STRONGER THAN SUPERMAN
"A triumph" "Truly great" "Wonderful" "Not to be missed at any price!"
Stronger than Superman
, a comedy with music which tells the tale of a young boy with spina bifida, was premiered in German under the title Stärker als Superman
at the GRIPS Theater
in Berlin on March 7th 1980. This was a year or so after I had introduced the works of the GRIPS Theater to England with a translation of Volker Ludwig's "Max und Milli". Shortly after the premiere at the Unicorn Theatre in London, I was chatting to Volker Ludwig in a Berlin café about themes which the Grips Theater was planning to tackle and he told me that they had long desired to present a play about handicapped children, but no one could find a way of presenting such a subject in an amusing and enlightening manner. My immediate reaction was to agree that it seemed impossible to treat such a theme with humour without resorting to bad taste. All the same I was privately taken with the challenge and, without revealing my plans to GRIPS, I decided to return to Britain and research the subject on the ground before giving up entirely. It was when I returned to Berlin after several weeks ground work and many hours in the company of handicapped children and their parents in England that I hit on the idea that the humour in the play has to come from the "handicapped" attitudes of the people outside who are blind, and deaf and sometimes even dumb-stuck)to the whole person behind the superficial handicap. Having cracked the humour problem I then wrote the complete play over the space of the next three weeks. After polishing it up I presented it to a surprised Volker Ludwig, who read it and, within one week, called me to ask if I would allow him to translate it for a premiere at the GRIPS theatre the following year. The play was an instant hit and ran in repertoire for the next three seasons where it set a new performance record (214 performances). It was revived once more at GRIPS in 1991. Apart from in London where it was universally ignored it has been a world wide success. It has been translated into 21 languages (including Chinese, Hindu, Gudjurati, Hebrew and Icelandic) and televised in Germany, Israel and Austria. In 1982 the play was awarded 1st prize in a national competition in Germany for the best play on the subject of handicapped people. Even after almost 25 years it is still being produced. The last production in Europe was in Linz, Austria, during the European Cultural Capital festivities in 2003, and it was scheduled to be played there once again in 2011. The last public performance outside Europe was a Bengali translation of the play presented in Calcutta under the title "Amio Superman" in May 2014. It was directed by Jayati Bose.
The play is published by Amber Lane Press in GB (ISBN 0-906399-26-2)