After growing up in Kaiserslautern in the Rhineland-Palatinate, Jan-Christoph Gockel studied theatre and film in Frankfurt am Main, then took classes in theatre direction at the Ernst-Busch Academy in Berlin, which has close links to the Berliner Ensemble.
A tie-in between the Festival de Liège and the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz allowed Jan-Christoph Gockel to make his name in Belgium with his final year project. He soon focused his aesthetic concerns on combining documentary fact with music and puppets.
Given these interests, his meeting with Michael Pietsch was decisive: a puppet maker and puppeteer, Pietsch has collaborated closely with Gockel on about ten productions, almost all of which contain elements of fairy tales, the fantastic and the Unheimlich (the uncanny or weird) and whose philosophical, even metaphysical, dimensions are always conveyed by the physical assembly, seen on stage, of various materials and objects.
Some of his typical titles include Grimm. A German Fairytale, inspired by the life and work of the Brothers Grimm, a highly personal version of Metropolis, Merlin or the Waste Land by Tankred Dorst, Schinderhannes (a kind of Rhenish Robin Hood), The Rats by Gerhart Hauptmann, then Macbeth and Pinocchio.
Since 2014, Jan-Christoph Gockel has been resident director at the Staatstheater Mainz where he has stepped up his collaboration with Michael Pietsch, and also with Julia Kurzweg, their scenographer. From his earliest childhood, Michael Pietsch has been making puppets and exploring the nebulous boundary between life and death, the animate and inanimate. In Macbeth, which is dominated by the idea of death, he commandeered stuffed animals which he brought back to life. For Grimm, he came up with the idea of a four-metre-tall giant, which needed four or five puppeteers to animate it.
In the case of Frankenstein, since it might be a little too morbid to visit the cemetery to collect pieces of flesh and fragments of skeleton, Michael Pietsch and Jan Christoph Gockel preferred to use objects with a history, inherited or recycled objects which had shared a large part of their owners’ life. The monster, assembled live on a theatre stage transformed into a laboratory, will be the vehicle of this vast memory store collected from those involved in the production, the theatre staff, and even from those spectators who agree to take part in this performative experience.
And for this first production brought to Brussels by the Théâtre National, the two collaborators have decided to name their artistic venture, peachesandrooster—a sort of anagram or portmanteau word centred around the root of the word “android” and yoking their two names together in a strange and monstrous coupling.
→ Frankenstein - 07 > 17.03.18