comedies of Woody Allen and Monty Python. Last year's STC production of Beckett's Waiting for Godot is one well-known example of Absurdism.
From left to right: Andrea Demetriades plays Andrea, Glenn Hazeldine plays Glenn, Rebecca Massey plays Rebecca, Tim Walter plays Tim. Coincidence?
In the script, playwright Marius von Mayenburg suggests actors use their own names in the show. The result is another layer of blurred identity. And it got hilariously confusing in the rehearsal room!
WHO SAID "GOD IS DEAD"?
It was Friedrich Nietzsche. In his 1882 book The Gay Science he wrote, "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him." He actually makes a cameo in the show.
WHO'S MARIUS VON MAYENBURG?
Marius von Mayenburg is one of Germany's leading playwrights. His early breakthrough play was Fireface, which was presented by STC in 2001. Beyond his writing, he is also a significant theatremaker, working predominantly at the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz in Berlin as a dramaturg and director.
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THE ELK?
You'll have to wait and see. We don't want to spoil the fun.
To find out more, purchase a program at the theatre for $10.
With an extended Q&A with Marius von Mayenburg, a note from director Sarah Giles, an essay on the play by award-winning theatre critic Alison Croggon, details on Plato's Allegory of the Cave, rehearsal room photographs and lots more, the Perplex program is a magnificent way to extend and deepen your night at the theatre.
Rehearsal room photos by Grant Sparkes-Carroll. Photo of Marius von Mayenburg © Iko Freese / drama-berlin.de