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Peter Radtke and the stage

Or: I have no Heimat
Perhaps it’s because his father was an actor? His father, who it seems never fully accepted him as what he is. Perhaps he wanted to show his father that there need be no limits to what he could achieve. Whatever the initial motivation, there’s no doubting Peter Radtke’s huge passion for acting, and his huge prowess as an actor. His achievements are all the more remarkable, given that he was born with brittle bone disease. Peter Radtke, who has had a remarkable life outside the theater too, is my latest guest on Talking Germany.
In some of the footage on the show, you can see him almost throwing himself around in the legendary George Tabori’s production of Medea. Or playing the ape turned man in the same director’s adaptation of Kafka’s A Report to an Academy. I can myself remember seeing Tabori’s outstanding version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute in Berlin. Peter Radtke worshiped the man he calls his friend and mentor. “You know,” he tells me approvingly, “Tabori did another production based on a Kafka story – A Hunger Artist. And to achieve the right mood, he got his ensemble to fast for forty days!”
George Tabori was born in Budapest into a family with Jewish roots. He later fled Berlin after the Nazis had come to power. But his father died in Auschwitz. For his part, Peter Radtke was born in 1943 and only survived the Nazi euthanasia program because his mother hid him away. The two men didn’t, Peter tells me, talk about the disturbing parallel in their biographies. But, he admits: “Like George Tabori, I have no Heimat, no homeland.”
George Tabori, who passed away in 2007, made some beautiful theater, and that Magic Flute had moments of joy and of breath-taking magic. But it’s the uncompromising productions that Peter Radtke most enjoyed: “Most theater these days is entertainment only. I don’t want entertainment, I want commitment.” And, in case I hadn’t got the message: “You know, I myself am the kind of person who doesn’t make too many compromises.”


January 17, 2014