When Silke and I moved to Lübeck in 2006, friends gifted us a detective story set in Lübeck. It accompanied us while we discovered the historic city centre. Later, when we approached Derek Meister during a reading in Lübeck, he granted us the rights to a theatre play. In Septembre 2017 “RUNGHOLTS HONOUR” received its premiere with Derek Meister present. It was a great pleasure and an opportunity to thank him for his trust in us to let us create a dramatization of his book without his input!
Rungholdt’s hounour — medieval detective story
Rungholt, a gruff merchant and the most unusual investigator the medieval world ever saw: Rungholt grew on me, as his author, not only during his five adventures but even before that, in the first phase of the creation of “Rungholt’s honor” the first novel in the series. I wanted to write an unusual detective story that transported you to another time, and I found that after very little research in the Hanse era in wonderful Lübeck. Immediately I could envision my patrician and imagine Lübeck’s narrow streets and alleys in detail. Only once I had nearly completed the novel, did I find out about the passageway below the Rungholt parish. That catastrophe fits his vita perfectly. As is wont to happen in the writing process, things matched up magically. Bernhard, as I called him in the first draft, became Rungholt — the only councilman in Lübeck terrified of water. To see this character in flesh and blood in the theatre is merely fantastic. What most encouraged me was seeing how Rungholt is brought to life on stage and how all these exciting, romantic, and magical moments gathered together in the light of the spotlight. The play is a must for all fans of Rungholt and all those who would like to make his acquaintance.
A detective story in the puppet theatre?
Is it possible to create the suspense of a murder mystery for adults — with humour, tragedy, drama, images, and puppets? Can you find the same characteristics of a novel or film in the medium of puppet theatre? “Rungholt’s honor” as the first volume to a currently 5 volume detective series is a fascinating novel. The plot, the motives of everyone included, and the impressive ambiance of the setting: The historical city centre of Lübeck at the end of the 14th century, the ultimate composition in the hands of Derek Meister. The late medieval authentic ambiance is wonderfully well researched. The rain, the mud, the tooth pain, the bustle of the port, the various garments, the differences in class and standing, and the living conditions in the diverse and engagingly described neighbourhoods are pieces Derek Meister skillfully combines to entrance the reader. As a screenwriter, he is well-versed in such things: the film (which one could immediately put into production) plays in the reader’s mind. It rains and storms or pours; the wind howls outside the patrician’s houses and sweeps the narrow alleys. The night is pitch black — the cold creeps into your bones. The characters described feeling as though they are just one touch away. The novel is set over two days — everyone (of course also the reader) is under immense pressure. This novel is impossible to put down!
What is puppet theatre capable of, then?
We enjoyed discovering how Derek Meister constructed narratives using fractures. Dramaturgically, it creates a braid made up of several narrative strands. At first, this can create distrust with the reader, be strange and cryptic. After, the questions follow. Those to the characters that are wonderfully characterised. How do they cope with space and time, pursue their goals, lead one another on? And then, all at once, we realised: In theatre the Holstentor is not as reliable, the booths, St. Mary’s church and the alleys not as transparently constructed. By letting the murderer play with this. He’s able to create labyrinths, places to lie in ambush, hiding places, while the others are still ignorant of his machinations and think they know their city.
When the city ceases to be a constant, it always stays in motion and becomes an expression of inner processes. The sculpture of the theatre puppet is not tethered to the ground anymore and ceases to follow the laws of gravity.
Using the rod puppet, freely moved in the space, every movement and motion also becomes an intuitive process, accompanied by the untethered character of this kind of puppet.
What drives them? What are their inner driving forces and processes? This is where we found our approach to the play. Moving images, nightmares, the places of the historic city centre, hopes, plans, and writings are projected with still frames and stop motion films on mobile folding screens. They comment on the fast-paced and emotionally charged happenings on stage and the interplays between the characters. They are an incentive to the audience’s fantasy, encourage them to reflect and empathise.
There is no lack of mockery, blood lust, conniving politics, love of life, ingenious intelligence, despair, humour, and love!
Suggestive music, strange noises, and heartfelt songs accompany the audiences through this imagery until the happy end.
Figures in the dark
At the beginning of the play, when the lights go out, three figures can be seen in the setting of dark medieval Lübeck, quite literally lighting the dark. They don’t particularly stand out to the audience, keeping to the background. However they accompany the characters from “Rungholt’s honour” as well as the audience through the uncertainties of the novel and the nightmarish spaces of the shifting city.
Our medieval stage Lübeck does not have one point to fixate on. The projection opens and establishes the scenery in and around the city. Every scene is newly formed in images in short film sequences. Afterwards everything dissolves, a new place is created, the stage changes perpetually by means of mobile folding screens. The projection abstracts instead of historicising. Here, modern intensity is preferable to a historical setting. The atmosphere created by the bustle of the alleys through which the characters are straying, does not provide an anchor point, but rather transmits the impression that one could easily get lost, as well.
On a stage such as this the three players are openly visible, you can see them move the folding screens and animate the puppets. It was a deliberate choice to frame the players not as diffuse figures mirroring the characters thoughts, but rather as their own characters. This creates an intermediary instance a plane between the puppets and their players. In “Rungholt’s honour” the players are jugglers. They have their own characters and can move independently through medieval Lübeck. Here and there they even establish the scenery through their commentary.
These jugglers are more closely connected to the characters in the play. They can support and give council, be the good spirits in the in the back and sometimes even step in for the characters to develop a thought or fulfill a task. Sometimes they conjure a ship from nothing or help disguise a character. They put their noses where they don’t belong, support Rungholt in his investigation or comment on the situation. Thus, the jugglers become colleagues to the characters and sometimes allies.
Rungholt’s honour making of:
Curious? Here’s the trailer of the production of Rungholt’s honour
Novel by Derek Meister published by Blanvalet publishing house
DIRECTION: Dietmar Staskowiak
ASSISTENT DIRECTOR: Janina Reinsbach
PLAY: Silke Technau, Franziska Technau, Stephan Schlafke
SONG REHEARSAL: Dieter Müller
EQUIPMENT: Michaela Bartonova, Denise Sheila Puri, Kilian Kreuzinger, Silke Technau, Stephan Schlafke,
Copyright Derek Meister c/o Thomas Schlück GmbH/Hannover
Rungholt’s Honor Making of:
Become curious? Click here for the trailer for the staging of Rungholt’s Honour
Novel by Derek Meister published by Blanvalet Ver
lag REGIE: Dietmar Sta
skowiak REGIEASSISTENZ: Janin
a Reinsbach GAME: Silke Technau, Franziska Technau
, Stephan Schlafke GESANGSEINST
UDIERUNG: Dieter Müller AUSSTATTUNG: Michaela Bartonova, Denise Sheila Puri, Kilian Kreuzi
nger, Silke Technau, Stephan Schlafke, Rechte