Nineteen years on, and Ueinzz Theatre Company are an internationally renowned group who operate in very different ways to more conventionally sired companies, as their arrival in Glasgow this week as part of the Arika organisation's latest episode of artistic inquiry, the tellingly named We Can't Live Without Our Lives.
“The group is very excited,” says Peter Pal Pelbart, the philosopher and essayist who has also been a member of Ueinzz since the group's inception, and will take part in a workshop, open rehearsal and performance of Ueinzz's latest show, No Ready Made Men. “Every trip for us is a huge adventure. As well as the prospect of experiencing another country, another language and another audience, sometime this distance provokes strange and let's say funny questions, like should someone bring some water with them, as if we were going to the moon. In their heads as well a lot of the group are already there before they make the trip, so it becomes one of many trips.”
This gives a hint of the aesthetic the company named by one of the original patients and pronounced 'Waynz' have developed over the last two decades, and which can make for an unpredictable experience. Pelbart highlighted this in a lecture he gave in 2011 called Inhuman Polyphony in the Theatre of Madness, and which went on to form part of his book, Cartography of Exhaustion.
In the lecture, given in Berlin, Pelbart relates how, two minutes before a performance was due to begin, one of the cast announced that he wouldn't be taking part in the play as it was the night of his death. In the end, the company member did go on, only to walk across the stage and leave the theatre in full view of the audience. When they came out, they found the performer sitting on the pavement, where Pelbart, who had been playing Hades, king of the underworld, had found him demanding an ambulance as his time had come. In the end he accepted a cheeseburger, but not before many of the departing audience had presumed the exchange to be a pre-arranged stunt that formed part of the show.
“Every performance we do is new,” Pelbart explains. “There are structures in place, but at the same time, many new things happen in performances that we can't predict, whether they are silences, speeches or eruptions.”
Since forming, Ueinzz have met once a week every Wednesday. This was initially under the guidance of directors Sergio Penna and Renato Cohen, who, with nods to influences including Antonin Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty, Joseph Beuys and Samuel Beckett, co-ordinated a long term exploration of James Joyce's novel, Finnegans Wake. Following Cohen's death, the company worked with another director, Cassio Santiago, but now operate without any outside figure.
“We are a theatre group that has complete freedom,” says Pelbart. “We are not famous. We are singular, and that singular life can help us propose things together in a collective atmosphere. There is a lot of power and possibilities within that, so we've created a way of common life and common work, and we've also created a special way of taking care of one another and being able to recognise the fragilities and collapses of each other.
“There is no such thing as those who suffer and those who don't. Everyone has their moments, so we have a way of taking care, not in a paternalistic way, but in a collective way, and rather than exclude them, we put that into the performances. We're not just a theatre group. It's a way of being.”
Arika's Episode 7 takes place at Tramway, Glasgow, April 15-19. Ueinzz Crossings Workshop, April 17, 12 noon-2pm (free, booking required); All Fictions Are Biographical – Ueinzz Context Conversation, April 17, 7.30pm; No Ready Made Men – Open Rehearsal, April 18, 2.30pm; No Ready Made Men – Performance, April 19, 2.30pm. Peter Pal Pelbart will be in conversation in Cartography of Exhaustion, April 19, 7.30pm.www.arika.org.uk
The Herald, April 14th 2015