Betrothal in Santo Domingo or My Sweet Haiti

Betrothal in Santo Domingo or My Sweet Haiti
Opened: 16 September 2011 Staatstheater Hannover, Germany
Running Time: 2 hrs

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 1802. The bloody days of ethnic war not long after the French Revolution. In Santo Domingo, the rich Caribbean colony, black people have revolted against the whites. The servants turn guns on their torturers. Gustav von Ried, a Swiss member of the French Army stationed here, attempts to flee. Looking for help, he unluckily knocks on the door that holds the greatest danger for him. The master, the frightening black Congo Hoango, is not at home. Hoango’s wife (the mulatto Babekan) and her daughter Toni open the door for the stranger. The two women, who fulfil their duties with conviction and obedience, know how to treat a helpless man if they want to keep him until the head of the house returns. Toni is a beautiful girl; her skin is unusually light. Very quickly, Gustav becomes lost in her gaze, as well as in the unclear game between cultures. In this tense situation, the basic rules are keeping up appearances, deception, and betrayal.  The young couple’s love ends with a misunderstanding and two bullets. Nothing remains of their story but a monument in a far European outpost.


The short story Betrothal in Santo Domingo by Heinrich von Kleist was written in 1804, while he was a prisoner in the Swiss fortress Fort de Joux, where not long before the Haitian revolutionary leader Toussaint Louverture, exiled there by Bonaparte, died.


Kornél Mundruczó brings the novella’s figures to life. He rewrites and adapts their story to 2011, when Haiti, struck by a natural disaster, is once again the centre of attention. One of the poorest countries of the world, it is regarded by many as merely a possible new market, since business can be done anywhere. Kleist’s characters take shape as personal reminiscences onstage. They are ancestors who imprison us. We encounter them as we would discover a wardrobe with a familiar-looking mirror at the flea market. In its mirror, we see only vaguely at first, but then we pick out with increasing clarity the caricature-like, distorted faces: the misunderstood Europeanism and the countless horrors recounted about the Age of Enlightenment.

From the reviews

"Out of Heinrich von Kleist’s short story, Mundruczó fashions an analogy about racism and love that takes place both during the colonial revolution around the 1800’s and in today’s Haiti struck by natural disaster." (Evelyn Beyer - Neue Presse)


"The chirping of crickets, the howl of exotic animals, and the sultry air on a colonial porch's veranda. Not even Tennessee Williams could have dreamed up a more perfect illusion. All this awaits audiences on the Cumberländische Bühne stage. Even the make-up tables are built in the tropical jungle. If Aljoscha Stadlemann did not transform into the fearful descendant of a black slave before our eyes, we could easily forget that we are sitting in the auditorium of a German theatre." (Alexander Kohlmann -


"The task for the actors – playing in front of an old colonial house hidden under the thick liana designed by Márton Ágh – is not at all an easy one, since they have to convince us that today’s Haiti is hardly different from the location of the bloody slave riots depicted by Kleist. After the hurricane and the earthquake, the locals are in need of aid packages. Instead of trying to help themselves, they eagerly take the seeds transported from afar. These seeds, however, are gene-manipulated, contaminating the soil and causing first dependency, then death." (Nicole Korzonnek - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)


"Sweet Haiti, a performance by Kornél Mundruczó and Viktória Petrányi attacks the American Monsato agricultural corporation, and at the same time it shakes us out of our political coma." (Till Briegleb - Süddeutsche Zeitung)

Strömli - Mathias Max HerrmannLanwe - Janko KahleAmaral - Aljoscha StadelmannMarie - Johanna BantzerPam - Oscar OlivoSam / Emanuel / Jones - Martin VischerDieter - Thomas Mehlhorn