Nipplejesus at English Theatre Berlin is a one-man-show/monologue that’s been adapted from a Nick Hornby short story, starring Jesse Inman as Dave, a security guard who’s been charged with protecting a rather gloriously provocative piece of art from religious zealots armed with cartons of eggs and pots of paints, etc. It’s all about the beauty of art and the meaninglessness of art and the meaning of art and the ugliness of being offended and the way we all want to be offended a little bit.
I thought Dave’s character brilliantly captured something in that British working-class attitude to art, it’s a complicated relationship the British working-class have towards art, it is, there’s distrust, skepticism, fascination, a bit of awe and a kind of anger. I found myself wondering why the German working-class seem to only feel a kind of indifference to art? They hardly ever even complain about the opera being subsidised, it’s more of a middle-class thing to do that over here? Funny huh? I think it’s probably the Sozialstaat but then again I do tend to think that almost everything in Germany can be explained either by a) Holocaust guilt/Holocaust guilt-rejection or b) the Sozialstaat being so good. Anyway, Dave gets touched by the art in a way that isn’t actually sentimental, because of his job – he’s literally there to defend the artwork.
There was one cringe-worthy moment in the play, I thought, though, but it’s Nick Hornby’s fault for writing it, not ETB’s. It was when Dave sees the artist’s father and feels this like Sehnsucht and longing for him and his grey ponytail, and compares him unfavourably to his own father, who drinks a bit. I thought that moment was a bit unbelievable and could only have been written by a middle-class person. I don’t really think working-class people are jealous of middle-class people in this specific way. We want their houses and their cars and their ponies, sure. But we don’t actually want to swap dad with them. We don’t actually want to swap our lives for theirs. I might be wrong, but I thought that bit was unconvincing.
In general though, it’s a great play – Jesse does a fantastic job – he’s so gloriously angry at times – and it’s a riveting play, entertaining, fast-paced, in fact it’s over so quickly that you’re almost disappointed it’s finished.