Störtebeker 2017: In the Shadow of Death

The end of the cycle at the Störtbeker Festspiele on Rügen can only mean one thing: Klaus Störtebeker is going to lose his head at the end of the evening.  But before we things get that far, there is a story to finish telling.

At the end of the 2016 play, Klaus Störtebeker and his men had moved to the North Sea and it is several years later, now in 1401, that we pick up the story.  Klaus (Bastian Semm) and Goedecke (Andreas Euler) are about to attack one of the stores in Hamburg, where Fronica (Karin Hartmann) is selling fish at the market.  They are successful, ultimately burning down the store after taking the contents back to their ships, but it only makes the elders in Hamburg more determined than ever to capture the pirates.

Klaus Störtebeker (Bastian Semm) coming out of the fogKlaus Störtebeker (Bastian Semm) coming out of the fog

Enter Simon von Ütrecht (Nicolas König), a powerful businessman who shares their determination to hunt down the pirates, and who persuades the elders to invest in his plans to find Störtebeker and his men.  They, meanwhile, have found a new home and harbour in Marienhafe, where Klaus has fallen in love with Tetta Tom Brok (Bianca Warnek).

Unfortunately, local dignatory Hisko Abdena (Mike Herrmann Rader) wants to marry Tetta, so Tetta’s mother (also played by Karin Hartmann) hurredly arranges a wedding with Klaus, giving Hisko a reason to attack the village, which was his plan all along.

Simon von Ütrecht (Nicolas König) is determined to capture the piratesSimon von Ütrecht (Nicolas König) is determined to capture the pirates

Their happyness is short-lived, however, because although Hisko is unsuccessful, Simon von Ütrecht has a more cunning plan to lure Klaus to the island of Heligoland, then owned in part by the Dutch.  It is here, according to the legend, that Störtebeker was captured and taken to Hamburg to be beheaded.

All the elements that the audience have come to expect from a play at the Festspiele are there, although maybe not always when they are to be expected.  There are explosions, stunt men on fire, sword fights, and Bastian Semm even performs one stunt fall himself.  And, of course, there is Wolfgang Lippert who not only sings four songs, but this year also interacts with the action and the characters.  At one point he is on stage, amongst the visitors to the market and having a drink, before he starts singing.  It’s an interesting twist that many may miss and be surprised to see him already there.

Wolfgang Lippert takes part in a scene before singingWolfgang Lippert takes part in a scene before singing

So what has it been like playing the “Robin Hood of the North” for a complete cycle of five years?  Speaking to Bastian Semm after the performance, he told me how much fun he had playing the role and hoped to continue in it when the story re-starts next year.  What he finds particularly interesting is the way the theatre tells the story of events that take place over a number of years, and itself spreads the story out over the cycle.  Rather than the play being a one-off piece, the cycle of five years has in fact told a story of events that stretch over about 11 years, allowing him to develop the role in that time from the young man who joins the pirates to their experienced leader.

One new member of the cast is Nicolas König, who plays Simon von Ütrecht.  Could he turn out to be the new regular baddie in the plays?  Well he’s no stranger to the Festspiele, since he has been coming as a visitor every year since they started he told me.  And, although he prefers not to stay with one medium and works as happily on the small screen as well as in the theatre, he could coming back next year in a new role.

Klaus Störtebeker awating his executionKlaus Störtebeker awating his execution

But next year is still a long way off.  This Saturday (24th June) sees the premiere performance of “Im Schatten des Todes” in Ralswiek and the play runs until Saturday, 9th September, 2017.  Tickets can be purchased online at: www.stoertebeker.de.

My thanks go to the Störtebeker Festspiele GmbH & Co. KG for inviting me to the press preview performance and allowing me to publish photos of the performance on this site.

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