Underrated University events : International Day

I have been studying at the University of Augsburg for over two years, but I’ve never heard of International Day. As somebody that’s highly interested in other countries’ cultures and especially their food, it’s safe to say that I was excited to be part of this event for the first time.


Foreign students present their country

The biggest part of this event is, of course, the presentation of countries from all over the world, done by students that are either natives or have lived there. Since our table was right next to India, and I was very intrigued by the delicious-looking food that people were handing out right next to us. I decided that the “Asia corner” would be my first stop. My first time walking through, I decided to have a look at everything before starting to talk to people. The people from the Indian table, apart from having great music and food, also offered henna tattoos, which looked absolutely beautiful. Right next to them, I was immediately offered some rice from the nice man behind the Pakistan table. I continued my journey looking at every country from Japan to China over to Korea. I also met quite a lot of people interested in Australia and New Zealand. Beside their curiosity in vegemite, they also wanted some information on studying abroad and on what to look for when applying. Right at the entrance, I saw a flock of people collected around Georgia. When I looked closer, I realized what was keeping them: some very nice-smelling food.

But what’s the one thing that attracts students more than food? Alcohol! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try any of it but people looked thrilled at the shots offered right next to “HS I”. Exams are getting closer and what better way could there be to prepare yourself? These are just some highlights that I saw, but these weren’t even half the countries you were able to get a glimpse of. So all in all, if you missed this time, make sure to visit next time, because the people you meet are delightful. Here’s a big thank you to everyone that put so much effort into showing us their home or favourite travel detination.

What else was there?

Not only were you able to get an insight into other countries’ cultures but you could also meet experienced people who were ready to reply to your questions. Whether you consider studying or working abroad, and no matter which continent you consider going to, these people are there to help you. And, last but not least, there was… us. We were there, too, to spread the word about eMAG. In case you missed out on this one (like I always did), make sure you follow our social media accounts where we post regularly about events on and around campus:
Instagram: @emag_ua
Facebook: @eMAGUniAugsburg

Author & Picture: Melani Cifric

Fridays for OUR future

“We’re on a planet. That has a problem. We’ve got to solve it, get involved. And do it now, now, now. We need to build a better future. And we need to start right now.” – Read that part again, with the melody of “Bella Ciao” in mind and imagine being surrounded by hundreds: then you’ll catch a glimpse of how a Fridays for Future protest looks and feels.


May 24: In more than 2000 cities (about 200 of them in Germany), young people once more took to the streets, to fight for climate justice. But I’m not writing this article to tell you to stop wasting food, go vegan, quit flying or whatsoever – not again! You’re old enough to know that you should change your lifestyle to help our environment. Instead, I’ll try to share the feeling of being surrounded by hundreds of people that fight for the same goal.

The demonstration

One of the demonstrations started on Friday at 11:30 in Kempten. Pupils from a range of about 50 km had come to protest. First, everything was quiet as we gathered. As you looked around, you tried to read the other signs. Those beautiful, sarcastic but also terrifying signs: One said: “This planet is getting hotter than young Leonardo DiCaprio!”, another one read: “Wake up Humans! You’re endangered, too!“. They’d have been funny, but as the topic is so relevant, they were simply sad and scary. You could already hear strident whistling everywhere. A lot of pupils had brought whistles and started to sing: “Wir sind hier! Wir sind laut, weil ihr uns die Zukunft klaut!” (We are here! We are loud! Because you’re stealing our future!) Everyone else joined. And it was getting louder. We wanted to make (fucking) noise. We wanted to be (fucking) heard. So we screamed our heads off.

As we started to walk, the one big chant developed into more smaller chants in smaller groups. We were followed by disapproving glances of people. But we didn’t care. I mean, why should we? They apparently don’t care about our future, so I don’t give a fuck if I jar on their nerves. After an hour of walking, we topped at a little square. And the speaker started to sing the recasted “Bella Ciao” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zemK3S79tpU). Then, he talked about the European Elections. And I would like to do the same thing now.

There’s no excuse for today!


