Der Besuch der alten Dame
A long time ago, Güllen was a wealthy city. Now it is looking into the abyss of financial ruin. Sell-out and seizure are threatening. In this fatal situation, the residents are have nothing to hope for – except for the visit of an old lady, multi-millionaire Claire Zachanassian. Perhaps she can revive the ruined city of Güllen with an endowment? After all, Claire is a daughter of the city and has managed the transform herself from the simple girl “Kläri” into a glamourous billionaire. With a bizarre entourage of butlers, New York gangsters and accompanied by husband no. 7, she makes her entrance in her native town. Claire proposes a lucrative business deal that promises a large sum of money for the city. New riches, but there is a catch: She demands her ex-lover, merchant Alfred Ill, to be killed and his dead body to be delivered to her for a price of one billion.
“Der Besuch der alten Dame” was premiered in 1956 and laid the foundations for Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s sweeping success as a dramatist. It is considered to be the Swiss playwright’s most popular play world-wide. Out of necessity, the citizens of Güllen get caught up in the dynamics of running up debt and falling deeper and deeper into Claire Zachanassian’s clutches. Her morally dubious offer oscillates between a brutal act of revenge and a cry for justice, which is explained over the course of the play as in a mystery novel with a particularly peculiar cast of characters. And yet, the author’s old lady represents “neither justice nor the apocalypse”. “She simply is what she is – the wealthiest woman in the world, and her money has put her in a position to act like the heroine of a Greek tragedy: absolute and cruel” (Friedrich Dürrenmatt). “Der Besuch der alten Dame” is a vicious comedy that reflects Dürrenmatt’s grotesque sense of comedy.
Nuran David Calis was born in Bielefeld in 1976. He studied Theatre Directing at Munich’s Otto-Falckenberg-Schule and works as an author, theatre and film director. Initially, he created short films and video clips for hip hop bands. His production of Schiller’s “Die Räuber (The Robbers)” brought him the Vienna Theatre Prize Nestroy in the category of Best Emerging Director of 2006. His film version of “Woyzeck”, featuring Tom Schilling in the title role, was invited to the 34th Film Festival Max Ophüls Prize in 2013. His theatre work includes productions in Cologne, Essen, Hamburg, Berlin, Stuttgart, Mannheim, Bochum, Dresden and Vienna. “Der Besuch der alten Dame” is Nuran David Calis’ fourth work at Schauspiel Leipzig. His most recent production here was Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “Angst essen Seele auf”.