Storm Still

Today’s entry in the theater series can be said to fall into the category of ‘Mystery’. It is hard to say whether or not there is a spanking scene in Peter Handke’s 2010 play Immer Noch Sturm (Storm Still), because the published version isn’t in conventional dramatic form: it’s a series of monologues by a character representing Handke himself, with the other characters’ dialogue incorporated as reported speech. No stage directions, no clear indication of stage business, and nothing that certainly indicates a spanking…

The central character, the speaker of the monologues, is called just ‘Ich’: ‘I’. It’s generally accepted that he represents Peter Handke himself, not least because the matter of the play is his own family history. ‘I’, in the present day, encounters his own mother and her Slovenian family, who are at a point in history just before the Second World War, and he watches as the turmoil of the times engulfs them. His mother becomes pregnant, he is born, his in-laws are oppressed and conscripted by the Germans or join the resistance.

The play’s poetic language is dense and difficult: a hard slog even for a German speaker. It premiered in a co-production between the Salzburg Festival and Thalia Theater, Hamburg, which opened on September 17, 2011. Jenz Harzer played ‘I’, and Oda Thormeyer was his mother:

01 Oda Thormeyer

The production took place on a round stage amidst a continual fall of green leaves as the storm continued. Mother wore heels and a white tulle dress:

02 immer noch sturm03 immer noch sturm

And sometime in the course of the four-hour show, here’s what ‘I’ did to her:

04 Immer Noch Sturm 105 Immer Noch Sturm

Can he really be spanking her… his own mother?

The play has been revived several times in Austria and Germany, but I’ve never seen anything comparable in any of the online materials connected with these later productions. So is there a spanking scene or isn’t there? Anyone with four hours to spare for some abstruse Austrian autobiography may be able to find out!

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