1992. I'm a playwright! The fruits of my labours appear at the Mandela Theatre, London. The great man isn't there himself but he doesn't know what he's missing.
It's the last night. The Director is laughing like a drain, desperately trying to get the audience on our side. I'm sitting in the gods, cringing at the hackneyed lines. We all go to the pub afterwards. We have a plot, to leave the Director and his Play Factory. We're going to branch out by ourselves. My play has been a triumph and it's no thanks to the Director who has recently behaved like a spoilt child. We tell him our decision. The Director makes a dramatic exit. As he is about to leave the pub, he collapses on a table, drinks flying everywhere. He has put his all into my play and how do we treat him? With no respect. He made us what we are. He made me what I am...
If only I hadn't started that sketch. Just a sketch with two brothers and a girlfriend. And it all got blown out of proportion. And a play was developed by The Play Factory: The Director and his class of '91. And the play moved on, minute by minute, in the same stifling room. The words were all mine but I didn't know what the play was about, only that the TRUTH was important. And I didn't know what the TRUTH was. I only wanted to write a funny sketch. And the play was written and rewritten and rewritten until I'd used a tree's worth of paper. And we all laughed at the same lines over and over again.
And everbody clubbed together. They gave up their spare time to put on MY play. Backstagers, set designers, actors, REAL actors, and the Director. They all gave up their time. And was I grateful? No, I was confused. I didn't know what the TRUTH was.
"Geoff, love, you've got to find the truth."
I apologise to you all, especially to you, Mr Mandela, for letting you down.
Heimat 1992. "The Russians" are tens of thousands of people of German descent who are leaving the former Soviet Union in search of a homeland. Many of them arrive in the Hunsruck to move into flats which have been vacated by American military personnel. And not a few of the Russians are accompanied by Ernst. Yes, drat!...Ernst is back.
Ernst wasn't shot down by the Soviets. Booo! But he was captured and imprisoned. Hurray! But after two years, the USSR is no more and Ernst is free. Booooo!
And here he is, bringing men and women of good German stock back to their homeland, their Heimat. Ok, they were born in Kazakhstan, can't speak German, but they've got that German blood. And German blood is important to Ernst.
Ernst's first mission when he gets back is to track down Hairy. He finds him working with a nutty land-art artist, suspending cars and horses over a river. He can't convince old Hairy to continue where they left off, ripping off the East for real art, proper paintings. So Hairy stays with his hippy friends and Ernst goes back to his home alone with his tail between his legs.
The Russians are here. And don't you know there'll be tragic repurcussions.
For Anton employs a young Russian woman as domestic help. And Anton's 42 year old son, Hartmut, falls in love with her just as his 42 year old wife becomes pregnant. What a man. He even pays for the young woman's husband to have an operation to cure his dodgy shin. So magnanimous.
In the meantime, Hartmut has started a company in direct competition to his father's, with a little help from the increasingly hermit-like Ernst. A family at war, eh? Top hole!
So, fast forward to 1993. Hartmut's baby is born, is baptised Matthias Paul Anton after his great great grandfather, great grandfather, and grandfather (nice man, not so nice man, and not nice man) who we have seen through three series of Heimat. And Anton, by now in very poor health, signs a document in front of the whole family to bequeath all his worldly goods to the new baby when he reaches the age of eighteen, the baby being his only male grandchild 'n' all. A big "fuck you" to the rest of his family, except for the baby's mother who I reckon is shagging Anton anyway, as we see her giving him a foot massage for his fucking heart!
Clarissa develops tinnitus and buys some ginkgo biloba to cure it. She and Hermann perform a song together, the lyrics of which are the words on the information leaflet that comes with the pills.
NO. That's not tragedy. That's farce. I should know.
The young Russian woman leaves her husband and his sexist Russian family for Hartmut. They drive off into the night in his sports car, brrrrrrmmmm, happily in love. From another direction, heading towards Hermann's home, comes Hermann's only daughter, Lulu. She is in a taxi with her boyfriend and another male friend.
Of course, the two cars are on collision course. The taxi driver swerves to avoid the sports car, hits a tree head on, and Lulu's boyfriend is brown bread.
And it's all her cousin Hartmut's fault!
What will Hermann say?
Will he ever grin again?
Bet you can't wait.
Some book reviews
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