Cheryl Glickman is a single woman in her early 40s. Although successful in her job at a women’s self-defence company, she has self-esteem issues and suffers from a perpetual lump in her throat. Her obsession with her 60-year old colleague Phillip doesn’t help. Philip is more than willing to point her to a chromatherapist for her condition but this isn’t quite what Cheryl is hoping for. Instead of reciprocating Cheryl’s feeings, Philip is lusting after a 16-year old girl and asks Cheryl  for advice on his sexual advances.

Courtesy of David Baltzer.

Courtesy of David Baltzer.

Remaining mostly passive, Cheryl is proactive only in her fantasy life, which revolves around a magical child named Kubelko Bondy. When Clee, the 20-year old daughter of Cheryl’s boss, moves in with Cheryl, she introduces violence and pleasure to Cheryl’s ordered world.

Miranda July‘s comic novel is a gift for the stage, which is why a number of theatres tried to obtain the rights from the reluctant July. Miranda July is an acclaimed American filmmaker, writer and performance artist who prefers having control over her own work. Eventually, the author agreed to having “The First Bad Man” adapted for the stage by the Kammerspiele. Resident director Christopher Rüping directs actors Maja Beckmann and Anna Drexler, singer Brandy Butler and the young video artist Rebecca Meining in the world premiere of July’s first novel, which, according to the Guardian, reflects the voice of modern urbanites, their quirks and neuroses.

Maja Beckmann and Anna Drexler are working out on the sloped stage as the audience is pouring in. As the performance begins, the audience is asked how many of them know Miranda July. Most are rather ignorant of the author or her novel. Beckmann and Drexler then proceed to tell the story, playing all the characters between the two of them with Drexler taking care of all the male parts. The performance is sometimes interrupted by requests to Brandy Butler for some music, and at some point the actors read stage directions out loud. There is also some mild audience participation. Yet the performance focuses on telling the story of Cheryl and Clee’s relationship.

Once Clee enters Cheryl’s apartment, she immediately demands cable TV and a microwave oven. When Cheryl politely asks her in return to wear slippers inside, Clee throws them at her. Soon Cheryl finds herself as helpless dealing with Clee as she is deluded about her beloved Philip. Increasingly stressed by Clee’s behaviour and Philip’s constant texting about his nubile girlfriend Kirsten, Cheryl realises that she is tired of being a psychological punching bag. Using the microwave signal as a gong for their wrestling match, Cheryl and Clee fight it out, thereby ending Cheryl’s victimisation.When Clee is giving birth, Cheryl stands by her, finally meeting her dream child Kubelko Bondy who is really called Jack.  In the end the two women rise up to Brandy Butler’s “Rocket Girls” as an astronaut is waving to them from the stage.

Christopher Rüping’s production succeeds in bringing the fun and irony of the novel, as well as its darkness, to the stage, benefitting from the outstanding actors Maja Beckmann and Anna Drexler, the charismatic musician Brandy Butler and the intriguing work of video artist Rebecca Meining.

A very entertaining evening that makes you leave the auditorium light-hearted and upbeat. 4/5

Review written by Carolin Kopplin

MIRANDA JULYS DER ERSTE FIESE TYP will return on 9th and 28th June 2018. For more info, click here

The production is in German with English surtitles.  

Written by Theatrefullstop