Sputtering, blazes: Where there is much spirit, there is much fire

It smells of sulphur. An old man talks to himself about problems of logic, he keeps himself busy in a workroom, he converts a man's old bicycle in a bright fire wheel. He hunts mini rockets sputtering in the Malersaal of the Schauspielhaus, some small running fires hurtle past the stage and the office. Over his head, a stuffed bird is swinging in an illuminated aquarium. The man is Max Black, a Russian mathematician who inspired a German composer: Heiner Goebbels. That is the name the musician and producer gave to his collage of text and music, with quotes of Valéry (Concerto for brain alone), Lichtenberg, Wittgenstein - and of course Max Black. Thursday was the first performance for the guest play of Theater Vidy-Lausanne E.T.E.
It is an achievement for the actor André Wilms to play the intellectual will-o'-the-wisp or rather to organize it: because the actor must test at the same time his pyrotechnic qualities. The steaming, thunderous and spitting fire machines that he puts in movement impress at least as much as the absurd musical machines that he must use. For example the harp of bicycle rays, the cello of steel rope or the piano that a dentist drill makes vibrate in amazingly harmonious tones by going here and there on its keys. Wilms plays his Max Black like a Faustian pyromaniac with childish happiness, he places him between genius, madness and absent-minded professor. "A physical attempt that explodes is always more valid than a silent try, one can therefore pray the sky that, if it's going to let someone make a discovery, it could be something that explodes": Goebbels lets meticulously his heroes mention Lichtenberg. The arts smuggler took the great aphorism man at his word. He makes mind lightning apparent and olfactory. By that way, poetic moments are coming to life, that reconcile the intellectuality with a playful joy and a spontaneous sensuality. Who would therefore have thought that one could not only philosophise in a dull way on Wittgenstein, but also literally light a firework there? Goebbels pulls down the walls between fine arts, new music and theatre: Heavens! Good grief!

Die Welt (DE), 21 October 2000