Dr Pamela Tancsik directs a compilation of five knock-about absurdist comedy sketches from cult Bavarian writer, Karl Valentin, which comes to the Courtyard Theatre at Durban University of Technology from Saturday, 23 February to Friday, 1 March.
Valentin wrote scripts, films, skits and cabaret in 1920s Bavaria. He is hardly known outside the borders of Bavaria. He was defined by his lanky extremely thin appearance. His comic genius inspired and informed generations of writers/performers/physical theatre practitioners and comedians – including Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy and even to an extent the Mr Bean character.
Early on in his career, Valentin worked as a carpenter which enabled him to build all his stage props and to create a 21 piece ‘one man band’ with which he toured.
He was fascinated by the new film technology and was one of the first German film producers. He studied at a Munich variety school and began his stage career in 1902. In 1912 he met Liesl Karlstadt, who was to become his long-time stage partner. She often played the male characters in his sketches. While Valentin took on the part of the absurd, unreasonable and often cruel clown, Karlstadt was the more realistic and more reasonable counterpoint.
During the Nazi regime, Valentin was silenced as some of his plays offended the Nazi ideology of a “Healthy German Nation”. Left without any income since 1942 and no employment after World War Two he sold self-made kitchen utensils to neighbours and virtually starved to death, dying of pneumonia in 1948.
This will be the first production of some of Valentin’s plays on the African continent. Munich-born Dr Pamela Tancsik, senior lecturer at DUT, has translated four scenes of the Bavarian original into English and Gisele Turner has created a magnificent stage adaptation based on Tancsik’s translations. Karl Valentin in Africa will present a charming and poignant insight into a timeless genre of absurdist theatre.
Performances are at 19:00. Bookings can be done by phoning 031 373 2194. Tickets cost R35 and are available at the door.