I know as a student it might be hard to participate in those projects because of work or other obligations. But there is no possibly accepted excuse for not voting today. You can change the world. You can make a difference. You can make the difference this world needs so desperately. I plead you: Don’t let your vote be wasted because you are too lazy after a boozy night.

Author: Leyla Bayraktar

Picture: Ela Bayraktar

”Let it go.“

Welcome back. We know you’ve swallowed the entire first part of this interview within a few minutes. Go get a drink and do some intellectual push-ups for warming up. There’s more to come.

Katharina: “You are not only a famous philosopher, but also a famous author. How do you connect philosophy and business?”

Achille: “You see, I wish the business part was mine, but unfortunately it’s not. The business part is for the publishing companies. No, I’m joking. Frankly, I don’t know how a book comes to be read by many people. What matters, as far as I am concerned, is that you choose to do something and you do it the best you can. You find joy in doing it. You don’t regret, once it’s done, that you could have done it this way or another. And when you reach that state with work, with a book, with writing, you let it go.”

“You let it go because you have equipped it with the resources for it to travel by itself. The moment you release it, there’s nothing you can do. It travels its own way, it speaks to people or not, it will sell or not. These are decisions that are beyond your control. What I am interested in, the moment I release my work, I ‘set it free’, is knowing full well I have done the best I could. And your satisfaction comes from the knowledge and the conviction that you have done the best. That is what matters to me. Questions of reputation or money are not really the way I conceive of all of this.”

Niklas: “You get paid in self-respect?”

Achille: “Exactly. Your payment is the level of self-respect you think you have gathered through your work, your dedication and the joy produced in the act of writing. I think, if you do not find joy in what you’re doing, you shouldn’t do it, you should abandon it. So in that sense, I think you have to find joy in what you do, not caring about others. And you have to allow people to take your work in directions you didn’t expect. That’s how it speaks to them. If it doesn’t speak to them, it just means it’s not a successful piece of work. The process, on the other hand, is about joy and freedom, if you ask me. In whatever one does, how does one achieve or experience these two affects?”

Katharina: “Do you think your books are received differently in the West than in Africa?”

Achille: “Yes. And in fact, they are received differently in different places within the West. For instance, the book called Critique of Black Reason was received very positively in Germany and in a lukewarm manner in the Netherlands. They didn’t like it. There are always different reactions. For example, On the Postcolony, a book I published in 2010, was basically ignored in France, even though I wrote in French. And then it had a magnificent reception in the US. And only after that, the French public began to care. But the book has never really made the kind of impact it had in the Anglophone in France or the francophone world. I think, in the case of France and On the Postcolony, people in France didn’t know what to do with it.”

“This was partly because, in the academic world in France, people are still extremely stuck within specific disciplines. If you are a historian, you act and write like a historian. If you are a sociologist, you are only that. There is not much interest in interdisciplinary research. And the book was very interdisciplinary. So they did not know how to classify it. And I also think the style of writing was not academic enough in their opinion, nor was it considered to be just public writing. It was a hybrid form and the French did not know what to make of it. But in America, then, it received respect from many different directions.”

Niklas: “What authors do you read? And I am not talking about research papers, but books you read for entertainment.”

Achille: “I read novels, mainly. Lots of novels. French contemporary novels, African novels, Chinese and Japanese novels. A lot from Latin America, but not that much from the US or England. The choice is huge already, but I think I should probably still expand it…”

“I also listen to lots of music, all kind of musical forms. I watch too much soccer, I’m almost an addict. I also cook, which is very good for meditation. Cooking is a fantastic exercise. Or running on the grass. I don’t go to the gym, I go running and playing soccer, on the open air.”

Katharina: “I’m sure you know Chimamanda Adichie. She talks about the concept of the single story, and how, growing up in Africa, she used to read Western literature and how it influenced people in negative ways, how it made people write novels that were Westernized, rather than Africanized.”

Achille: “I have a feeling that this might not be entirely true for all of us – an African writer writing in French would not say it. This might be a very anglophone problem. Writers such as Alain Mabanckou or Kossi Efoui wouldn’t say it, because they would not have the same idea on what being ‘African’ is all about. They would not see a clear-cut opposition between African things and Western things, not in the same way as Chimamanda does.”

