Heuschrecken (Locusts)

By Stefan Kaegi

Locusts can form huge swarms that turn into devastating plagues of biblical dimensions – that's the image we remember from horror films or from politicians' attacks on the practices of aggressive speculators. But locusts are actually solitary creatures. Their high biomass on our planet suggests that they enjoy certain evolutionary advantages: a chitin shell protects the insect from radiation, high temperatures and pressure fluctuation.

In a production in which the performers outnumber the viewers, Stefan Kaegi has developed a terrarium as a parallel universe at Schauspielhaus Zurich. Thousands of locusts populate a set built of sand and wheat: a natural habitat in exile. Observed through cameras and binoculars, the staged process is set to music. Migration researchers, food engineers, astronomers and insectologists embark on an expedition into an alien insect world measuring 50 square metres, deepening their exploration from day to day.

It's only when locusts are threatened because space is short or food becomes scarce that they swarm and migrate in search of new habitats and sources of food. When not migrating, the insects keep apart. A flick of their long back legs ensures the required distance is kept from their neighbours, with chirps signalling the search for potential mates.

Ultimately, the on-stage biosphere becomes a model of future life after climate change. Who eats the most, and what happens if there's not enough for everyone? How does life function without water? How does the locust population self-organize, what are the effects of changes in their habitat? According to Canetti, every time we look at an animal we see a disguised human being laughing at us. But how do we look 8,000 locusts straight in the eye?



By Stefan Kaegi

Scenography: Dominic Huber

Music: Bo Wiget

Produced by Schauspielhaus Zürich in coproduction with HAU Berlin