A scenic journey through Hannover The Argentinian director Marco Canale has woven together memories, dreams and songs from senior Hannover citizens into a play that will take the audience along for a journey through time and through the city – to monuments, to a ruin and to private living rooms. At every station, a new, temporary stage scene awaits the group. Alternating between collective and individual memory, a treasure of stories about the city that have never been heard is created. Marco Canale worked on Die Geschwindigkeit des Lichtswith around 50 senior citizens for more than a year in Hannover. The first version of the project was created in Buenos Aires, the next one is currently being prepared in Tokyo.
Die Geschwindigkeit des Lichts is the result of the collective work between the director and over 50 senior citizens from Hanover. During theatre, singing and dance workshops, Marco Canale collected their dreams, songs and adventures, and wove these into a play. Together with the protagonists, the spectators go on a trip through the city and through time.
Starting point addresses
Gruppe A Meeting point: Platz Am Kuechengarten; in front of TAK – Die Kabarett Bühne
Gruppe B Meeting point: U-Bahn-Station Bothmerstrasse / Corner Hildesheimer Strasse / Bothmerstrasse
Gruppe C Meeting point: U-Bahn-Station Geibelstrasse, Corner Hildesheimer Strasse / Geibelstrasse
Gruppe D Meeting point: U-Bahn-Station Kerstingstrasse, Corner Gerlachstraße / Bischofsholer Damm
Gruppe E Meeting point: U-Bahn-Station Leinaustrasse, Corner Limmerstrasse / Velberstrasse
Admission VVK 26 Euro / AK 28 Euro Concessions VVK 13 Euro / AK 14 Euro Duration ca. 3h . several breaks Language German, Arabic, Russian, Turkish, Italian with german and english subtitles . Not barrier-free
Since March 2017, Marco Canale has been working on a Hannover version of La velocidad de la luz, which had its world premiere in 2016 in Buenos Aires. For the Hannover version, Die Geschwindigkeit des Lichts, he ran workshops with the Hannoverprotagonists in the areas of theatre, creative writing, singing, dance, photography and storytelling. Over one and a half years, they created a play that is at home in different places all over Hannover. The project brings people together who would normally not encounter each other: elderly citizens from various cultures, parts of the city, backgrounds and of different genders. Traces of their lives are made visible on a walk through the city, in the subway and in their homes.
The Aegidienkirche is one of numerous venues for the performance of Geschwindigkeit des Lichts
Die Geschwindigkeit des Lichts by Marco Canale
I think of this theatre project as consisting of two axes – a spatial and a temporal one. The city reveals its hidden sides along the spatial axis. Repressed or forgotten episodes of our history and present. Political and historical events, our everyday lives and the lives of previous generations. The different places we live in: streets, squares, houses we were born in, cemeteries, trees, birds, schools and sacred spaces. The scenes of hidden stories. The temporal axis begins where our roots are and stretches on towards death and beyond. The path there is marked by our relationship to nature, by feelings, by love. My play is about encounters in Hannover, about spaces where elderly citizens of various backgrounds, cultures and knowledge contexts come together over a number of months. They meet up to wander through the streets and spaces of the city, and to visit places that mean something to them, places connected to their life stories. They sit in a church, a rehearsal room, in bars or at home to have breakfast, read letters, to write, to remember: A photo of a watermill taken in Syria, an elderly lady’s contacts in the social network Happn and the history of Hannover from above, from a tree’s-eye and bird’s-eye-view. The memory of what our forefathers did the night when the Synagogue in Calenberger Neustadt was set on fire and the journey of a man who set off for Syria on foot. Memories of bombings and nights of drinking, of conversations with parents about their involvement in the Nazi regime just before they died. The trains that went from Ahlem to the camps, the expropriated factories, a Jewish school of horticulture that became a Gestapo headquarters and the gardens that the former students grew in different parts of the world. The funerals, the births, the experiences, the misfortunes, the romantic relationships, the jobs and the songs the elderly people have been singing since their childhood. My play is created from memories and sharing history. The bodies, the words, the voices. Telling stories about the past and allowing new things to be created in the here and now, from here we can spy a possible future. Maybe this play also tells the story of the power of faith, beyond any religious confession.
Hannover after being bombed. The Aegidienkirche top left, the play’s main performance venue
It was 1944. The Second World War was entering its final stages. There were bombings almost every day here in Hannover and other large cities by the English and American air forces. I was three years old. I had quite a bad skin disease, probably because of malnutrition. To stop me from scratching myself until I bled, my mother tied my hands and feet to my bed. The bed was under a high window. One night, a bomb that had been dropped too early exploded on the field across the road. Even though it was 80 metres away, the force of the explosion was so strong that the window was blown out of the wall and fell on my bed. When my family came into my bedroom after the bang, they found me covered in thousands of bits of glass – completely unhurt. Not one piece of glass harmed me.
Rehearsal at home with Angelika, with her banjo
We can dance When I was fifteen, I come from Turkey to work. I live with my aunt in a wooden hut; the floor was made of earth. At night, I hear the dogs barking, I’m scared. Every evening, I walk home without stopping, just like my aunt told me to. But one night, I stop in front of a black door, behind which you could hear music as if from a distance. I go in, people are dancing. That was the first time I heard “We Can Dance” by ABBA.
