‘As a playwright, it feels wrong to make another play with five male characters and only one female’

Hanne Arendzen in EX from Theatergroep Suburbia.Picture Bart Grietens

Marius von Mayenburg (50), playwright, playwright and director at Berlin’s prestigious Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, has been closely observing friends’ marriages during holidays. It inspired him to write EXwhich, in addition to the pressure that families with children experience, viciously illustrates the threat of an affair.

“I have the feeling that all families have the same problems,” he said during a video call from his apartment in Berlin. “They are not caused by us being a man, a woman or a bad person. The problems in marriages arise because of pressure from society, which does not give us a new model to divide family work and professional work. We have to deal with that. more creatively and put pressure on the companies we work for. ‘

In September 2021 went EX premiered at the Riksteatern in Stockholm, directed by Von Mayenburg. A day later, Albert Lubbers, the artistic director and director of the Almere-based company Suburbia, saw the manuscript. Lubbers: ‘I was immediately blown away by the opening scene with the couple, where the man receives a phone call from his ex. It shows so incredibly well how people talk to each other and do not say what they want to say’. After some doubt as to whether it is not too radical and modern for the public, Lubbers decided to acquire the rights at the request of his colleagues. Now is EX exhibited outside Sweden for the first time.

The German playwright Marius von Mayenburg.  Sculpture by Katharina Birus

The German playwright Marius von Mayenburg.Sculpture by Katharina Birus

Although the family drama is performed in an open barn on Almere town estate De Kemphaan, the couple creates EX, played by Ali-Ben Horsting and Hanne Arendzen, a claustrophobic mood. When the architect comes home from work, his wife, a doctor, is glued to his laptop on the couch. The children are asleep, he can even heat up the remaining lasagna. There is no longer any intimacy, so much the more with controlled anger. And then the real fireworks, triggered by an unexpected sleepover by an ex-girlfriend, played by Alejandra Theus, have not yet begun.

When we ask Von Mayenburg if the oppressive atmosphere was the result of the corona pandemic (he wrote the manuscript in the spring of 2020), he answers a resounding no. ‘I deliberately tried not to write about corona and lockdown. One experiences this drama, getting stuck in a situation like the characters in EXmuch longer. ‘

Von Mayenburg, who hails from Munich, claims to be obsessed with conflicts, the driving force behind about twenty plays he wrote in a quarter of a century. After studying at the University of the Arts in Berlin, he broke through with his acting brandyn (1998), in which an incestuous sister and a brother with a penchant for arson make life for their ‘normal’ parents sour. The anti-bourgeois mood, the unpleasant characters and the physical violence in brandyn shook the German theater world. It has received several literature awards and has been on stage from London to Tokyo.

Hanne Arendzen in Ex from Theatergroep Suburbia.  Picture Bart Grietens

Hanne Arendzen in Ex from Theatergroep Suburbia.Picture Bart Grietens

Von Mayenburg went on to elaborate on the violence, as in the performance parasites (2000), in which a battered woman is brought into the house by a couple of freelancers. ‘In the early days, I thought theater was about life and death. I was also interested in how far I could go with physical action and the end point of a conflict. It has changed a bit, I am not so obsessed with violence in a physical way anymore. I also think there is a lot of violence in the language. ”

Today, Von Mayenburg is seen as a playwright who can join the ranks of enfants terribles such as Englishman Mark Ravenhill (56) and Sarah Kane (1971-1999). In recent years he has provoked in his plays, which have been translated into more than thirty languages, chiefly with his honest critique of society. As in satirical Solid plastic (2015), where he exposes the hypocrisy of a left-liberal family operating in the elite art world. His critique of the elite also comes through Ex: When the ex-girlfriend who works in a pet store comes to stay, she is brutally pointed out by the snobbish doctor about her disadvantaged position.

Von Mayenburg also breaks his head over this in his field. “In Germany, theaters are strongly supported and they receive a lot of money from working people, but many of them never come to the theater. I think theaters should start thinking about how to attract a wider and less academic audience, and that creators need to be more open to people with different experiences and backgrounds. We can all learn and benefit from it. As a playwright, it also feels wrong for me to make another play with five male characters and only one female. A few years ago I would never have thought about it, but when I now introduce a new character, I think: could it also be a woman? ‘

Ex by Theatergroep Suburbia can be seen up to and including 24/7 at Stadslandgoed de Kemphaan in Almere.

Theo d’Oro

The woman leads in EX played by the Flemish-Colombian actress Alejandra Theus (41) and the Dutch actress Hanne Arendzen (35). Both have been nominated for Theo d’Or, the most important Dutch theater award: Theus for her portrayal of Amelia in Cruel and Tender (2014), Arendzen for his role in Frederik van Eedens From the cool lakes of death (2019). The two also make inroads on the small and large screen. For example, Theus can be seen regularly in Flemish productions, Arendzen played in Dutch films, i.a. Dinner (2013) and the series The A-word (2020).

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