Red Peter and Josephine

Twitchin, Mischa. 2019. 'Red Peter and Josephine'. In: Shared Memory(ies): Second EASTAP Conference. School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon, Portugal 23 -25 September 2019. [Conference or Workshop Item]

No full text available

Abstract or Description

During Oliver Frljic’s second production at Berlin’s Gorki Theatre, the question “are you afraid of Jews?” is repeatedly posed by a character who first appears as Kafka’s Mouse Singer, Josephine, and later as the daughter of Hamburg animal trader, Carl Hagenbeck. In the latter role, she marries her father’s most famous animal import, Red Peter, the ape whose “Report to an Academy” is at the heart of Frljic’s production (and which also gives it its title). What do Kafka’s parables make possible to “remember” on the “European contemporary stage”? What kinds of question can theatre offer its audience, where the “working through” of the historical past (as famously questioned by Adorno) remains symptomatically present between stage and auditorium? Exploring the metaphorical resonances of Kafka’s celebrated “Report”, the question of anxiety and Jews is one “of” anti-Semitism in both senses; the anxiety (or, rather, violence) that the anti-Semite feels and the anxiety that is felt about anti-Semitism itself – not only by Jews but by Gentiles for whom its tropes are embedded in language and flourish when not explicitly addressed. However, no one in a post-show discussion that I attended asked the question, “are you afraid of Muslims?” (Or even, indeed, “are you afraid of anti-Semitism?”) It is as if the contemporary may be forgotten when remembering the past. While this was manifestly not the intention of the production (but seemed nonetheless to be its effect), how might the memory of Kafka expose “political theatre” to the politics of theatre; not least, in the context of Oliver Frljic’s own work, which explores cultural and political violence so acutely?

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Oliver Frljic, Franz Kafka, political theatre

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)


25 September 2019Completed

Event Location:

School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon, Portugal

Date range:

23 -25 September 2019

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

27 Sep 2019 13:07

Last Modified:

27 Sep 2019 13:07


Edit Record Edit Record (login required)