Passenger ship SS United States
© Stadtarchiv Bremerhaven

Site-specific theatre at the Columbusbahnhof Bremerhaven

When the UNITED STATES arrived, Bremerhaven was in an uproar every time. The crew flocked to shops, pubs and restaurants in the port city. Then, shortly before departure, the typhoon boomed. Countless people lined the Columbus quay to bid farewell to the legendary ocean liner for its journey to the USA.
From 1953 to 1969, the ship operated regular transatlantic services between Bremerhaven and New York.

With the kind support of: bremenports, Fonds Darstellende Künste, Kulturamt Bremerhaven, Wespa, Landschaftsverband Stade, Gemeinde Schiffdorf

© Jens-Erwin Siemssen
Pictures of the performance


Company: Gonny Gaakeer, Daria Gabriel, Richard Gonlag, Wren Mack, Diederik Rep, Margarita Wiesner and local actors

Script & Direction: Jens-Erwin Siemssen

Musical direction: Jan-Hendrik Ehlers

Stage & Costume Design: Miriam Ebbing, Zhulien Lambrev

Video technique: Ralf Juliusson

Production: Ulrike Marski, Hannah Wörpel

Premiere: Columbusbahnhof Bremerhaven • 15th of August 2023 • 9 pm

futher performances until 10th of September 2023


Press reviews

Shortly before the end of »No Finer Way«, the SS UNITED STATES sails into New York, past the Statue of Liberty - in the form of a magnificently illuminated folding ladder, which is pulled across the playing area at the bottom of the quay. A nice little joke that breaks the pathos of the scene. And the grandeur of the scenery: on the other side of the night-black Weser estuary the lights of Nordenham glitter, which at least in the dark looks quite romantic from a distance ...
The rooms of the Columbusbahnhof are spectacular with their faded charm, old signs and furniture, even without the stories that Siemssen and his six-person ensemble tell in German and English, supported by a large group of local actors and musicians. There is no need for a stringent plot. It is rather facets, episodes that evoke the spirit of the past and the place.

Andreas Schnell, from 15th of August 2023 (the whole review in German online)

Captain Siemssen and his crew manage the feat of capturing the glorious past in twelve scenes without becoming overly sentimental. The focus lies on the pictures this time, not on the stories. And of course - for the last time - the location.
The audience experiences Columbus Station - pardon, the ship - from almost every perspective. They wander through it on foot, always kindly guided by the actors: »This way please«. They look up the building and see, for example, the projection of the luxury liner being loaded with provisions. They experience sailing into New York from the gallery of the station and look out over the mouth of the Weser, which has just being made into the Hudson River. They stop several times in the 2nd class waiting room, cross the main hall. They even become actors in the play, having themselves dutifully photographed by the on-board photographer, or hesitantly daring to waltz. The journey through time also continues in culinary terms; cola, ice cream and popcorn remind us of what it was like when the Americans revolutionised the menu in Bremerhaven ...
To make sure that the melancholy does not overwhelm the audience, the director repeatedly relies on alienation effects and makes very creative use of the material he found on site, such as the ropes that can be used to form the lanes in the swimming pool. Or the life jackets that become streamers. Or the curtains from which a wine bottle, a glass and cutlery are made. Or the wooden and metal door handles turn into dance partners.

Anne Stürzer, Nordsee-Zeitung from 16th of August 2023 (the whole review in German online)

... currently the play »No finer way« tells about the SS UNITED STATES. In the USA, director/writer Jens-Erwin Siemssen interviewed former crew members and passengers and, as usual, collaged short scenes from the original sounds.
Untypically, this is now done in the manner of musicals with vocal interludes that quote Frank Sinatra or »West Side Story« and rely on ship's piano accompaniment for the maritime sound perfume. The six-member acting ensemble is joined by a chorus of extras as well as a small big band - all dressed in picobello white elegant liveries ...
The typhoon signal calls to go on board, in this case to the scenic installations in the building. Very well done how Richard Gonlag plays the lift operator to the on-board swimming pool at the information desk of the old customs hall when he tells with shamefaced pride of meeting celebrities like Burt Lancaster or Harry S. Truman.

Jens Fischer, taz from 22nd of August 2023 (the whole review in German online)