“In their writing, there is much more fluidity between different spaces, much more playfulness with, for instance, the French language, much more mixing of forms, much more – to use the title of your magazine – respect for ‘misfits’. And this is what makes their styles extremely fluorescent, extremely luxurious, extremely playful, too. What is really interesting in this kind of work is the degree to which they are willing to combine things we do not usually combine.”

Niklas: “Talking about things that aren’t usually combined, you come from a country that people like to refer to as a ‘third-world’ or ‘developing’ country. We are from Germany. Few people would name our countries in the same sentence, one directly after the other. So how do you think, generally speaking, cooperation of richer and poorer countries could be improved, for mutual benefit?”

Achille: “I think there is a difference between a ‘cooperation’, that is based on ignorance and real cooperation that is based on the knowledge of each other. People who do not know each other can hardly cooperate creatively or fruitfully. And it seems to me that the big obstacle to cooperation between developed and so-called undeveloped countries is wilful ignorance. So in order to improve cooperation between these two entities, there is an absolute necessity to get to know each other better.”

“Nowadays, we have the means to know each other, to know Africa, its diverse and complex history; we do have the means to know. The question is, why do we still need to invest in prejudice, why this infatuation with ignorance and prejudice, when we do have the means to know. I think that is the question we have to ask.”

“I think, this investment in ignorance is so big because ignorance allows you to be irresponsible and still act in good conscience, even if the results are catastrophic. It seems to me that the West is invested wilfully in massive ignorance in regards to the rest of the world. Because only wilful ignorance allows the West to act irresponsibly. So if we want to change the system, we have to know a bit more. And that is possible – the knowledge is there and it is accessible. There is no reason why anyone, anywhere in the world, should be ignorant about others. Just do the work.”

Katharina: “When we talk about postcolonialism, we often mention how language divides people, how the way we speak about Africa, for instance, is completely different from the way we speak about Western countries. I’m going to be a teacher – how will I teach my students not to be ignorant, not to divide the world through language?”

Achille: “You see the material is there. One of the beauties of the new technologies is that they have helped the world to build new libraries, metaphorically speaking. And these libraries are mobile, they are portable, they are accessible. The Internet allows us access to a multiplicity of documents, of data, of facts, that, if used, would probably unleash the making of entirely new forms of knowledge – images, videos, sounds, documentaries, photographs…”

“So the material is there. The key is to organize it and use it in a pedagogical manner, so that it responds better to the expectations of our times. The material exists, but our thresholds have increased because of the high exposure to technology. So we need to pull people out of their own ignorance and unlock their sense of critical reading of these materials.”

Niklas: “We would like to thank you for the interview.”

Achille: “It was my pleasure.”

(This text has been edited for clarity and length)

Authors:

Katharina Tancré, Niklas Schmidt

Pictures: Fotostelle Universität Augsburg

A life of movement


Have you heard of Achille Mbembe, the famous Johannesburg-based philosopher from Cameroon, who graced our university with his visit in summer 2018? If you haven’t, read on to find out what makes him just the kind of person you want to quote at all the fancy cocktail parties we know you’re attending on a weekly basis. And if you have, you already know what you have to do: stay where you are to get the intellectual boost you so desperately need during exam season.

Katharina and Niklas from eMAG got a chance to interview Achille Mbembe in one of his few free hours. If you like the interview, don’t forget to read the second part, which will be published tomorrow.

Niklas: “What role can philosophy play in times of populism, as well as political and religious extremism?”

Achille: “I think that we live in a time when the need for a critical understanding of where our world is going is more urgent than ever before. And philosophy as the key discipline that teaches us how to exercise our reason is absolutely central, not only for training and education of students today, but also in helping to sustain a democratic public sphere – one in which rational deliberation is at the centre of exchange and communication among citizens. I believe that we need to put philosophy as the critical exercise of reason at the heart of what living together is all about, both nationally and globally.”

Niklas: “When you write and publish your books, what sort of audience do you usually have in mind? Whom do you expect to read your books?”

