Achim Brock is a storyteller and actor. From autumn 2014 to 2017, he enchanted our guests with guided tours by torchlight.
In the dark, wintry part of the year, we, at the Puppet Theatre and Museum, Lübeck offered something special: by torchlight, Mr. Brock guided us through the dark exhibition and told fairy tales from the countries where our figures came from. In November we met Achim Brock again:
Kolk 17: It’s been three years since you last enchanted our guests as you led them through the museum by torchlight in the role of Aladin. How are you, what are you working on and what projects have you been able to undertake during the current Corona pandemic?
Achim Brock: I’m fine! But this period is very strange, especially for freelance artists like myself. Normally I would learn texts or work on new pieces with my wife, Heide during such ‘down time’ as this. This time of year is usually when the offers come in, the dates that were planned for November, December, January – normally our peak season – have all now evaporated!
There are a few small exceptions who still brave the situation and plan. Instead of a hundred spectators at a performance, one performs to perhaps twenty or thirty spectators. But for me that’s alright. The main thing is to be able to perform. Because, I have to say, performance is sadly missed!
Where do you put the energy if you can’t perform?
Kolk 17: It was almost six years ago, but hopefully you can remember: What was your first visit with us in the autumn of 2014 like for you?
Achim Brock: I remember it very well! I loved this old Puppet Theatre and Museum from the get go. I enjoyed the atmosphere very much! Lübeck is like a jewel! But in the Puppet Theatre Museum at the front in the little café, with the box office, with these wonderful puppets and this magic lantern hanging upstairs, it all fascinated me! I felt really safe and welcome there. Something I don’t say at the drop of a hat! I have, fond memories of my time there.
Kolk17: Had you heard of the Puppet Theatre and Museum Lübeck before?
Achim Brock: I only knew it by name. I lived in Düsseldorf although I come from Hamburg. When travelling north I didn’t go as far as Lübeck, mostly just to Hamburg. But when I got to know Lübeck, I was thrilled! In the past I had only heard of it. I had been told that the museum was well worth a visit. When it turned out that I could perform in the Puppet Theatre and Museum Lübeck, I was very excited!
Kolk17: You told fairy tales from the countries our figures come from without constraint. What criteria did you use to select the fairy tales you performed?
Achim Brock: I chose them according to the countries. For example, I read Turkish fairy tales, Indian fairy tales or sagas, African fairy tales and Chinese fairy tales. I read so many books! And I just let the fairy tales work on me, as I always do when I prepare storytelling theatre. I absorbed the content and often revised them at night. Sometimes I would dream about them and then at some point I would realise which was the right story – a very organic process! At first I thought, “God no, I’d rather not! It’s too violent!” Some African fairy tales are rather grim and quite violent. The animal world can also be quite brutal! I am very fond of animals and when the monkey is eaten by the hyena… But somehow I thought, that’s actually how nature is and the story is great! How the hyena is punished, crawls on its knees and becomes good again, so then I felt that this could be the right fairy tale because it was working within my subconscious and I knew that I could tell it.
Kolk17: You are called the “fairy tale book on two legs”… What value do fairy tales have for you?
Achim Brock: I have to say, fairy tales are of great value to me. Fairy tales have not followed me all my life, but they have followed me!
I became an actor because my mother always took me to the Christmas fairy tale in Hamburg. I think I was three or four years old when we saw Snow White. I thought Snow White was so beautiful with her black hair. I knew that when I grew up I would be the prince!
I think that’s what made me become an actor.
Then there was the wedding to my wife in the registry office in Wolfenbüttel during two performances of Sleeping Beauty. I played the kitchen boy, Hans, who gets slapped in the face. Our witnesses were in the costume of the king and queen. And during the second performance of Sleeping Beauty, suddenly the king said, “Our kitchen boy got married today!” The whole theatre stood up and everyone applauded.
Kolk17: That was a fairytale wedding!
Achim Brock: It’s always fairytales! Fairy tales are always part of my life and that’s makes for a lot of fun!
I was very lucky in summer to be able to perform at Planten un Blomen in Hamburg, because it is an open-air theatre. While storytelling in the theatre for children I realised what a great longing the children had for fairy tales and how much they meant to them. It was great how the children went along with it.
Fairy tales are so important because they stimulate the imagination immediately and wonderfully. That’s how I endeavour to perform too. I try to awake the imagination, to stimulate the audience’s creativity!
When I sometimes watch children’s programmes on television, I often think, “the poor children!” Granted, fairy tales have their violence too, but in the end, good always prevails!
Kolk17: What can we learn from fairy tales in our day and age?
Achim Brock: Quite simply: humanity!
Kolk17: Which of the countries, the theatre characters and the fairy tales came from would you like to travel to one day, or which ones have you already visited?
Achim Brock: I have been to Turkey. I was in Africa and unfortunately only close to India. So I would choose India, because I don’t know the country yet, and because from the pictures I have seen, it seems to me like a dream with it’s palaces and its dreamlike landscape. Of course, I am also aware of the challenges that exist within it’s borders, but I would still like to see India.
Kolk17: Which puppet or character from the world of theatre puppets do you personally like best?
Achim Brock: That’s difficult to say. As a child, I was always fascinated by Punch and Judy. But today I also find the Czech characters Hurvinek and Spejbl quite cute. However in reality I actually find all the puppets fascinating. When I was at your museum and waited in the dark for the guests on the torchlight tour, I could take the opportunity to look at every figure. Every figure has a magic for me!
Kolk17: Is there anything that a real actor like you envies about a theatre character? If so, What would that be?
Achim Brock: I would envy Punch, because he can do anything! One doesn’t hold anything against him! Even if he hits the devil on the head with a club. He can be serious, he can be funny, there is a lot of background in what he says. He is very real and very clever!
Kolk17: You charmingly involved the audience in your role as Aladdin. Is there a torchlight performance that you particularly liked and remembered?
Achim Brock: I liked all the torch tours! The people were very, very open and very approachable! Even though it was rather chilly in the rooms, it was great! We forgot about the cold. It was especially nice when the children were there, because they played along and made the tour even more enjoyable. I would love to tell fairy tales again when the museum reopens.
Thank you very much for the interview!