"Krone" interview

Meret Becker: “The stage gives me security”

13.05.2024 09:00

Meret Becker was Rumpelstiltskin in "Werner - Beinhart!", the Berlin "Tatort" detective Nina Rubin and comes from a family of artists with a penchant for the circus. In the musical theater program "Le Grand Ordinaire", she now indulges this passion at Vienna's Theater Akzent. A conversation about France, Fredo and freedom.

"Krone": Meret, the evening on 15 May at Theater Akzent with the program "Le Grand Ordinaire" promises to be a great mixture of music, circus, drama and theatricality. Doesit contain everything that defines you as a person?
Meret Becker:
That's right, that's why I do these kinds of programs. My music albums are always subject to a concept, in this case I do it the wrong way round and perform it live first. I started out in cabaret and variety and that's where my family roots lie. Everything was created in fragments and the show is like the skeleton of a circus. Sometimes it comes out more clearly, sometimes less. Only I have the complete images in my head - where they come from and where they go. The audience gets a collage of them. Some pieces are totally musical, others are like a chanson performance. Sometimes there's just instrumental music and images. It's a bit like a little frenzy that passes by the people and ourselves. The program lasts two hours, but it seems much shorter to us.

So you have the concept of the program in your head, but above all you want to awaken the audience's imagination?
There's very little room for improvisation, because the musicians and I have to coordinate with each other. But deviations are possible, because it's not a Bob Wilson play where you move exactly. Every theater and every venue is different. In contrast to theater or music productions, we have never rehearsed. Everything grew naturally over the years. There are always a few adjustments, things are changed and sometimes mishaps happen. The freest moment is when I talk to the audience and then there's a part that's like a comedy act - I can do whatever I want there.

Is it important to you that you convey an anarchic element?
That's the point, I'm always interested in that element. I want something from the piece to be transferred to the people or to stir up something that is buried inside them. Everyone thinks they have an idea of the circus. This idea goes back to earliest childhood and you always have the image of wanting to run away with the circus. When people drift around in this piece and get a few anarchic seeds, I hope they put one in their pocket and plant it at home. If that happens, then I've already won.

Are you stoking a bit of wanderlust with the program?
That's also a theme that comes up in the play. I always long to see the big, wide world, but when the big, wide world comes to us, the doors quickly close. The circus is one of those things that travels around, but stays in its world and its inner circle. It is a universe all of its own. If you want to negotiate with the world, you have to open up, otherwise there will be trouble - we're seeing that almost everywhere at the moment.

How does the title "Le Grand Ordinaire" sum up your program?
That was a lot of fun. I thought to myself, if I'm going to create a circus for a program, I'm going to create one that doesn't really exist. It's always about "higher, faster, further" and people like to show off. In this world, people often try to show off, but then so much goes wrong. But I like these contradictions. From my past, I know how funny and brutal the circus can be - despite all the sentimentality towards it. About the title: I was just in France, a bottle of red wine came to the table and it was called "Le Grand Ordinaire" - meaning "The Great Ordinary". Translated into German, "Ordinaire" still has a dirty aftertaste and I like that very much.

You lived in Berlin for a long time, but have now been living in France for some time.
In my old age, I've now moved into a shared flat in Berlin to get to Kreuzberg. I only have a room in Berlin, but a house in France. But I put my instruments all over the apartment in Berlin and build my little nests there. (laughs) It was always my dream to move to France. I love the language and like the people. They are sometimes more buttoned-up than the Germans, but on the other hand they are also as open as the Spanish. Completely detached and addicted to pleasure. I have fulfilled my dream of owning a house in France, and I also live by the sea. I always wanted Berlin to be by the sea, but they didn't listen to me. (laughs)

In "Le Grand Ordinaire" you sing your chansons in three languages. So the expansiveness and multiculturalism is already deeply embedded there too.
I've always sung in all kinds of languages. At first it was mostly German, but then it became less so. I also used to have a Finnish program and sang in Japanese - I learned this language phonetically. In the circus, you speak all languages at the same time. That's why there's such a big mix from all areas. In real circus families, everyone speaks with an accent. You can be born in Germany and then be called Fredo or Toni in the circus. You can't tell which accent is being used.