Achille: “The audience is composed of people of good will, who are interested in the types of questions the books address; people, who are interested in making our world habitable and hospitable. I believe that the current moment, we are in, is full of risks and dangers, and that the need to repair our planet is probably the most urgent task humanity is facing. And I take writing as part of the tools we use as we undertake the task of repair. And therefore, those I have in mind when I write are those who would like to take part in that planetary endeavour of repairing.”

Niklas: “When you were still a student in Cameroon, you used to work for a Christian student group. Would you say that your religious beliefs influence your work as a philosopher?”

Achille: “It is true that I grew up in a Catholic family, and I went through Catholic educational institutions, secondary school in particular. I also was involved with an organisation called the Young Catholic Students, which is an international organisation and a huge part of my world view was shaped by traditions of Christianity that had to do in particular with liberation theology.”

“But I am not a practitioner. I’m interested in Christianity as a set of ideas and in so far as it offers life ethics, parts of which speak to what I consider to be key problems of our time. So I have an interest in religion in general as a key dimension of people’s existence, how they make sense of their lives, how they relate to themselves and to others, as well as to the forces that are above them. In that sense, my interest in religion is not limited to Catholicism or Christianity. I’m just as interested in Jewish theology as in African pre-colonial modes of religion.”

“That being said, I still think I have taken a lot from Christianity, intellectually as well as in my own life. And what is very striking in Christianity is the way in which it puts at its centre the Other, with a capital O. In fact, in Christian thought the Other is the Alpha and Omega of every act of faith. That means you are not a believer if the Other is not at the centre of your thoughts. So that preoccupation with the Other is something I consider to be the kernel of faith itself – and of the practice of faith, if you want to speak in those terms.”

Niklas: “Talking about the Other, both Germany and Britain – and, of course, France – have a colonial past in Cameroon, and not exactly a glorious past. Does it feel in any way strange to you to be talking to an English-speaking magazine while in Germany? Is it hard for you to look over our shared past?”

Achille: “Not really. I’ve spent my entire life dealing with this kind of situation. And I need to speak many different languages. It’s true that the English language is one of the dominant languages of our world, but I also believe that the world that is coming will be a multilingual world, and that those who are the best-positioned to harness the beauty of our world in any way are people who can speak more than one language. Of course, translation is truly important, but multilingualism, I believe, is the way of the future. And monolingualism is the worst way to prepare oneself for what the future of the planet holds for each of us. So I don’t see it at all as a problem.”

“In fact, I think both English and French have become African languages. They have been thoroughly Africanized, just as they have been Asianized to a large extent. They are spoken by millions of people. They have been spoken by millions of people over centuries, and that’s enough to qualify them as African or Asian languages, I think.”

Katharina: “What are your associations concerning the term misfits, last term’s main topic for our paper magazine?”

Achille: “That’s an interesting concept. That which does not fit, which is out of place, and yet its very existence opens up a whole set of new possibilities. So, on the one hand, I think that it’s an unfortunate concept when one applies it, for instance, to those who are not us. Those who seem to not belong or those whose presence we think is abnormal, those who do not look like us, who suffer from maladaptation. We can tolerate them, but they don’t really fit with us, there is always a gap.”

“So in that sense, it’s an unfortunate concept, but on the other hand the beauty of the concept is that a misfit always allows for unexpected possibilities to emerge. I think there is a productive dimension to the concept, in the sense that it allows for the emergence of the unexpected.”

“And in that sense, for all that’s to it, it’s a paradoxical concept. It’s a double-edged concept. If you have a misfit in your midst, you cannot predict what will happen. It makes it impossible to predict what happens when you bring in a foreign body, or something that shouldn’t be there. It’s a way of creating a new form.”

Niklas: “Talking about foreign bodies, both Cameroon and Germany are countries that have accepted lots of refugees. Refugees from different conflicts maybe, but refugees all the same. What are your thoughts on welcoming refugees, on how we should live together?”

