Klaus Bachler is, or more correctly was, the manager of Vienna's Burgtheater.
Yesterday evening commencing at 8pm, and it may well have gone on until 3am, but even a Poet-in-Residence has to get some sleep, was Klaus Bachler's leaving party. Leaving after 10 years in the boss's chair Bachler is on his way to the Bavarian city of Munich to take charge of the Opera.
To be quite frank it was a rather dreary and over-priced affair. There was much scripted interviewing sprinkled with the usual in-jokes and some general pontificating from the stage. Actors are better when they stick to acting.
Unfortunately many of the audience, due to the special seating arrangements, couldn't see the actors, or at most only the heads of the tallest ones. Fortunately the Burg's best character actor Joachim Meyerhoff had the presence of mind to get to the front centre of the stage where he could be clearly seen, or at least the top two-thirds of him. But he was one of the few exceptions.
The Austrian Education Minister, a lady reported to have claimed 1,400 Euros in expenses for her make-up, got in on the act. And that really summed up the whole evening. A Finance Minister might have had something useful to say; but an Education Minister on the stage of an Austrian theatre? I ask you!
At the end of the official proceedings, after the edited song and dance routine, Bachler was duly hoisted onto the shoulders of a couple of actors and a white sheet, a flag of surrender, thrust into his hands. He briefly waved it. And that was that.
The real party followed but by then many of us were already on our way home.
Bachler will be remembered as the man who followed the man in the long black coat.°
°title of a Bob Dylan song. A reference to Bachler's predecessor, the controversial Claus Peymann who worked closely with Thomas Bernhard, and frequently walked through the streets of Vienna in his long coat. Peymann, courageous and beyond politics, introduced Vienna to its history with Bernhard's anti-Nazi play Heldenplatz. His leaving party was a theatrical event of the first magnitude.