Is this program deeply rooted in your roots as a circus child? Is it very personal and nostalgic?
I know so many anecdotes from my mother, who was a real circus child. My grandparents and my uncle also come from there and I have personally experienced many stories. Of course, you don't see that directly in the program, but for me there's a lot in it. I also have a collecting addiction, which is why I make concept albums. Like a little autist, I collect everything together and then shape it to fit. Two basic themes of the program are transience and longing. For me, it is an important drive to tease longing out of a program. It is a driving force in life. There is sadness in the program, which corresponds to my nature, and at the same time there is also great strength in it.

Does a musical program give you more freedom than other art forms such as theater or film, where you have to follow much more stringent instructions or preconceptions?
Absolutely. It's my playground and not someone else's. I have no guidelines at all and everything is up to me. That doesn't have to be good per se, but music opens everyone up and unites us. Only in Iran is it forbidden for us to sing. With music, the fear goes away and the worries evaporate - everything starts to flow. In this case I create images, in other programs I talked and narrated more and jumped around associatively. I just hope that it's all fun and that the anarchic element permeates.

Your whole family is basically about breaking free, moving around and being "nomadic". All the things that the circus combines.
It has something to do with never arriving. At certain moments in life, everyone feels the same in this respect. You float around relatively rootless. What happens when you arrive? I think you're dead then.

Rootlessness also requires a certain amount of courage. Especially in acting, many actresses are happy when they have a certain amount of security. You gave up your role as a "Tatort" detective about two years ago.
That was my only engagement that was ongoing and secure. (laughs) I can totally understand that you have a certain longing for security, but that wouldn't work for me. Both my gift and my problem are that I have so many images in my head. You could put something in front of me and I would turn it into a chanson or a stage performance. I'll never have a job that starts at 9am and finishes at 5pm, where I can go to a bar or turn on the TV at home and totally switch off. The mind is always working. A role like the "Bergdoktor" would then become too much of a 9-to-5 job for me. That's just not my thing.

I already struggled with it on "Tatort", even though it was insanely exciting. It's a good long-term format that I wanted to try, but at some point I'd had enough. I asked myself similar questions to people in long-term relationships: Is it worth moving on with this person now, or do I leave it and start all over again? I tend to be someone who always wants to find myself anew. I once lasted longer with "Tatort". Otherwise, I have to be passionate about things - even if they're not my own ideas. I'm currently preparing a new cover program - all the lights go off immediately.

Do you sometimes need security when you're on fire for a project or something, or can you live without it?
Germany doesn't have as good a support system as France. So I have to work all the time to be able to allow myself these thoughts. Of course, I wish it was quieter and I could finish writing something in peace. But thanks to "Crime Scene", I now have a house in France and can sit there in peace and quiet without having to leave all the time.

As someone as restless as you, is it even possible to sit down and let life have its effect on you?
I'm getting better and better at it. (laughs) It took me a while to discipline myself. With a house, you're constantly doing something, but I've now found a way to sit down to write something or make music without jumping up and doing something else. The house should be a creative place, not just for me, but also for other people who like to work with me.

With all the different forms of art and culture that you are involved in, is there one in which you feel particularly authentically at home?
I'm always restless until I've finished something. It's terrible when you constantly have images in your head. I have ADHD, I'm a slob and I'm not good at coordinating things at all. I'm very impatient with myself and have to learn French texts for the upcoming program, for example, which overtax my language skills. It's a big challenge and requires a lot of hard work. But once I've managed it and done it, I'm at home with it.

I'm just not a good "authority thing", but on stage I always have the feeling that nobody can take me away from there. Even if someone else is directing, I stand on top and do the monologue as I see fit. Of course I stick to the rough script, but nobody pulls me down if I do it differently. For me, the stage is a "safe space", a place of absolute security. That's actually completely absurd, but it's true. And together with the audience, a very special area of energy is created.

Live at Theater Akzent
Meret Becker and her band The Tiny Teeth will be performing at Vienna's Theater Akzent on May 15. They will be performing a collage of musical images and surreal songs called "Le Grand Ordinaire". Tickets for this very special event between chanson, circus and drama are still available at www.theaterakzent.at.

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