Achille: “Let’s start by defining what a refugee is. Strictly speaking, a refugee is a human person who has been forced to leave the place he or she used to inhabit, his or her home country, as a result of a catastrophe. Whether a natural catastrophe or a human-made catastrophe – war, famine – an event that has made it impossible for that person to fully enjoy his or her existence in that place. This is what a refugee is: A human being running away from danger and in search of protection.”

“And usually, in the strictest sense of the term, a refugee is a human being whose life is in danger if he or she doesn’t leave. So the choice refugees have is pretty simple: either you stay and run the risk of losing your life, or you go. Most people don’t want to leave their home, the place where they were born. This is what people would prefer, to conduct their lives in the place where they were born. Refugees are people who have no choice but to go.”

“So the question is, when they knock on our door, do we open the door or do we tell them, ‘We’re not here, go somewhere else.’ I think that each society has to make this decision and it’s a good thing that, in the midst of the dramatic crises of the last few years, Germany has decided to open its doors to a number of people who would have been in danger otherwise. And Germany has done much more than many other European countries, both in terms of numbers and in terms of creating the conditions for receiving people in a way that ensures their dignity. But of course, as we know, everywhere this is a very complicated issue. Of course, you have people who do not want to see refugees for all kinds of reasons. The fact is that they don’t want them, they want to keep the doors closed.”

“So, Germany, Cameroon, other places like Turkey – these are choices those societies have to make, they have to decide whether or not this is something they want to do. I believe lots of people think that the German government made the right choice. Now, of course that raises all kinds of issues. I guess that’s part of the democratic debate. Society has to decide if it wants to live by a certain set of values, including the value of hospitality and assistance to the part of humanity that is in danger, or whether it simply wants to be indifferent to what happens to human life elsewhere. Europe has to make that choice. Our entire planet has to make a choice of how we deal with that part of our humanity that is in danger.”

“But you also have to look at the issues that are at stake. For instance, the West cannot go on destroying entire countries and bomb them to the ground, like in Syria, in Iraq, in Libya, in many other parts of the world, and expect people to just stay there. Of course, people will want to run away from danger. So it’s also a question of responsibility. We can’t go and destroy entire environments, entire people’s histories, cultures, and then say, ‘No, no, you stay there. Don’t come here.’ This is not responsible. So if we don’t want people to come here, let’s make sure we do not aggravate the situation where they are, we don’t render life in their homeland unsustainable. So I think these are also dimensions that have to be brought into these kinds of discussions. You cannot keep your door closed if you mess up with the little they have.”

“This can be done with a whole variety of means, with pillaging their natural resources, their wealth, rendering the environment toxic, extract all we can, leave with nothing behind. It can be done by selling weapons to dictators who do the destruction indirectly. Responsibility is absolutely key; responsibility is justice. A huge part of what sets people in motion is the weight of injustice. So it’s a debate we have to have, and I hope that this year it will be conducted beyond just hate and passion.”

Niklas: “You mentioned home, and that most people would prefer to stay there. What does that term mean to you, since you’ve been around more than most of us.“

Achille: “I have no idea what my home is. I’ve spent my entire life moving from one place to another. I guess if you spend your life like that, moving from one place to another, what you end up doing is that you carry them with yourself, bits and pieces of the many places you have inhabited. So they accompany you along the way. You carry memories. Your home is memory, if you want. Memory becomes your home. The memory of the many places you have been to find yourself. So home is no longer just a physical space you enter or exit. It travels with you throughout a life of movement.”

(This text has been edited for length and clarity.)

Authors: Katharina Tancré, Niklas Schmidt

Picture: Fotostelle Universität Augsburg

Question time: Can coffee make you gay?

“I have a male colleague who won’t go into cafés. According to him, cafés are for women, bars are for men. When his wife orders coffee, he waits outside,” a twitter user wrote a few months ago. This man is married to a woman, I wondered, but attends a men-only bar? Fair enough. Rebloggers on social media made similar remarks. And the war in the comments began.

