Fritzl satire swipes at media scandal coverage

By Veronika Oleksyn

VIENNA – In a theater crammed with reporters, an Austrian satire took a swipe at sensationalist and superficial media coverage, particularly of the man accused of holding his daughter captive for 24 years and fathering seven children with her.

The piece, called “Pension F.” – German for “F.’s Bed and Breakfast” – also slammed reporters for being too focused on ratings to appreciate the vulnerability of victims and truly listen to what they have to say.

The premiere late Monday comes just weeks before Josef Fritzl goes on trial March 16 on charges of murder, rape, incest, false imprisonment and enslavement. Investigators say he has confessed to imprisoning and repeatedly raping his daughter in a soundproofed, windowless dungeon he built beneath their home in the Austrian town of Amstetten. The alleged crime shocked the world – and triggered massive media attention when it surfaced last April.

The satire’s director and star is Hubsi Kramar, an Austria standup comedian known for not shying away from scandal. In 2000, he caused a stir when he tried to attend Vienna’s Opera Ball dressed up as Adolf Hitler.

For “F.’s Bed and Breakfast,” Kramar used a crew of amateurs – including some abuse victims – to put together a dynamic and diverse set of skits and musical interludes that ranged from comical to crude.

Sporting a gold blazer, white shoes, slicked back hair and a tiny mustache, he repeatedly turned the focus from the stage to the audience with cynical jabs such as “media representatives are very sensitive people” and “the more intelligent ones are here.”

Memorable characters in the show include “Help Man” – a type of Superman character wearing red stockings on his head – and a female abuse victim with a paper bag obscuring her face who repeatedly tries to tell her story but keeps getting cut off.

Kramar, 60, faced a firestorm after he announced plans in January to stage the show, which was formerly titled “Fritzl’s Bed and Breakfast.” His most vocal critics included Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party, which issued a statement calling the show a “slap in the face of the victims” of Fritzl’s victims.

Kramar stressed the piece was meant to be a satire about the hypocrisy of the media.

“The principle is simple,” Kramar said in a statement. “Behind the brazen, feigned theater of sympathy are hardcore profit interests.”

After the premiere, Kramar appealed to reporters not to forget about the silent victims whose voices aren’t heard.

“F.’s Bed and Breakfast” is being staged in Vienna’s small and alternative 3raum-Anatomietheater.