The Ahlem plants The “Israelite Educational Institution” was founded by the Jewish banker Moritz Simon in 1893 and trained thousands of young Jewish people from Lower Saxony in horticulture. In 1941, the school was closed by the National Socialists and turned into a Gestapo headquarters. Between December 1941 and January 1944, more than 2000 Jewish fellow citizens from all over southern Lower Saxony were imprisoned there, before they were deported to the death camps in the east. The empty main building of the School of Horticulture became a prison run by the Gestapo. In March 1945, no less than 59 prisoners were hanged and on April 6th, 56 inmates along with 98 prisoners from the Lahde labour camp were shot in a mass execution in Seelhorst cemetery. Only one man was able to save himself. After their liberation, the Jewish survivors started an agricultural kibbutz, in exactly the same place they were deported from. The last of them emigrated to Palestine at the start of 1948. Later, two students and a professor from the Ahlem School designed the gardens of different kibbutzim, which are fundamentally different from the previously planted gardens there.
Image of carob tree seedlings from the horticultural magazine HaSadeh leGan Venof, 1955
My father He still lives in Hamburg. He’s 97 years old. We a family of professors. I’m the third generation. My father was a member of the Waffen-SS. When they were at the Russian front, they had to do the Hitler salute every morning after they got up, with their hand at eye level. One morning he shouted: “Heil Hitler”, and a Russian partisan fired at him. The shot cut a part of his finger off.
We saw this finger every day after the war and it reminded us that our father had been a soldier. And sometimes in the summer, when he went swimming, we saw that he had a circular scar on his chest and one on his back. That was where a bullet had gone through, it hadn’t injured any internal organs. He was an officer in the war. As children, we asked him what the war was like. He told us that one time he knocked on the door of a house and that the house suddenly collapsed in front of him and he was left standing there in front of a pile of rubble, but unharmed. I asked him: did you shoot people? Did you kill anyone? And he said to me: maybe, but I don’t know. I said: why were you fighting? He said: I wasn’t fighting for Hitler, but for Germany. I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, fighting for Germany, when it was Hitler who decided to invade the world. But the truth is, I didn’t believe him. The group my father belonged to, the Waffen-SS, was part of Hitler’s personal guard. They loved him and promised to die for him. My father’s brother spent many years at Hitler’s side.
When my father was ten, he was sent to a boarding school in the Weimar Republic. Then they moved him to a Nazi school. Maybe he would never have been so loyal to Nazism if he had not gone to that school. I’ll never know.
Torsten, the author, as a child.
The author’s uncle’s grave at the Russian front. The other corpse was never identified.
A library in Syria
1. I had a library with 5000 books in Syria. In 1982, the army stormed my apartment looking for weapons, but all they found was books. Out of anger and disappointment, they threw them on the floor. I love my books a lot and told the soldiers: “The way you’re treating my books is almost as if you’re killing me.” The soldiers were armed. Some of them probably would have liked to have fired at me or my books, but the captain told them they should leave my books where they were. They did that and left.
2. I was just making myself a coffee, when a shot exploded in my bedroom, only half an hour after I had been sleeping there. The impact made the house shake, but it didn’t collapse. Where the bedroom used to be, was now just stones. My daughter brought me to Germany. Time passes and everything stays the same: I want to go back home.
3. The news about new bombings came one morning when I was helping my daughter cut the rose bushes. We tried to reach her brother and my grandchildren, who were visiting their in-laws, but the lines were dead. The little we heard on the news was terrible. The city had been razed to the ground and was being ruled by the military regime, people were being killed in the middle of the street. My son – I knew in that moment – had gone underground or was dead. I went up to the bedroom and prayed the whole night through. On my bed, looking up at the ceiling, I had a vision: if I went back to Syria on foot, my son wouldn’t die. He would live.
Wael, Adel and Mona talking. Coffee with cardamom and sweets
Two school students
When I started teaching secondary school in the sixties, two boys around fifteen had just joined the neo-Nazis. I was new at the school and one of them came up to me in class. He had been neglected by other teachers, but I tried to get to know him. His sister was active in a left-wing group and his father was a pastor. I think that was one of the reasons he joined an extremist right-wing group. He didn’t want to talk to me, so I asked him if he wanted to sing with me. He didn’t say anything and I started to sing, old songs by Bach. When I stopped, he said he knew some of them, because his grandmother sang them. He never sang, but he came to hear me sing, sometimes in the assembly hall, sometimes in the forests around the school. And one afternoon, at the banks of a lake, he did sing.
Teacher Gerlinde in Berggarten
My first day in Hannover I leave the house in the evening at six. It’s cold and I get lost, half deliberately, in the streets of Hannover. I arrive at a square, where there are gravestones, not like in other cities with their little fenced-off cemeteries. The gravestones stand in the middle of the grass, little groups go for walks around them, a child walks by, and a drunk is lying around. I cross the square and find a little chapel with no roof, a ruin. There’s a little depression in the middle of it, in which maybe 50 people would fit. I stand there looking up at the sky. I imagine that a bomb is falling from the sky, that it destroys the missing roof and causes the crater I’m standing in.
There’s something that’s followed me from the cemetery: birds. Hundreds of birds fly in swarms above the roofs of the cities. I imagine Hannover as the city of the birds, a pompous title, and stroll along to a church tower that can be seen in the distance. I hear music from the side-door of the church. I open the door and all the way at the back on a stage, I see a choir, older people singing. In this place, where I see a woman trying to keep up, I cry for reasons that have nothing to do with her or Hannover. This woman – and the others in the choir – will become part of this piece. The tree you have forgotten remembers you (Atahualpa Yupanqui).
Marco Canale is a theatre and film director. He specialises in projects that connect art with different socio-cultural aspects. He develops his pieces, which often take place in the centre of neighbourhoods and in public space, in collaboration with local people on site. These theatre pieces by and performed by people in marginalised city districts, women, children and elderly people, usually require a development period of a number of years. Canale’s works for theatre have previously been performed in Buenos Aires, Guatemala, Edinburgh, Madrid and London.