Reconstructing the East German Extravaganza
: Acquisition and appropriation of revue practice at the Friedrichstadt-Palast since 1945

  • Andy MacHals

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This dissertation interprets formerly East German Marxist concepts of cultural acquisition and appropriation in terms of performance studies and applies it to an analysis of the Friedrichstadt-Palast’s revue practices since 1945. The methodology of this dissertation revisits archival material of the revue’s past and, for the first time, relates the theatre’s revue practice from before to the practices after German reunification in 1990 by construing the revue as the epitome of performance reconstruction. This dissertation thus challenges dominant notions of reappraising the East German past by relating the Friedrichstadt-Palast’s present to its past performance practices.
Chapter 1 considers conscious reconstructions of dramaturgical patterns since 1945 and introduces the concept of ‘prospective consciousness’ as an ideological form. Chapter 2 explores how unconscious ways of reconstructing and appropriating bodily practices have formed the moving socialist revue body in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). In light of this analysis, the Friedrichstadt-Palast’s development from a variety to a revue theatre in the 1970s is re-evaluated as a development based in both economics and what I call ‘socialist virtuosity’. Chapter 3 considers the building of the New Friedrichstadt- Palast in 1984 as an extension of Marxist cultural techniques into aspects of stage technology. Although it is commonly considered as the last functional building built in the GDR, I discuss it as a manifestation of a specifically East German ‘techno-futurism’. Chapter 4 considers the Palast’s contemporary practice and identifies how principles, which used to be based in ideological considerations of culture, have turned into paradigms, that is, foundational designs that express the ways in which the Palast’s contemporary global aspirations take form. Through considering the GDR revue, I was able to draw out the various temporalities that still shape the contemporary revue and that, at the same time, trouble concepts of Germany’s coming-to-terms with its past.
Date of Award23 Jan 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorKate Elswit (Supervisor) & Catherine E Hindson (Supervisor)

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