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The Maillon in Strasbourg. ©Private/Martin Elble
My wife and I have had a subscription booked with the Strasbourg City Theater Maillon through the Offenburg Art School for many years. The Maillon (the word translates as "connection" or in Denglish "link") has not resided at the "Wacken" for a few months now, but in a brand new modern building on the Boulevard de Dresde.
The Maillon offers culture-interested on both sides of the Rhine a versatile offer. Some people from Kehl and many more from Offenburg like to take advantage of the offer of the Offenburg Art School to be brought by the "culture bus" to the theater and back to Kehl and Offenburg at night after the events. When the Maillon offered a "Schuhplattler evening" in 2017, it was immediately clear to a shoe-interested person like me: you have to go there. Thought, booked!
Would there be an entertaining Schuhplattler evening? Would Strasbourg’s municipal theater perhaps Alsatian, French or even European "plattelt", unlike Upper Bavaria, Austria and South Tyrol for both locals and tourists? There Schuhplattler beat with their hands in three-quarter time on thighs, buttocks and shoe soles that it only so claps. Plattelning men usually appear in lederhosen and the women in dirndls. Such clothes would not fit to the progressive Strasbourg Maillon.
The performance started with a surprise – with the announcement of a young lady in French: "You don’t have to see today’s play to the end, you can leave the hall at any time. But if you go out, you will not be let in again."A strange mood.
Did they expect from the beginning that some of the visitors would not like the performance?? Wanted the theater with the announcement tension on to see and to hear build up? Did you even want to practice "democratic voting with the feet", or simply find out how the piece is received and measure whether people leave early and when, find out when the mood tips and you as a spectator say: So, now it’s enough for me. This can become interesting, I thought.
Then it started: Six Schuhplattler and a Schuhplattlerin from "Bella Italia", all casually, rather sporty scantily dressed, only one dancer / athlete in short leather pants, began to platteln, platteln tirelessly, reformed and plattelte and plattelte and plattelte. The only "music" in our ears: The clacking of the shoes plus thigh slapping noises.
At some point I thought, and probably other viewers too: Is something new finally coming?? The first ones left the hall, others followed so peu à peu. My wife and I waited quite a long time, expecting that there might be some surprise after all. Gradually I began to wonder: Are we perhaps involved in a scientific experiment?? Theater market researchers secretly measure how differently long people endure monotony until they take flight? Every now and then some visitors left the big hall. Even two dancers were heading for the exit. Probably they were flat from platteln.
Short coordination with the wife after one hour: Let’s go, or we still stay? Maybe something exciting will happen! We gave up the hope for surprises and joined the leavers. The majority of the spectators persevered. Outside the door we waited and discussed about the performance until all Offenburg and Kehl culture bus drivers had arrived. Some really held out until the end, until even the last plattler gave up platting after one and a half hours. "Interesting" some found the evening.
Younger people and also our growing grandchildren are rarely to be seen without a button in the ear. As is well known, these plugs are not used as sound insulation, but on the contrary, to be exposed to sound, often while watching movies on their smartphones. Particularly sporty types ride a bicycle hands-free while talking on the phone or watching a movie or listening to music – without a helmet, of course.
Back to the Maillon and the earplugs: Many, many years ago, when the Maillon still resided at the "Wacken", I regretted very much not to have taken earplugs with me. Oh, if I had "Ohropax" – ear peace – with me now, I thought, as a brass band played painfully loud, at a volume well over 80 decibels. According to ear doctors, such noise attacks on our sensitive ears cause permanent damage.
When I covered my ears for lack of earplugs, my neighbor, a personally unknown "concubine", had observed my efforts to seal myself with tempo handkerchief shreds. She took pity on me. The fairy godmother offered me two "earplugs". I gladly accepted them. Suddenly the music had a pleasant volume. It is alive, the French-German friendship – sometimes with, sometimes without earplugs and not only between theater visitors!