Hipsters, chains and drinks

Talking about coffee: Starbucks has come to Augsburg;  you might have noticed from ever-fuller trash cans and the growing number of people in Uggs and NorthFace jackets. But I am no better than these people: despite the weird sizes and baristas who ask your name but can’t get it right, despite the environmental impact and the loss of family-owned, traditional cafés, I go to Starbucks regularly. They can call me Nicolas, Niccollò and Nicholas – all three in German stores, by the way – and still I love Starbucks.  Especially in fall when you can order Pumpkin Spice Lattes (PSL, for fans). I had one – okay, I had twenty. And that’s where the trouble began.

Male, female or PSL drinker?

See, some people just can’t let you enjoy your coffee. A man drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes? What’s next? A stay-at-home dad? A female chancellor? “You’re such a basic white girl, Nik,” a friend of mine said. Being two of these three things, I couldn’t exactly feel offended. “Takes one to recognize one,” I replied. The sentence “Only women and gays drink that stuff” from a fellow student didn’t make me turn suicidal either – that’s just the kind of locker room joke that some politicians base their entire campaigns on.

Can we relax for a second?

However, the statements had me thinking. What if I am the only straight man who enjoys Starbucks coffee? Gendering can be a weird thing if you leave aside social conventions. Yeah, it does make sense to create clothing that caters to the needs of one biological sex – bras, for instance. A man can wear a bra if he wants to. He might just not need it as much, anatomically speaking. The same goes for some social conventions that are based on genders. Opening a door for a woman? Great stuff. Ten out of ten would do it again. But coffee? Come on.

There are real problems, you know.

Most of us would claim to live in a modern world – both parents have jobs, we look down on Trump voters’ supposed sexism and we all have that convenient gay friend we keep referring to for credibility. But if we really are all that modern and open-minded, why don’t we look at gender in the areas where it really is an issue? What if we fixed the pay gap or protected women from sexual harassment for a start? What if we took women’s opinions seriously in business meetings or car garages? What if we looked at people, instead of genders, and stopped making a fuss about century-olds role images? But no, we gender coffee, as if there weren’t any real problems to deal with. What we drink should really be everyone’s own cup of tea, pun intended.

How far have we come?

I went back to Starbucks (for research purposes, of course) and asked a barista if men ordered PSLs. “In fact, men order this drink more than women,” the barista told me. I asked if they made sure to keep their voices down, to protect their masculinity. “Why, no? Tastes are different. We should be above that,” was her answer. “Anyway, here’s your drink.” She handed me my PSL with a sly wink, as if she was supplying me with a month’s worth of heroin. I left the store in a weird mood. What if I had made up a problem where there was none? I looked down at my cup, which looked phallic, rather than feminine, to see if they had got my name right that day. The barista had written “Nicole”. With a heart above the ‘i’.

Author: Niklas Schmidt

Pictures: Martina Sonn

When depression meets love: a toxic cocktail

Nowadays, mental health is an issue which gets a lot of coverage. However you rarely hear about the people suffering with the sufferers. I was one of those people, for two years, and have finally decided to write about it. I met this girl at school, a couple years ago now – and honestly, I was hooked. We got friendly very quickly before the summer, but the contact dried up during, and I slowly forgot about her, till the start of September 2016. She got in contact again, and from then on we grew gradually closer, till one night, the 12th January 2017, when this wonderful, lovely, slightly odd girl finally told me. She was clinically depressed, and had been for three years, I should really leave her alone, she’d understand – but I loved this girl! So of course, I stayed.


The Beginning
The hardest thing in all of this was actually properly dealing with a clinically depressed person. Every day was a challenge with her, and most of the time I barely got a response from her that was longer than three words. The mood swings, the recklessness, and the non-existent will to live was extremely hard. It got worse when she would describe exactly the pit of blackness she was feeling. All the while I was dealing with this new information, I kept her secret, I felt it only fair when she trusted something so valuable to me – Which made dealing with everything even more difficult. We did have a simple coping mechanism though. Get drunk, and all the blackness went away, for a few hours. That was when we shared the most with each other, and grew closer. Some of the stuff she would say would shock me, but mostly make me sad beyond belief that however hard I tried, I couldn’t save her, all I could do was be there. So I was, even if I went mad in the process.


