After the G20 riots in Hamburg, now the musical: 'Welcome to Hell'

BERLIN, David Schwarz (dpa)- The massive street riots in Hamburg during the G20 summit last summer made the news worldwide. Now a musical produced in Berlin is looking at those events from different vantage points. It's entitled "Welcome To Hell," the slogan used by the anti-G20 protesters.
The scenes were of burning cars in Hamburg's leftist Schanzen district, rioters with their faces covered by black scarves, police embattled and seemingly overwhelmed, and in between them, peaceful demonstrators and local residents.

In the wake of the violence and at times anarchy on the streets during the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Germany's northern port city in July, there was much discussion about the sense - or lack of sense - of holding such international gatherings in large cities.
Now, a new musical opening on Thursday in the Neukoelln Opera House in Berlin entitled "Welcome to Hell" will be taking a look at the events from different perspectives and points of view.
Director and author Peter Lund says the work should be seen in the larger societal context.
"The bottom line is the realization that borders are now going up again," said the 52-year-old, pointing to the "America-First" slogan of US President Donald Trump, and lately moves afoot in the European Union (EU) to seal itself off from refugees.
The G20 summit was the kind of backdrop to which the major conflicts of the world played out, he said.
The work is a co-production of the opera house and the musicals course of the University of Arts (UdK) in Berlin, where Lund is a professor.
He said the overwhelming feeling that he along with his students had at the start of the project was that the "world is falling apart again."
The musical's characters were jointly created together with the student actors from eight different countries.
The title "Welcome to Hell" was from the identically-worded slogan of an anti-G20 protest demonstration on the eve of the gathering, when police and demonstrators clashed for the first time.
Lund believes that after decades of an easing of tensions, conflicts over the sharing of resources were clearly heating up again.
"This is mine. You can't have this. And if you come, I'll shoot you dead" is how he sums up the predominant credo in world politics and among many people.
"We don't want to give up anything. None of us do," Lund says. It was at the summit in Hamburg that the dispute over these developments escalated.
At the centre of the story line of the musical are a young, increasingly radicalized young anarchist and a traumatized policeman who feels abandoned by the politicians.
"Our guideline was that everyone was saying 'thank God nobody died,'" Lund said.
The musical plays with the question whether in the end a shot was fired or not.
But also brought into the story are the viewpoints of a supermarket cashier whose situation became increasingly precarious, a female reporter torn by the events, and a French official.
Lund, who won the German Musicals Prize in 2016, is seen as being among those in the vanguard of political musical theatre.
In "Welcome to Hell" the writer says he has drawn a grim picture of current world events. The music composed by Peter Michael von der Nahmer reflects this mood.
Viewers can expect a comical and grotesque show, Lund said. At the same time, a mirror is being held up to the audience in order to create an awareness that each and every person is contributing to the problems.
For now, there can be no sense of reconciliation: "It is not yet time to be able to say everything is not so bad."

Friday, March 16th 2018
David Schwarz

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