nytheatre.com review by Mitchell Conway
November 17, 2010
A group of young third-generation Turkish immigrants to Germany share their own stories in Ferienlager (Holiday Camp)-The 3rd Generation from the theatre Ballhaus Naunynstrasse in Berlin. I want to say that I think this sort of work giving a voice to the voiceless is important to make and see.
The non-actor actors are engaged and comfortable speaking their own words. Their pride and ownership over the piece, over their own stories, is what makes Ferienlager interesting. They are all the children of children of Turkish migrant workers in Germany. As a reflection of their assimilation, the piece focuses as much on experiences of youth in general as experiences distinct to Turkish-German youth.
A young man breaks a girl's cell phone, and talks about being thrilled to get his first cell phone, then depressed that nobody calls him. Another talks about wanting to become a basketball star. On the other hand, a young woman talks about dating a German guy, who eventually leaves her after she reveals she is fully Turkish. Another talks about a woman insisting on continuing to wear her head scarf even after having been raped multiple times. They also voice criticisms of past attempts at integration-oriented education programs.
But it isn't strictly docudrama. Director Lukas Langhoff has created the script using interviews with the actors, but also adding in some other elements such as a comic angel duo, hyper-reality dance sequences, and other group scenes.
The hyper-reality sequences are really fun. The full-cast Bollywood-style dance is excellently performed, lip-synced, and choreographed. In a truly hilarious sequence, after a girl turns down the come-on of a guy and slaps him, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly theme comes in, and the guy, acting as though beaten to a pulp, makes the epic journey tossing himself from bedpost to bedpost after her, only to get rejected again and carried in slow motion like a corpse by the cast. The purpose of these enjoyable sequences was very clear, unlike some of the other elements.
The actors conclude with dreams for their individual futures. But in the opening the angel duo walks by, stating the dismal outcome of each individual's life. This is clearly not information acquired from interviews, because it's in the future. I found this odd, since these are actual young people's stories and dreams, but even before they can state them, there is a dismissal. This seems intended to indicate the societal barriers in place for this minority group; or more tragically, the expectations.
I did not understand this angel and demon (or pair of angels?). Their playful personalities added a different energy and moved the action forward, but if there was something conceptually connecting the black-and-white-winged angels, the room of beds, and Turkish-German identity, it certainly was not clear to me. The title, which translates to "Holiday Camp," I assume refers to the otherwise unclear setting: eight beds and a chandelier. To justify the action, maybe they are dreaming, reliving their own experiences?
The stories they tell are interesting, but monologues simply begin, delivered to a listener most of the time without any clear reason. No relationships are built, no unifying action. Allowing the actors to have their own voices and restraining the temptation to toss on a unifying message is admirable in its acknowledgement of individuality, but feels lacking without some sort of container. Maybe because their group identity remains inexplicable, or truly not unified, that accounts for the almost deconstructionist product. There are no conclusions.
This work addresses the minority experience of Muslims in a predominantly Christian country, which is especially significant when our popular cultural continues to unfairly demonize followers of the religion here.
Although honest in not claiming to have a solution to minority ostracization and immigrant assimilation, the lack of clarity resonated through the structure of the play, such that I walked away affirming its objective at its barest, but not fully satisfied with its product.