Magda Toffler. Versuch über das Schweigen

Boris Nikitin

2023/24 SCHICHTEN Performance
Photo: Donata Ettlin

«It is very quiet in the theatre…There is no “good evening” and “goodbye”, but only a sudden coming and going. And in between, the pages of life are spread out, read out, tasted, thought through.»  (Nachtkritik)

«The text is just twenty pages long. And yet it contains an entire century.» (Nürnberger Nachrichten)

October 1943: a legal system is completely overturned. Heinrich Himmler gathers all the Gauleiters of the German Reich in the Polish city of Poznań and announces the leadership’s decision to completely exterminate the Jewish population of Europe. Before Himmler does this, however, something strange happens. He has two phonographs set up in front of everyone so that the speech can be recorded on two guard records. But contrary to what most people assume, the SS are not interested in recording Himmler’s words, but rather the silence in the hall.

 With “Magda Toffler”, Boris Nikitin drills deep into the hidden layers of our present. In doing so, he connects his story with the big universal questions. After his grandmother dies at the age of 87, he learns that she originally came from a Jewish family. In 1944/45, she had to hide for months in a barn in eastern Slovakia, while most of her family died in the German extermination camps. She kept all this to herself, started a family and became the first female professor of chemistry in the young socialist Czechoslovakia. She even kept the secret from her daughters. But the family secret also changes the director’s own biography and identity.

“Magda Toffler” is raw, frontal and at the same time deeply moving. An emotional and intellectual border crossing of the theater. The production was acclaimed by the press and invited to the “Impulse” festival as one of the ten outstanding independent theater works of 2022.

Duration: ca. 1 h 20 min
Language: German with english subtitles

Following the piece there will be an audience discussion. 

Boris Nikitin, born in Basel and the son of Ukrainian-Slovakian-French-Jewish immigrants, is a theatre director, author and curator of the biennial festival “It’s The Real Thing – Basel Documentary Platform”.

For over thirteen years, his productions, texts and happenings have been dealing with the representation and production of identity and reality. They are border crossings between illusion theatre and performance, between documentary and propaganda. Nikitin’s works, many of which tour internationally, are raw, frontal, yet always precisely composed and always searching for the boundaries and breaking points of the aesthetic. “Like few others, Boris Nikitin is currently leading theatre to a critical point,” writes the German professional journal “Theater heute”. The Zurich daily newspaper “Tagesanzeiger” writes: “The Basel director pushes the genre of documentary theatre to its limits.” In his last plays and texts, Nikitin increasingly deals with the relationship between art and illness. In 2017, Nikitin was awarded the J.M.R. Lenz Drama Prize of the city of Jena for his complete works. In 2020 he received the Swiss Theatre Prize. His play “Attempt on Dying” was invited to the Swiss Theatertreffen in 2021. His play “First Season. 20 Years Big Brother” was invited to the Mülheim Theatre Days as one of the seven best German-language plays of 2021.

Boris Nikitin was the holder of the Christoph-Schlingensief Visiting Professorship at the University of Bochum in 2018/2019. He also taught at the University of Frankfurt and the School of Arts/Zurich.

Concept, Text, Performance: Boris Nikitin
Production Management: Annett Hardegen
Outside-Eye: Annett Hardegen, Matthias Meppelink

A coproduction with It’s The Real Thing, steirischen herbst 22, Staatstheater Nürnberg Kaserne Basel, Ringlokschuppen Ruhr, Théâtre Vidy Lausanne, HAU – Hebbel am Ufer Berlin, Frascati Amsterdam, Theater Chur and Omanut. The first draft of this work was commissioned by Omanut.
With the support of Fachausschuss Tanz & Theater der Kantone Basel-Stadt und Basel-Landschaft, Pro Helvetia, Stanley Thomas Johnson Stiftung.