The novel of ideas is an outmoded form nowadays, and this play of ideas depends for its impact on the knowledge that it constituted one of the first salvos in the growing agitation that eventually brought down the East German state. Christoph Hein has denied that his Arthurian figures correspond to the old D.D.R. Politburo, though here they are sporting Party badges galore on their lapels, lamenting the good old days when the Round Table made no wrong decisions and created a fairer system.
But the people are no happier; the young (personified by Mordret) are racked by existential cynicism and want no part of the system, and even among the knights, doubt in the very existence of the Grail is swelling. It's a clever analogy, exploiting the late-Arthurian atmosphere of emergence from an age of myth into the real world; but there are only so many ways in which this disillusion and trepidation can be expressed. The play thoroughly engages the intellect, but the drama lies in the world beyond, in subsequent events which we know of externally, not in the work itself.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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