August / September 2004

German director Martin Wuttke (theatre “Volksbühne” in Berlin) put the story of Solaris to the hangar of an airfield in a village east of Berlin. I was there. Here come some impressions.

The booklet

The adaption is based upon Wuttke's idea and goes beyond the concept of Lem's Solaris. It discusses the theory of cognition, limitations of quantum physics, philosophy of thinking and more. Language was German.

The piece started with Kris' arrival at the Solaris station and his attempts to find Gibarian. He is also confronted with Harey. Later, there are two actresses playing Harey and both appear on stage at the same time. Further, the Solaris Ocean is played by an actor who is always around: a clever way to show the omnipresence of it. The Ocean also takes part in the numerous conversations on cognition, philosophy and physics.

Another issue raised was the questions if it would be possible to prove that the crew members don't dream all this. It lead to the works of Kant about cognition of the "thing itself" (Are we able to recognize the "thing itself" as a whole or are we only recognizing the part of it that we are able to understand and see and consider that part to be the whole thing?)

hangar, view from stage

The hangar

The "stage" is a hangar of app. 100 x 100 squaremeters and 15 meters high. The huge gate was wide open and the actors also used part of the airfield, up to 100 meters away. The audience was seated on a tribune inside the hangar facing the gate. In the right portion of the gate there was a videowall with three screens, one on top of the other. The cabins and the library were semitransparent greenhouses, distributed across the scenery.

Greenhouses are the cabins

A number of cameras in each greenhouse and out on the airfield were managed by a technical life crew and their pictures shown on the videowall. The blue and red suns were spotlights coming from the outside of the hangar thru it's glass walls.

Kris, both Hareys, Snaut, Satorius, and Solaris move from one cabin to the next. Here’s Snaut’s room:

Snaut's cabin - creative chaos?

Multiple perspectives allow the audience to follow what’s going on even in the remote cabins out on the airfield. Overlayed film fragments contribute to the athmosphere of Solaris.

multi-angle camera views

The core discussion goes as follows: In the physics of black holes there is the assumption that all known forulas of whatever theory only work outside the black hole. In it, forces, gravity and everything becomes infinite. With infinity you can't do any calculations anymore. The whole theory breaks down. Between the outside (were physiscs is just fine) and the inside the must be a sharp border, the so called Schwarzschild border (named after the physician Schwarzschild). The analogy here is that the humans brought all their culture, knowledge, philosophy and science to the Solaris station orbiting Solaris. But they can't recognize what the ocean actually is. They are at a Schwarzschild border and the ocean is sort of a black hole.

For example the guests consist of neutrinos. Neutrinos are extremely light and superfast particles. The question is how the ocean could slow down these superfast particles to form atoms out of them. And that without any machinery or even a thought. It's just an ocean.

After all, two hours of brainfood of the best kind.

They handed out a program brochure with a comic-like digest of the play which I will keep side by side to my Solaris book and DVDs.