Waiting for the appearance - the masks have not yet fallen: CDU candidates Röttgen, Merz, Laschet (from left)
Photo: Michael Kappeler / dpa
For history-conscious theater fans, the Berlin exhibition halls, in which the CDU lets its candidates run for the chairmanship of the party on Saturday morning, are a legendary, almost sacred place.
You will immediately remember the young, almost naked Bruno Ganz and a legendary men's competition in February 1974. There, where Armin Laschet, Friedrich Merz and Norbert Röttgen now step up to the lectern with blue-gray, pink and purple ties and the leadership of Germany's Christian Democracy claim, the Theban King Pentheus (Bruno Ganz) and the Greek god Dionysus (Michael König), smeared with clay and with poorly covered genitals, vied for power in a historical theater performance.
“Die Bakchen” was the name of the performance by the Berlin Schaubühne, which was presented almost 47 years ago in a hall on the exhibition grounds.
And as it was then, the CDU is now about "wreath a winner with ivy," as it says in the play of Euripides.
Triumph of the dream image over the spirit?
Then as now, the play takes place in a quarantine room.
For the staging of the first almost completely virtual party congress of a German party, the CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak had a blue-gray arena built in which, as he proudly assures, everyone present is "under medical supervision".
Klaus Michael Grüber's production of "Bakchen" was set in a hospital with whitewashed walls.
"Clear the stage!" Shouts Ziemiak when each of the three competitors for the CDU chief post appear on Saturday morning.
But does what happens next really have the force of a Greek tragedy?
Does Armin Laschet's victory over Friedrich Merz in the runoff election on this January day in 2021 have a similar dramatic boom as the Grübersche “Bakchen” spectacle in the seventies?
The “Frankfurter Allgemeine” praised the show stage hit from back then only a few weeks ago as the “triumph of the blurred dream image over the clear mind”.
The fans of Friedrich Merz could one day judge the defeat of their idol in a similar way.
Nevertheless, the stage appearance of the candidate triumvirate Laschet, Merz and Röttgen falls into the comic rather than the tragic field.
Each of the three gentlemen in the CDU theater speaks of the atrocities in the world with which they themselves and their "friends", as the audience is called here, are confronted.
Laschet speaks of the scourge of illness (Corona), poisonous lies (Trump) and violence (the right-wing terrorists) and reports: "I am also thinking of the coal phase-out." Merz asks: "How do we get out of this time?" Röttgen complains: "Democracy is under pressure worldwide. «It's all tough stuff.
But by no means the sound in which tragedy writers express themselves.
A clown smile on the face of the candidate Merz
Above all, however, it is performed by each of the three actors with a body and facial play that signals less anxiety than cheerfulness.
Norbert Röttgen is beaming at the microphone as if he couldn't believe that he made it to the podium.
At the end of his election speech, Armin Laschet steps next to the lectern and shows his father's miner identification tag with a crooked grin.
And even Friedrich Merz, who is always consistently worried, conjures up a clown smile on his face when he speaks something about "courage and confidence" in the empty hall.
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Everyone in the CDU theater declaims for himself, facing the audience alone, even when the three men, one of whom is to be elected prince, stand at a common desk.
As far as the art of directing is concerned, the performance can be clearly assigned to the frontal theater of the 21st century, which is far from the collectively blissful conjuration and conspiracy play of the golden years of the stage.
And as far as the models from the theater literature are concerned, each of the three candidates could submit one of the princes who wooed the beautiful Portia in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.
Röttgen as a cheerful but hopeless prince
Friedrich Merz ideally casts the role of the guy who traveled to the city because of Portias and is described by her because of his displayed pride: “He doesn't do anything but frown as if he wanted to say: If you don't want me, so Let it be."
Norbert Röttgen is allowed to play the always cheerful but hopeless prince, of whom Portia says: "When a thrush sings, he immediately leaps into the air."
And Armin Laschet perfectly embodies the Venetian prince Bassanio, who in Shakespeare's case ultimately falls into Portia's favor.
In his jubilation, when he finally won the election, Bassanio doubts "whether no deception blinds my eyes until you confirm, draw, acknowledge" and confess: "There is confusion in my spirits."
Laschet also looked a little dazed after his victory on Saturday in the CDU arena in Berlin.
He had no ivy in his hair when he implored the delegates and his inferior competitors to let all internal party disputes rest now.
Didn't he even look a bit despondent?
Perhaps Armin Laschet should stick to what Bruno Ganz yelled into the exhibition hall in the men's competition of the "Bacchae" in the role of Pentheus: "Those who are happy must not be afraid!"
Icon: The mirror