The Key Hunt
A THEATRICAL GAME FOR A WHOLE TOWN
The chest containing the Prussian crown jewels had been sealed with nineteen locks for centuries. No-one had yet succeeded in opening it. On 20 August 2010 the people of Oranienburg set out to find the keys; along the way they rediscovered the town’s benefactor Louise Henriette, mother of the Prussian king. Theatrical scenes and installations spread around the city told of the mysterious white lady; of the alchemists, who tried to create gold; the orphan Wilhelm, who told his story from the window of the orphanage established by Louise Henriette; or of Louise Henriette’s arrival in Oranienburg following the Thirty Years War. The Key Hunt ended with a parade of the ‘found keys’ and an attempt to open the chest in the middle of Oranienburg’s Schlossplatz.
A theatrical game for the whole family, in a production staged throughout the town; whoever finds all eighteen keys gets to hold the nineteenth!
The town of Oranienburg
Produced as part of Brandenburg’s regional arts programme “Courage and Grace: Women in Brandenburg-Prussia”.
20 August 2010
A production staged throughout the town on the subject of Oranienburg’s benefactor, Louise Henriette, princess of Oranien-Nassau, wife of the great prince of Brandenburg and mother of the first king of Prussia. The wish was to re-establish the historic centre of the town, the Schlossplatz, restored in 2009.
Theater Anu sent the townspeople of Oranienburg to look for keys. Their task was to find nineteen keys, taking four topographically and thematically different routes through the heart of Oranienburg, so that a long-sealed chest from the Brandenburg princess’s house could finally be opened.
The Prussian king’s real crown jewels chest is also sealed with nineteen locks and has not been opened for centuries. Together with the crown jewels this chest was exhibited throughout 2010 in Oranienburg’s Schlossmuseum due to restoration work at the Schloss Charlottenburg.
Exciting events and stories from the life of Lousie Henriette, and important achievements in the Netherlands which turned the village of Bötzow into the flourishing town of Oranienburg after the Thirty Years War, were staged along these routes in twelve stations and installations. At each station a key could be found. Another six keys were hidden along the four thematic routes, in houses or trees. The nineteenth key was to be created by the searchers themselves; when they tore out the shapes of all the keys they had found from a map of keys they were given, they were left with a cardboard key in their hand: the nineteenth!
After a two and a half hour performance of looped scenes there was a parade for all to participate in, where all correct keys were all collected up. It ended on the Schlossplatz where a theatrical copy of the crown jewels chest waited to be opened.
A site-specific installation in the Schlosspark, on the Havel river and in historic buildings such as the orphanage founded by Louise Henriette; a collaboration between Oranienburg musicians and a local naval club; a production staged throughout a town, involving its audience fully. Alongside the complex realisation of the stories researched, the game aspect was central to the production; if the audience hadn’t first hunted for the keys, there would have been no chance of opening the chest.
The evening ended with a poetic illumination of the Schloss facade.
A key hunt in Oranienburg? The initial idea makes you wonder. Why should the people of the town look for keys in trees and fences? What is this nonsense for? But anyone who took a closer look at this production, staged throughout Oranienburg, was amazed at the panache and enthusiasm the people from Theater Anu bring to their work. For three hours or more they turned Oranienburg into an enormous stage, a kind of adventure playground with hidden treasure: at the fortress, on Bötzower Platz or in the Schlosspark. Everywhere were creative, exciting performances to be admired, which sadly not all visitors caught. Was this to do with the day chosen for the event, or to the inertia of the Oranienburg people? The 500 people applauding for the finale could certainly have been more. In applying for the “Kulturland Brandenburg” regional arts programme the town council certainly did the right thing. And they definitely did the right thing by choosing to commission Theater Anu!