Big and Little

Big and Little (German: Groß und klein) is a 1978 play by the German writer Botho Strauß. It has the subtitle Scenes (Szenen) and has also been played in English as Big and Small. It follows a woman, Lotte, who travels through Germany and seeks human connections, but is unsuccessful as every person she encounters is locked into his own world. The play is a station drama in ten scenes.

It premiered on 8 December 1978 at the Schaubühne am Halleschen Ufer in West Berlin, directed by Peter Stein and starring Edith Clever. It was broadcast as a German television play in 1980.[1]


John Simon reviewed the play in New York in 1979, when it was first performed in the United States: "The stultifying banality of the play is matched only by its arrogance—it is, for example, written in a pointless free verse that becomes even flatter in Anne Cattaneo's translation. The only thing big about Big and Little is its pretentiousness; everything else, except its length, is little."[2] Mel Gussow of The New York Times described the play in 1983 as "a nonlinear but consequential tour of present-day alienation". He called it "theoretically tantalizing, more interesting to contemplate than to experience and less adventurous than works by Mr. Strauss's peers such as Peter Handke and Franz Xaver Kroetz".[3]

A performance starring Cate Blanchett was staged at the Barbican Centre in London in 2012. Tim Auld wrote in The Daily Telegraph that the play is "about as bleak a two and three quarter hours as you're likely to while away in the theatre", but that "it does, however, offer that rarest of things in modern drama: a virtuoso role for a lead actress, the main character, Lotte, being on stage for nearly every second of the performance".[4] Auld went on to criticise the "Beckett-like poeticism of the script" which "made this feel like something of a period piece".[4] Auld wrote: "Strauss is unable to shift the narrative beyond his one overarching theme – alienation – and each scene sees Lotte, a rather Candide-like innocent abroad, being rejected in some or other surreal way. There's no development, so that after nearly three hours you feel as if you've been beaten over the head with the same thematic brick, only in a slightly different way each time."[4]


  1. ^ Konzett, Matthias, ed. (2000). Encyclopedia of German Literature. p. 916. ISBN 1-57958-138-2.
  2. ^ Simon, John (1979-04-16). "From Top to Botho". New York Magazine. p. 90. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  3. ^ Gussow, Mel (1983-10-23). "Stage: 'Big and Little/Scenes' by Botho Strauss". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  4. ^ a b c Auld, Tim (2012-04-27). "Big and Small (Gross und Klein) at Barbican, Seven magazine review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2016-06-21.

Further readingEdit

  • Bormann, Alexander von: "Groß und klein - Existentialismus ohne Subjekt? Zur theatralischen Semiosis bei Botho Strauß." In: Gerd Labroissse/Gerd Peter Knapp (Hg.): Literarische Tradition heute. Deutschsprachige Gegenwartsliteratur in ihrem Verhältnis zur Tradition. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1988, p. 201-224.
  • Deiters, Franz-Josef: Drama im Augenblick seines Sturzes. Zur Allegorisierung des Dramas in der Moderne. Versuche zu einer Konstitutionstheorie. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 1999, p. 257-272 ("Botho Strauß: 'Groß und klein'. Die Hoffnung auf die Leistung der allegorischen Form").