Duncan Macmillan • The Forbidden Zone
Co-production with the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz in cooperation with Prospero
In German and English with German and Englisch surtitles
Duration approx. 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Print programme (PDF)
The Forbidden Zone is a powerful new work about women, science and war in the first half of the twentieth century. Conceived by the director Katie Mitchell, working together with an extensive team of her regular artistic collaborators, this is contemporary theatre in a cinematic form, with screen images being created live on stage in real time. The drama moves at thrilling speed between a range of locations in Europe and America and events in 1949 and 1915.
At the heart of the play is a young woman, Claire Haber, a scientist and refugee from Nazi Germany, who is embarking upon adulthood in the aftermath of the Second World War in a world dominated by weapons of mass destruction. She is a chemist, the daughter and granddaughter of chemists, one of whom was awarded the Nobel Prize. Claire is trying to find antidotes for chemical weapons but when her efforts are thwarted by political decisions, her thoughts become increasingly drawn back to the First World War of 1914-18, when poison gas was deployed for the first time, and to her grandparents, Fritz Haber and Clara Immerwahr, who held deeply opposing views on this issue. How did these weapons come to be used? What was the cost? What more could have been done to prevent their use? The more Claire thinks about what must have happened between her grandparents, the more urgent and fundamental are the moral questions she is forced to ask and the more difficult her own choices become. She becomes convinced that war must be stopped at any cost. But what can she do? What reasonable course of action can any human being undertake in a world that seems hell-bent on war?
Duncan Macmillan’s script references texts by several influential feminist authors from the period including Virginia Woolf, Emma Goldman, Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir and the American novelist and poet Mary Borden, whose collection of sketches prompted by running a field hospital in Flanders provides the title. The result is a complex and layered work of many voices which seeks to create a vivid and intense experience of history.
Performed in two languages by a cast made up of both German- and English-speaking actors, The Forbidden Zone marks the centenary of the outbreak of World War One by bringing together an international ensemble of artists using modern technology to create an epic narrative to stand alongside the established canon of dramatic treatments of the conflict.