The tale of the Boateng brothers Jerome, George and Kevin-Prince — two of whom made history by facing each other at a World Cup finals — has hit the stage in Berlin.
The play ‘Peng-Peng Boateng’ (Bang-Bang Boateng) is based on the 2012 book The Boateng Brothers by sports journalist Michael Horeni with dance scenes replacing football matches.
The tale charts the brothers’ different paths from the football pitches of Berlin.
Kevin-Prince is an ex-Portsmouth, AC Milan and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder, now playing for Las Palmas in Spain.
George became a rapper after a prison spell, while Bayern Munich defender Jerome won the 2014 World Cup with Germany. The Boatengs made World Cup history at the 2010 finals in South Africa by becoming the first brothers to play each other when Kevin-Prince’s Ghana lost 1-0 to Jerome’s Germany in a group game.
The siblings are sons of a German mother and Ghanaian father.
But while George and Kevin-Prince were raised by their mother in Berlin’s working-class district of Wedding, Jerome lived with his father in the affluent suburb of Wilmersdorf.
“It’s a bit of ‘Wedding meets Wilmersdorf’, the bad brothers against the good brother and how they actually became who they are,” director Nicole Oder told AFP.
“We used dance to replace the football and we partly improvised on the basis of the book, which means we have developed a part-documentary, part-fictional story.”
Despite Oder’s best efforts, the Peng-Peng Boateng team have never met the brothers.
Jerome, the youngest of the trio, is portrayed as the shy child who grew up to become a world champion, model and multi-millionaire.
He has been held up by German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a model of integration and is one of the most recognisable faces in Germany.
But he has also been dragged into political storms in the past.
Alexander Gauland, deputy leader of the populist AfD party, said in June that “people think of him as a good footballer, but they do not want a Boateng as a neighbour” — comments which drew widespread condemnation.
He is known for a strong work ethic and has become one of the world’s best centre-backs. In one scene, Jerome, played by actor Nyamandi Mushayavanhu, suffers in training, accepting the iron discipline needed to succeed in German football, living under draconian rules to win his coach’s confidence.
Meanwhile, his brothers show a tendency to rebel, but there is a danger in stereotyping the characters, says Mushayavanhu.
“A lot had been heard about the brothers in advance and many people pigeon-hole them,” said Mushayavanhu.
“George is the so-called bad guy, Kevin-Prince is the bad guy and Jerome is the good guy, but it’s not that simple when you look into it.”
Tamar Aslan plays Kevin-Prince, the talented midfielder who had been a key member of Germany’s Under-21 team, but was thrown out of the squad, which later won the 2009 junior European title, after an ill-advised nightclub visit.
On stage, the character is tormented by the sanction and, unable to accept his punishment, decides never to play for Germany again and opts instead for his father’s country Ghana.
“The character of Kevin is the most interesting,” said Aslan. “We really see the warrior in him. ‘Germany don’t want me? Ok, well I will play for Ghana, but I will continue to play’.”
The actor says the cast read the original book and countless interviews with the brothers to get a feel for the characters they would be playing.
Each performance, which lasts 90 minutes, is physically demanding for the actors, as the story revolves around football matches told through dance, leaving them as tired as after a typical football match.
“It was a great challenge for us to bring the physical energy of football onto the stage and it was quite clear we could not play football,” admitted choreographer Raphael Hillebrand.
“Every time someone plays football in our play, it’s a dance for us.”
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