“You need men with imagination in big politics as well. Not too many, heaven forbid, but you need a few.”
The foehn can blow as much as it wants, the blind father wants to welcome his son Heinrich with garlands, lampions and banners. For he supposedly returns from a successful mission on the day of the German capitulation, 8 May 1945. He led the Berlin consulate in “great, dire times” and skilfully managed to keep Switzerland from the war. But the informal welcome home celebration in Thomas Hürlimann’s Der Gesandte (first performed at the Schauspielhaus Zürich in 1991) takes the worst possible turn of events: the Federal Council drops Heinrich Zwygart. For them, only the “resistance without compromises by the general” saved Switzerland, not the diplomatic tightrope walk between adaptation and neutrality concerning the Third Reich. Consequently, Zwygart is isolated as a traitor and subjected to general oblivion. His trace is lost in the snow which is falling heavier and heavier, within piano tunes by Richard Wagner.
Hürlimann’s play, performed for the first time in the 700th year of the Swiss confederation, provocatively focuses on a time of change, in which politically savvy opportunists change their views as fast as they define their understanding of the part Switzerland played in World War II. This maelstrom of collective lifelong lies swallows those who, like Zwygart, keep insisting on their historical importance, like Hans Frölicher, the controversial, sophisticated Swiss ambassador in Berlin from 1938 to 1945, on which the character of Zwygart is based.
Stück in 7 Bildern
1 D, 3 H, Verwandlungsdek
UA: 14.05.1991 · Schauspielhaus Zürich · Directed by: Achim Benning
Translated into: English