Page last updated at 09:09 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Comic play satirises Fritzl media frenzy

Fritzl news conference
The play was intended to be a satire about the hypocrisy of the media

A controversial comic play inspired by the case of Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man alleged to have kidnapped and raped his daughter, has opened in Vienna. The BBC's Bethany Bell was amongst the audience on the first night.

Many of us attending the first performance of Pension F at at Vienna's 3raum-anatomietheater were journalists, a fact not lost on the director and performer Hubsi Kramar.

The play holds a mirror up to the media
Audience member Mario Dianics

Over the stage hung a placard with the slogan "Opfer machen Quoten" which roughly translates as "victims make ratings".

The Fritzl case was "the story of the year for the tabloid press", he announced.

Watching us

A few minutes into the show, described by its creators as the "ultimate media satire", a member of the production team trained his camera on the audience. The pictures of the spectators were beamed onto the screens at the back of the stage.

Pension F sketch (23 February 2009)
The principle is simple - behind the brazen, feigned theatre of sympathy are hardcore profit interests
Statement by Hubsi Kramar

Hubsi Kramar gathered the cast around him on a sofa and looked straight at the audience. "We are now the audience" he said. He and the performers, some of whom had themselves suffered abuse, gave us a round of ironic applause.

We watched them watching us.

The show did not have a storyline. Instead it presented a number of improvised sketches and songs dealing with how victims of abuse are exploited by the media and by society.

Hubsi Kramar says the piece is about finding what he called "the Fritzl in each one of us, the structural violence inherent in patriarchal societies, Austria in particular."

He stressed it was not about the family in Amstetten.

In one sketch, a parody of a talk show, a woman who is about to tell a story of abuse, is seized upon by a "victim stylist" who smears her face with red makeup and shortens her skirt to make her more appealing to a television audience.

Pension F also took swipes at the far right parties in Austria, as well as at racist and sexist attitudes and sex scandals in the Austrian Catholic Church.

Pension F sketch (23 February 2009)
The play parodies stories of abuse - but also satirises the far right

While some felt the piece was a little long and repetitive, for many it was a thought-provoking evening.

"The play holds a mirror up to the media," Mario Dianics, a member of the audience (but not a journalist) said.

"It is a very intelligent, critical piece."

His friend Christian Seitz agreed.

"I was shaken up in a positive sense," he said. "We were confronted with subjects that are normally taboo."

But while the show cautioned against exploiting victims, it ended with a call by Mr Kramar to break down what he called the "wall of silence" surrounding many other cases of abuse.

"Kampusch and Fritzl are the exceptions," he said. "Lots of other cases aren't reported on."

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