Karl’s kühne Gassenschau is part of the first generation of independent theatre groups in Switzerland. Established in 1984 by six people who had met at the Ilg mime school in Zurich, it still has at its heart four of the founders: Paul Weilenmann, Brigitt Maag, Markus Heller and Ernesto Graf. Initially they presented street variety spiced with slapstick, consisting of circus acts, musical interludes and virtuoso stunts. Increasingly elaborate productions followed, staged at the same venue for a number of seasons. In 1998 the group won a Prix Walo for the first time with their programme “Stau”; their most recent success came in 2013 with “FABRIKK”. In 2011 they were awarded the Schweizer Kleinkunstpreis by the Swiss association of artists, theatres and organisers.
Their love of tinkering and experimentation comes through in their works: action theatre centred around a ‘building site’ in “Baustelle”, landscape theatre in “S.T.E.I.N.B.R.U.C.H”, which was performed in French-speaking Switzerland as “r.u.p.t.u.r.e” in the disused St-Triphon quarry, the water spectacle “AKUA”, the retirement home of the future “SILO 8” and “FABRIKK”, the French version of which is also being performed at St-Triphon, Vaud, in 2015. KKG’s performances are not simply grand spectacles. Charm, comedy and risk play central roles in each creation, but it’s not just about having fun and jangling nerves: audiences are also encouraged to reflect. The themes that come under comedic scrutiny are invariably highly topical. As a result Karl’s bold players reach out to a wide audience: “SILO 8” alone has been seen by 580,000 people in Switzerland.
“In 1984 it was a randomly thrown-together programme of tightrope walking, juggling, unicycle riding and acrobatics, from magic to song – the group performed anything and everything that’s fun. The stage was a section of asphalt. It was true street theatre. And today? The initial show was followed by 21 more, truly grand productions with over 2,900 performances in front of well over a million spectators, all with a driving force, an unbounded desire to break down barriers and combine entertainment with innovation. As an independent theatre group they are free and bold. Because freedom requires a goodly portion of courage and boldness.”