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Art & Culture

Everyman at Hohensalzburg Fortress

This life and death of a rich man story is performed for audiences at Hohensalzburg Fortress. The castle courtyard is transformed into an open-air stage when the ‘Kulturbühne Jedermann’ ensemble presents its version of this famous play.

Every year at festival time the ‘Kulturbühne Jedermann’ actors perform Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s timeless classic in the castle courtyard. An opulently laden banqueting table is set up in the castle - high above the rooftops of Salzburg, and the Kulturbühne Jedermann team puts on a passionate performance in these magically atmospheric surroundings, attracting larger crowds every year. One of the main people responsible for this success is Thomas Peschke, founder and producer of Kulturbühne Jedermann, who also plays the main character in the title. On the stage, Peschke, the likeable actor, plays a brutal and uncompromising ‘Everyman’ – absolutely convincingly – with an abundance of expressive power and stage presence. During our conversation, we quizzed the Salzburg-born actor about playing in and staging such a well-established classic as Everyman, noting what a wonderful voice he has and how down-to-earth he is.

Mr. Peschke, you’ve benn playing the role of the rich man in ‘Everyman’ in the castle since 2013. What are your personal associations with this famous play?

I was born and grew up in Salzburg, so I also grew up with ‘Everyman’ at the Festival. The piece has fascinated me ever since – the life and death of a rich, unscrupulous and inconsiderate ‘Everyman’, or ‘Everywoman’. It is so wonderfully, or rather ‘fearfully’ timeless, and as relevant as ever. It’s a theme that will engage humans as long humans exist.

Your version of ‘Everyman’ is consciously divergent from the strictly catholic standpoint of the original, offering a far more interdenominational perspective. Why was it important for you to change the point of view in this regard?

In a globalised world of borderless interaction, it’s important to signalise the acceptance and appreciation of other religions and denominations – something we try to communicate in our version of the play. My stage director, Daniela Meschtscherjakov, helped me to implement this aspect. The play has to be entertaining and lively, while still transporting the underlying caveat. We have concentrated on the essentials and our version has a duration of around one hour and forty minutes, while the original lasts around two hours.

Why did you choose Hohensalzburg Fortress as the venue for ‘Everyman’?

It would be tough to find a better venue in Salzburg for ‘Everyman’ than the fortress. The fortress is a landmark of the city that symbolises its history of wealth and magnificence. One could say it’s the heart of the city. Above all, the castle courtyard has a very special atmosphere and a unique flair all of its own.

As well as playing the main role in ‘Everyman’, you’ve also played another character - ‘Death’. What are the greatest challenges posed by these two roles for you as an actor?

One of the greatest challenges in ‘Everyman’ is how to portray the wide range of emotional facets – as well as the immense physical strain the roles involve. What makes ‘Death’ difficult to play is the necessity of removing the human factor. The character is allegorical, and is ultimately neither good nor evil.

In your opinion, what distinguishes Salzburg from other cities?

Salzburg is a lively city, particularly during the Festival. It’s also at one with nature. There are hills within the city itself, and it’s surrounded by fields and forests. The scenery is magnificent.

Tell us about your favourite places around the city of Salzburg?

I particularly appreciate Mönchsberg Hill and Hellbrunn. Hellbrunn exudes its own historical flair and significance; and I love Mönchsberg Hill because it offers nature, peace and quiet.

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