Expats in Zurich … Guest review of the “Expats” Play

NewInZurich friend, Nualan O’Brien,who is an Irish expat living and working in Zurich, has recently been to see the play the “Expats” and here she shares her views of the play.

The play is directed by Barbara Weber and is based on a collation of interviews with Expats about their experiences of living in Switzerland – about transience and how foreigners experience life in Switzerland. It is partly in German (mostly high German), English, French and with a phone call in Spanish to round it off. English sub-titles are displayed on stage.


Photo © Philipp Ottendörfer

So who are these ex-pats anyway? A cynic might say an expat is a “posh” word for an immigrant. The only difference between being an “immigrant” and an “expat” is that an “expat” implies a highly-skilled professional who leaves his home country for a highly paid job elsewhere.  Often the ‘expat’ possess a skill set that is not easily found in Switzerland. An expat typically enjoys status, generally a “relocation package” and a good salary, however is invariably poorly integrated, living in a “parallel universe” – separate from the locals.

In Switzerland, “expats” broadly speaking, fit into two categories: Firstly, those who spend a few years here and either leave and go to another highly paid (and tax friendly) enclave like Hong Kong. And secondly, those who settle here, have children who end up speaking a language the parents do not understand (Swiss German).


Photo © Philipp Ottendörfer

The play takes the form of a series of scenes showing the various scenarios people find themselves in: arriving from America with a partner in Zurich taking an apartment. The actors took on fluid characters, one moment the banker, next moment the Mom with three children. It focused in on high-earning professionals, bankers mostly, then, fast forwarding a few years, a couple are married with children. Another scene depicts a woman is leaving for Hong Kong after losing her job with UBS. Others tell the tale of a lady describing how her “boyfriend” followed her to Geneva, they had lived together, but it did not work out as he did not find a job.

Nualan’s view:

While I enjoyed the play, being a creative soul myself, I prefer to give praise to a creative work knowing how much it hurts to get negative reviews, but I felt the play could have been so much more with some ruthless editing. As any person knows, editing is often the most important stage of a creative process and for the “Expats” it is a case of “omit needless scenes”, which often detract, rather than add to the show. It is 1 hour 50 minutes. If it were 70 minutes and they cut the chorus (once was too much), the long middle dialogue from the blonde lady, the random bed hopping, the on-stage smoking, the running around between scenes it would be a richer, more subltle and edgier performance. Actors who shone that night include, Austrian born Alicia Aumueller whose English was as flawless as her skin. I thought she was American, and Alexander Seibt and Malte Sunderman, both from Germany.

You can see a clip of the play here:

The play is next showing at Theater Neumarkt in Zurich on Tues 7th May, Tues May 14, Wed May 15 and Tues May 21, Wed May 22nd. To buy tickets please go to the website.

For Nualan’s website please see here.


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