Top German actors' vodka binge takes drunken satire too far

By Potter · Jan 29, 2010 · ·
  1. Potter
    Cast fall off tables, chairs – and stage – during 'experimental' bender at Schauspielhaus in Frankfurt

    Actors are often warned never to work with children or animals. To that list, 80% proof Russian vodka should now be added.

    A performance at Frankfurt's prestigious Schauspielhaus theatre ended in chaos after four of Germany's top actors decided "as an experiment" to substitute vodka for water during a performance of a play described in the programme notes as a "crazy depiction of one of the most famous alcoholic benders in world literature".

    Moscow To the End of the Line, a 1970 novel by the late Russian author Venedikt Erofeev, is a satirical account of a cable fitter sacked after checking the amount of alcohol fellow workers consume. The action takes place in Soviet times as the worker takes a train across Russia to reach his lover in a remote village.

    In their stage adaptation of the story, the actors, Torben Kessler, Michael Abendroth, Marc Oliver Schulze and Oliver Kraushaar, decided the best way to embody their characters – the worker and his fellow passengers who spend the journey binge-drinking and never arrive at their destination – was to hit the bottle.

    Initially the audience was amused. But then alarm grew as they started falling off chairs and tables and inviting theatregoers to take swigs out of their bottles.

    "At first it was quite impressive, they seemed to be giving a good impersonation of tipsiness," one audience member told a German newspaper. "Then they started leaping around shouting 'nastrovia' (cheers in Russian) ... and then they handed round the drink." One of the actors could no longer stand up; another, literally, slipped up on his script.

    "People started clapping, thinking it belonged to the performance," the theatregoer said.

    When one of the actors fell off the stage on his chair and his co-actor fell from a table, the backstage crew intervened and called an ambulance.

    The uproar continued in the ambulance where Schulze, 36, allegedly became violent, forcing the medics to call for police backup. Schulze later had his stomach pumped at Frankfurt's university clinic.

    Called to account for the behaviour of his actors, director Oliver Reese said: "It was seen as a bit of an experiment, sort of along the lines of 'let's perform this wonderful text and have a bit of a drink at the same time' and it went a bit awry.

    "One of the actors in particular clearly drank too much vodka, on an empty stomach. That in combination with the adrenalin an actor already feels when he's on stage caused him to go off the rails. His self-control failed him."

    Reese summoned the actors for a dressing down after the performance. "I told them I didn't want to see anything like that ever again. It was kindergarten behaviour."

    The actors had recovered well, he said.

    * Kate Connolly in Berlin
    *, Thursday 28 January 2010 18.03 GMT \

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  1. chinpokomaster
    Was it 80% or 80 proof? I'm confused.
  2. rawbeer
    Gary Sinise and John Malkovich used to perform a play at the Steppenwolf Theater in which they both got drunk on stage (can't recall the name of the play, I heard Gary Sinise tell the story in an interview once).
    Of course they were using beer, which is much less problematic. Apparently Malkovich had too much one night and urinated into the prop sink, during the performance, apparently obscured enough from the audience's view that only Sinise saw what was happening, and had trouble remaining in character.

    I would think that, if one were going to try something like this, one should rehearse with liquor also, to get a feel for it and to learn what sort of pace to drink at during the show.
    A very entertaining read though.
  3. Potter

    Let's assume that it was 80 proof as even hardened alcoholics would have issues before the end of the first act drinking 80%!
  4. chinpokomaster
    Agreed but that would make the story as amazing as it purports.

    I've seen rum and absinthe at 80% volume but that's about it.
  5. EscapeDummy

    Everclear is sold at an 75% and a 95%(!) concentrations, but it's quite hilarious that the reporter chose to use "80% proof" in the article. Swim cant think of anything that would make it more ambiguous:s
  6. chinpokomaster
    It just shows that they have either absolutely no idea about the topic they're reporting on, or they care some much about sensationalising that they're willing to abandon facts.
  7. Potter
    it might also be a simple editing error, perhaps by a teetotaler. And would YOU want to hae to report on such a ridiculous scene?
  8. chinpokomaster
    I feel I have, in a way.
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