Two men are living in a small, single-room apartment. Their space-saving solutions are ingenious. Everything is multifunctional: the bed is a piano, and the bookcase also serves as a fridge. But they long for a woman in the house. To compensate for the lack of the feminine touch, they create a mechanical maid. One of the men makes romantic advances; the other sees her in a more practical role. But the doll soon shows there’s more to her than polishing her day away. She has a will of her own and refuses to be bossed around. Things start getting more agitated in the one-room apartment.



Buster Keaton’s films of the 1920s were a big inspiration for this play, with the opening scene from Keaton’s The Scarecrow giving Ahlbom the idea for Lebensraum. Whereas Keaton focused on the three-way relationship and the two men fighting over her, Ahlbom concentrates on the relationship between the two men that is disrupted by a doll. They project their own longings and wishes onto her, foist the finest of human traits upon her, and are disappointed when she does not live up to their idealised image of her.


Keaton was a pioneer of slapstick and physical comedy in the silent movies era. Back then, films were accompanied by live piano music; Lebensraum gets live accompaniement from the rock band Alamo Race Track.
The German title, meaning ‘living space’, is a literal and figurative reference to the small world in which the two men live, and the making of the doll is an extension to their own existence. The Pinocchio motif is clearly present, with the doll maker translating the need to make into the creation of new life.

Awards and nominations

Lebensraum won the 2012 VSCD Mime Award
From the jury report:
“Lebensraum is a highly successful stage adaptation of Buster Keaton’s silent film idiom, with the specific inspiration being the ‘one-room house’ scene from The Scarecrow. Jakop Ahlbom has once again demonstrated that his fusion of multiple sources can yield wonderful theatre. He successfully forges all these elements into a unified whole that is surprising and disorientating, as well as touching and irresistibly funny. Lebensraum is an admirable further step in the impressive oeuvre that Jakop Ahlbom has built up over the past decade. “

Dancer and actor Silke Hundertmark was nominated by the VSCD drama jury for the 2012 Colombina, the award for the best supporting female role in a theatre production. This was the first time in the history of these theatre awards that an actress received a nomination for a role without text.

From the VSCD jury report
“Hundertmark’s incredibly accurate physical acting brings a wooden doll to life in this remarkable play. The performance is sublimely clever and meticulously detailed, convincing the audience for a long while that the doll is truly made wood. This young actress should be much admired for her ability to walk the thin line between being an object and a living, breathing character.”

The play also won the Utrecht Wijk Jury Award and the the Delft Kijker Award, and director Jakop Ahlbom was the recipient for the third time of the Toneelkijkers award presented by Theater aan het Spui in the Hague.

Lebensraum is an international sensation and has been touring the Netherlands and abroad since 2012.

In the media

“Silke Hundertmark is superb as the malfunctioning maid. She has a glassy stare that seems painted on to her eyelids and never once flinches when she’s tossed around the flat as the choreographed chaos escalates. Ahlbom balances the trio’s relationship beautifully. The gentility with which the men care for their self-made woman is sweetly touching.”
The Telegraph
“You don’t need to be a fan of Buster Keaton to enjoy this mind-blowing romp of a performance. … The performance opens with an impressive display of the actors’ incredible timing and finely tuned coordination. … Lebensraum: pure physical comedy, pure fuckin’ fun.”
Dig Boston
“Lebensraum challenges, inspires the audience.”
The Boston Globe
“Le spectacle Lebensraum a fait l’ effet d’une bombe.”
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Director: Jakop Ahlbom
Dramaturge: Judith Wendel
Cast: Jakop Ahlbom/Yannick Greweldinger, Silke Hundertmark, Reinier Schimmel, Leonard Lucieer, Ralph Mulder/Empee Holwerda
Music: Alamo Race Track
Stage design: Douwe Hibma and Jakop Ahlbom
Lighting design: Yuri Schreuders
Technicians: Yuri Schreuders, Allard Vonk and Michel van der Weijden
Management and sales: Marc Pil T: +31 (0)20 8950651, E: marc@jakopahlbom.nl
Special props: Rob Hillenbrink/Robs Propshop
Make-up: Anabel Urquijo Claveria
Management and Sales: Wilma Kuite/Alles voor de Kunsten

Thanks to: Woedy Woet, Daniël Ament, Cees Debets/Theater aan het Spui, Voordekunst, Sophia Sanders, Manuel Boutreur, de Veenfabriek, Margriet Beentjes, Nicolien de Jong, Gert Jan van de Geer, Eye Filminstituut, Jan Doense

Made possible by financial support from: Performing Arts Fund, Prins Bernhard CultuurFonds, SNS Reaalfonds and the following donors: M. van Tienhoven, Circuswerkplaats Boost, C. Hulst, R. Cremers, M. Hillebrand, W. v.d. Peet en E. Musman, L. van Esch and R. Lucieer