Der goldene Drache; The Golden Dragon

[This page by Michael Wood]

Der goldene Drache; The Golden Dragon

Written around 2009, Der goldene Drache; The Golden Dragon received its world première at the Wiener Akademietheater (Vienna, Austria) in September 2009, directed by Roland Schimmelpfennig himself. This production won Schimmelpfennig the 2010 Mülheimer Dramatikerpreis, and featured in the 2010 Berliner Theatertreffen festival; it is still in the repertoire of the Wiener Akademietheater. The initial success of Der goldene Drache; The Golden Dragon in Austria and Germany has not lost its momentum, as it continues to surface in new productions both within the German-speaking world and beyond. More recently, it received its English-language première by ATC at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston, London, directed by Ramin Gray in September 2011, and has since been performed in the Studio Theatre, Washington DC, directed by Serge Seiden.

The play consists of a single act, set in a Chinese-Thai-Vietnamese restaurant and takeaway. The five, albeit illegal immigrant, employees of the restaurant play out a dense narrative, in which they swap roles amongst themselves and patrons of the restaurant, including two air hostesses. The performers both narrate the action, as well as delivering lines and stage directions, as the play frequently switches between different characters and places, including the restaurant, an attached block of flats, and a corner shop. The main thrust of the plot is the story of the employees, in particular one of them, a boy who has a tooth ache, but cannot visit the dentist for fear of being recognised as an illegal immigrant and deported back to the Far East. Alongside this is the story of a depressed man, a regular of the restaurant, who has been left by his partner, and another tale of a grasshopper who comes from the East to find a new future, but is sexually exploited by a man who takes her in. The play ends on a magical-realist note, as the staff of the Golden Dragon remove the boy’s tooth, and his family are seen within it, and communicate with them. He dies of blood loss, and after his body is dumped in a river, it gradually decomposes and floats through the seas, until his skeleton returns to his home land. The action of the play is both propelled by and interrupted by the recitation of names and contents of dishes available at the Chinese-Thai-Vietnamese restaurant. This is a restaurant, which, in its all-compassing menu, figures as a microcosm of the incommensurably large variety of different peoples and ethnicities both found in the Far East, and bringing their local knowledge to the West; nonetheless, this plethora of different cultures is simplified into an homogeneous mass, which can be served up under one roof. The sub-plots of Der goldene Drache; The Golden Dragon merge together to form a complex narrative, which questions the means, ends, and results of globalisation and the commodification of other cultures and people.

Web Links

Trailer for a production of Der goldene Drache at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg, in 2011, directed by Klaus Schumacher

Part one of a discussion between Roland Schimmelpfennig and Graham Whybrow after the English-language première of The Golden Dragon by ATC, directed by Ramin Gray, at the Arcola Theatre, Dalston, London, September 2011

Part two of the above discussion

Part three of the above discussion

Part four of the above discussion

Roland Schimmelpfennig discusses the American première of The Golden Dragon with in Washington DC, November 2011

Review of the above production