Robert Farrar’s Corner of Berlin: Stammtisch
By Andrew Cottrill . June 1, 2019
Author, playwright and musician Robert Farrar shares his favourite Corner of Berlin: Stammtisch.
For him, “Life without the Stammtisch is possible – but meaningless!”
I first met Robert Farrar in 2017. It was Wild at Heart, where he was performing as his musician alter-ego, Merlin Dietrich.
Sharing the line-up with the mighty Shambhu Leroux, Merlin defied all expectations. I was instantly impressed with his stage presence. Refined and up-standing one minute, devil-may-care debaucherous the next. You couldn’t help but meet his mascaraed eyes.
I got the impression that Merlin would feel just at ease enjoying an afternoon tea and scones in an ornate tearoom as he would meticulously sacrificing a bunny rabbit to some pagan God.
Although, his English gentleman charm and Bowie-knife wit belie a playfulness and noble sensitivity which pervade everything he does.
In a career that’s seen him perform on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test and write a film starring Bill Murray, Robert has now returned to his original calling: playwriting.
He, along with partner Achim Kraemer, is currently running Farrar Krämer Komedi Spring-Summer Sensations – a series of performances of self-penned plays including Robert’s ‘Picture of Lady Barbara’, a gothic mash-up of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and the legend of Baron Bluebeard, and Achim’s Dionysian fairytale-meets-existential crisis, ‘Les BonnesBonnes’.
The location is – you guessed it – Stammtisch, and you only have this weekend and next to see them – so check out the running times at the bottom of this article or click here.
Take it away, Robert.
Robert’s Corner: Stammtisch
Weserstrasse, Neukölln, is almost too hip these days. But dry your tears: the gentrification coughs, splutters and lies down exhausted after about five blocks.
Walking south-east towards Sonnenallee S-Bahn, a timid hipster might lose heart around Wildenbruchstrasse. After the gorgeous little Wolf Kino on the right and the rather rive-gauche K-Fetisch on the left, things revert to a more Old Berlin feel.
Stammtisch, my favourite Berlin bar, is one block beyond the hipster zone.
A Stammtisch – for those of you who have not been paying attention in your integration classes – is a regulars’ table in a pub, and the name exactly describes the character of this fabulous place.
An English person would immediately get that this is pub style, Jim – but not as we know it. We are in Germany, and what’s more a Germany of several decades ago, miraculously preserved by dint of Berlin’s time-frozen Wall years.
You get the feeling that the basic decor hasn’t changed much since 1961. Your hosts Rosi and Norbert have been here for eighteen years, and have of course personalised the place.
They are dog-lovers, crazy about boxers. The current treasure is the lovely Karlotta, who has a bed in the big picture-window and will both greet you and vet you when you arrive. On the walls are photos of her and past pets, and a plaque that says, “Life without a boxer is possible – but meaningless!”
In recent years Stammtisch has become a rather unlikely hit with fashion magazine stylists.
I guess we live in an age in which authenticity is both the pearl beyond all price and a rare and endangered bloom. You might come across pictures of the distinctive brown-and-orange interior as you leaf through Vogue or Cosmo while waiting for your dentist to yank out a molar; and you might be calmed by the sight of willowy hipster girls draping themselves over the bar or toying with a beer-mat. This is how you wear this season’s look! and this is where that look looks best!
In 2015 the theatre group Dolly Takes a Trip, concerned about the gentrification of Neukölln, did a crowdfunding project to save the Stammtisch, whose income was then dwindling to zero as the local demographic changed. With the money they raised, they got together the bare essentials with which to set up a little performance area at one end of the room. There’s a small stage about six inches high, black drapes that can be hooked up to the walls on show-nights, a simple sound system and four stage-lights.
I first came across the venue because a friend of ours was putting on a monthly show there called Seven Minutes of Fame.
It could only be described as a precision-curated open-mic night. On these evenings the usually quiet neighbourhood bar would be packed to the gills with sexy, talented performers from all over the world and their friends, and it was clear that old Neukölln and new Neukölln can indeed live in perfect harmony, just like the keys on Paul McCartney’s piano.
Seven Minutes of Fame is now produced by a different team, but it is still a riot, which I thoroughly recommend. My partner Achim and I are regulars, both offstage and (in Achim’s case) on. One day we summoned up the courage to ask Rosi and Norbert if they would let us stage our plays in Stammtisch. They said yes, and have been easygoing and supportive at every step of the way.
The stage is six metres wide but less than two metres deep.
That’s a challenge, but once you deal with it it is fun to play on. Actors can only reach the stage by going through the audience, which, correctly done, merely adds to the hysteria. The main space has seating for 36 and there is extra seating at the bar.
Speaking as someone who saw the original Rocky Horror Show in London at the age of fourteen, I can attest that there is something satisfyingly Rocky-Horror about the whole set-up – and that, for Achim and me, is an almost inconceivable stroke of good fortune, because try as we might, we seem incapable of writing or staging things that don’t resonate, on many levels, with Richard O’Brien’s towering queer classic.
So whether you are a shy hipster who has strayed past the Wolf Kino and the K-Fetisch while distracted by the John Grant MP3 playing on your headphones, or a walking fashion icon who needs the perfect backdrop, or a theatre-hound looking for something visual that’s not too abysmal, I urge you to check out the increasingly legendary Stammtisch.
Showtimes for The Picture of Lady Barbara (English):
08.06, 14.06 and 15.06 at 20:00.
Showtimes for Les BonnesBonnes (German):
07.06 at 20:00, 14.06 at 22:30 and 16.06 at 16:00.
Admission 7-10EUR. Shows on 14.06 and 15.06: free admission, donations welcome.
Visit Farrar Krämer Komedi Spring-Summer Sensations on Facebook to find out more.