Director Robert Gerloff, born in 1982, is known for his energetic and imaginative productions. He has worked at the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus, Oldenburg, Basel, Volkstheater Wien, Theater Neumarkt in Zurich and Schauspiel Frankfurt. After participating in the Bochum Rumpel Pumpel Theatre in the 2017/2018 season, he is now directing a full-length play at the Schauspielhaus for the first time.

[We reach him on the phone between his rehearsals.]

Robert, you first studied political science, but then switched to theatre studies. I know that Jürgen Gosch's Macbeth production was an initial trigger for you. But how did you end up in theatre?

Robert Gerloff: After my studies, I did an internship with the director Rafael Sanchez in Düsseldorf. At the production's Bergfest - the half-time celebration - there was cheese fondue, and after the party the actual assistant director fell into the Rhine, got sick and caught pneumonia. I moved up to assistant without further ado and was asked after the production if I wouldn't like to take a permanent job. So basically I stayed with the theatre through a cheese fondue. I went to the Neumarkt Theatre in Zurich years later, which Rafael Sanchez was running with Barbara Weber at the time. There were about 50 employees, eight actors and actresses, a proper theatre family. Everything was everybody's business. That had a great impact on me and has been my ambition ever since, also for large theatres: everyone who works there should stand for the theatre and be involved, also emotionally involved, in success and failure, from the doorman to the locksmith to the cleaner.

Your productions are very different in their aesthetics, but there is a common thread running through them: They are all comically grounded. You always work with errors, something always shifts, in a light-footed, poetic way, it never runs smoothly. I recognise in your work a distrust of the supposed unbreakability of the world.

You're right, everything I touch turns out funny. Not silly, that's a big difference, but funny. I grew up in the Rhineland, my mother is a Rhenish cheerful person. Basically, we always learned to treat everything with humour at home, without any taboos: death, illness, money worries, psychoses. We are allowed to laugh about everything, even if it makes us cry. That doesn't reduce the problems, but it helps to change the perspective. And that's essentially what's funny for me: this slight shift in perspective, from which the unexpected emerges. A character does something on stage that is a bit "off", surprising, something that really can't be done, which is audacious, unthinkable. The constant surprise is a big engine of the humour apparatus I work with. I draw from things in everyday life, which is the funniest and most unplanned anyway, from things I observe in myself or the people around me, which I then put on stage slightly shifted. I place a character in a horizon of expectations that he or she doesn't fulfil, but subverts and then fulfils again, only differently, imaginatively, surprisingly. The death of all comedy and of theatre in general: the expectable. Nothing is worse than when the curtain rises, you hear the first line and know exactly what the last line will be. One encounter that influenced me a lot was with the Italian director Pippo Delbono in Munich. I remember him saying at the concept rehearsal: "Oh, you Germans always ask: why why why why.  I tell you why: we do it, because it is beautiful." I think that's what it's all about in the end: beauty. That is the goal.

You've been directing for more than ten years now - have you ever thought about quitting?

Johan Simons told me the other day that as a director you only have about 10,000 ideas in a lifetime, and I got a little scared, because I've already used up about 8,000. Quentin Tarantino can only make ten films, and I only have 10,000 ideas. So maybe they'll last another ten years if I calculate well. And then comes my secret plan B: a regular life. I'm taking over a beautifully situated, open-air miniature golf course in Hamburg that's open all year round and is a meeting place for people to exchange ideas. It's not a hipster course, but something quite normal, there's okay coffee, okay white wine and bockwurst, you can talk about what you're doing or what's on your mind, and I give tips on how to play course 17.

[Sudden bird cawing.]

Oh, God. Oh, God. Now I'm being attacked by crows. Oh, God.


It's like Hitchcock. I really am being attacked by crows. Maybe I was sitting on their bench.

[You can hear footsteps speeding up and panicked breathing.]

Robert? Hello? You think that's funny?

[A church bell rings in the distance. Then the line goes dead.]

[On the other end of the line was Angela Obst.]

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  • Sherlock Holmes jagt Dr. Watson (AT)
  • nach den Erzählungen von Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Director: Robert Gerloff
  • Premiere: 02.12.2022