Hope
Summer 2017 was a time for hope. We were both moving on to new things, new lives. Away from the old, bad memories. To make some new ones. We spent a lot of time with each other toward the end of the summer, just having fun and dreaming for the future. We were both happy, she had something to focus on. Soon enough came our last time together before we both left, she for Frankfurt, me for Augsburg. That last night was a dream. We made promises to keep in contact, to always be there for one another. As I stood at her door, as she shut the door, I looked at the rising sun, and started to cry. Was this the beginning of the end?


Pain
At first, everything was good. She was truly happy in her new home, her techno parties, she had everything. I was happy she was happy. Then came the MDMA. I knew, as soon as she told me, that she wouldn’t be able to control herself taking it – euphoria for a depressive person is like a drug itself, right? Here, I could do nothing to stop her, and it seemed to be the end of us. But a few months later, after getting back speaking, I visited her in Frankfurt, and that day in itself felt too good to be true – sure was. As time went on, it seemed that all we had discussed in Frankfurt, all the things we wanted to change: there would be better communication, healthier ways to deal with her bad days, etc. seemed to have been forgotten. Then came another depressive phase, and by June 2018, everything crumbled.


Fin
She started taking Ecstasy excessively. I wanted her to get help – she wouldn’t. After a period of silence, I wanted to know what was going on, how she was, and I got told that she was ”happy” now and didn’t need me. That was how it ended. In September 2018. Now as I’m writing this, I’m slowly getting better, but the feelings of anger, sadness, loneliness still strike. The only unanswered question I have, is ”Why?”

Author: Conor Schiffer

Picture: Filz Özer

Sympathy for a killer


The lights come on and in a nightgown Ruth Ellis (Lotte Albrecht) enters the stage to the bittersweet Blues of Billie Holiday, which immediately draws the audience into the stylish, but flawed version of the 1950s that forms the backdrop for the story preceding Ruth’s death. On 13 July 1955, at the age of 28 she is hanged, the last woman in Britain to suffer this fate. Her crime: she shot her lover in cold blood. What drove this young, beautiful woman over the edge? Why did she not even attempt to defend herself? These are some of the questions “The Thrill of Love” by Amanda Whittington aims to explore.

An emotional rollercoaster

The story is told in flashbacks through the perspective of Inspector Jack Gale (Jack Sigel). During his investigation he reconstructs a selection of events that give us an insight into the seedy world of gentlemen’s clubs and the women working the nights. Always present on bar room stage, he is a constant reminder that even the happiest moments in the lives of the women there are nothing but stepping stones on the path to the grim future we already know. However, these scenes of joy are one of the greatest feats of the play: it’s all too easy to get lost in the hopelessness and sadness that is usually associated with the story of Ruth Ellis. The playful banter between the women is a welcome break and allows the actresses to display their perfect timing and quick delivery. Thanks to these moments the characters become more than just parts of a tragic story. We become invested in their hopes and dreams, although we should know full well that they are unlikely at best. When this realization finally kicks in during the second half of the play, it hits that much harder.

Powerful performances

There are no extras in “The Thrill of Love”. Every character has his or her moments. The club’s manager Sylvia Shaw (Lucie Marchand) appears to be all business, but she cares deeply about all the women who work for her. The charwoman Doris (Anna Hilbel) often puts her needs behind those of others, even if it puts her own happiness at risk. The young Vicky Martin (Sara Steffes) hopes to meet powerful men and become a star on the big screen. Even Inspector Gale, cold as he may seem, turns out to be motivated by more than the mere desire to solve a case.

An unforgettable evening

“The Thrill of Love” is a powerful experience. The crew surrounding Rudolf Beck has managed to create a captivating atmosphere that lingers long after the curtain closes. We may know the outcome from the very beginning, but we don’t know the story behind it. In finding out, it’s difficult not to feel somewhat like a voyeur. Personal tragedies happen in silence. It’s when they emerge that we start to care.

 

Performances:

Thursday 6th December
Friday 7th December
Tuesday 11th December
Thursday 13th December

8 p.m., Hörsaal II

 

Author & Poster: Andreas Böhm