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Abbey town sets stage for controversy

Einsiedeln

(Keystone)

The square outside the abbey in the small town of Einsiedeln will this summer be the setting for grand theatre - "The Great Theatre of the World". It will be the 14th production of the play there since 1924, and almost certainly the most controversial.

Everything about the play is on a grand scale. Written in 1649 by the last prominent figure of the golden age of Spanish literature, Pedro Calderon de la Barca, it tackles major aspects of religious morality and has a cast of over 200.

By today's standards the original text might be considered somewhat conservative, but the production which has its première on Friday evening is a very up-to-date version - too modern in the minds of some local traditionalists.

It was written by the local author, Thomas Hürlimann, whose books are widely-read in German-speaking countries.

Hürlimann alternates the action from Calderon's time to that of the present day, and although he has retained the play's original structure and the names of the key figures, his version lacks what may be described as the Catholic certainty of Calderon's work.

"He wants people to think about it," says spokeswoman Edith Moosbrugger. "He doesn't want to give answers to all the questions and leaves some of them in the air."

"The Great Theatre of the World" is such a big undertaking it has only been staged in Einsiedeln every four or five years since 1924. This production, directed by the renowned German director, Volker Hesse, has a cast of over 200 people, all of them from the town and its surrounding region.

Weather permitting, there will be 36 performances between now and September 9.

by Richard Dawson


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