Hannoversches elementary school theater Nimmerland focuses on death

lime. Freya (Nadja Merian) bursts out of a magic cube made of foam blocks. She tells the children at the Kastanienhof elementary school in Limmer about her best friend Finn’s grandmother (Nina Rehm), who founded the first women’s soccer team. She stretches on the cubes, jumps onto the highest cube and sings with sweeping gestures: “Even if everything was against it, she became a soccer star.” Then Finn is late for soccer practice – and with an oversized soccer ball under her arm, Freya calls him on. Suddenly Finn is standing on the professionally improvised stage in the gym and says with a sad expression: “I lost my grandmother Lotte.” Freya is overwhelmed by this news and in her excited voice just asks him if he doesn’t want to play soccer. That doesn’t go down well with Finn: “Freya, you really don’t understand anything.”

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After the performance, Mirijam Dzaack says that the subject of dying is always accompanied by the question of how consolation can be given. She runs the Nimmerland Theaterproduktion GmbH in Limmer and wrote the play “Wo ist Oma Lotte?”, which premiered at the nearby Kastanienhof elementary school. She explains that even before Corona, the idea of ​​realizing a play on the subject of dying existed. “The topic became even more present through Corona,” she says. Death is even further away for children than for adults, but they are more fearless of death.

“Freya, you really don’t understand anything”: The trainer is overwhelmed with the situation.

© Source: Jonathan Josten

Freeing death from the taboo zone

Dzaack’s goal was to counteract the taboo on death in elementary school. The piece that came out shines mainly because of Dzaack’s good collaboration with the composer Ruben Dietze, which resulted in very witty songs with lyrics that capture the feelings of the protagonists well and are sung with verve by the actors without getting too boisterous to slip off childlike accentuations.

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However: Why is there a construction worker on the stage in the second scene, piling up the foam cubes as if they were heavy stones? Is that a twisted metaphor for death, or is it included in the play because kids love construction workers? Meanwhile, Freya calls acquaintances indiscriminately and unsuccessfully to find Grandma Lotte again. The piece finds its thread again when an elderly lady (also Nina Rehm) appears as death personified (Dzaack: “It should by no means be a man with a black hood.”) Freya sings in a song that it is about life as with the chestnuts: “It’s still small and easy to overlook, soon something big will emerge from it.” But in the end the chestnut tree has to make way for new trees. But Grandma Lotte remains a part of Finn like the chestnut in the tree.

Grandma died on Father’s Day

Then, suddenly and unplanned, a boy’s voice comes from the audience and he says that his grandmother died on Father’s Day. Not only the chestnut metaphor for the name of the elementary school, but also the light setting and life-affirming portrayal picks up the children in their living environment.

The Neverland Theater was founded in 2006 by Dzaack’s father Thomas Lange. His daughter took over the largest touring theater for German elementary schools four years ago. Every year the theater puts on 400 to 600 performances with 20 actors. “There are just so many elementary schools,” explains Dzaack with a smile. The plays are accompanied by teaching materials for the teachers. The theater currently has six plays in its programme.

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The theater currently has six plays in its programme: Here is a scene from the Little Prince’s “Neverland” performance in the Hans Böckler elementary school.

© Source: Mario Moers

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Maybe they just had to believe in Neverland Theater – at least they flew over the pandemic well. “We produced films instead of theatre. That required more staff, but the films were well received by elementary schools,” says Dzaack. The theater is still online: the songs from “Wo ist Oma Lotte?” can be listened to on the streaming platforms Spotify and YouTube.

By Jonathan Josten

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