They Divided The Sky

Presented by 25A Belvoir & Daniel Schlusser Ensemble


Curious and passionate Rita is falling in love with hilariously pedantic Manfred. Together, they are fearless. East Germany is in generational turmoil: post-war trauma in conflict with youthful optimism.

Utopias seem possible. Marxism! Socialism! Revolution! But the Cold War is underway and when Manfred’s professional ambitions are thwarted, he looks to the West. The Soviets put a man into space and a Wall is about the split the city. Will their love go the way of their beloved country, or will Rita’s idealism, and seemingly boundless capacity for sacrifice triumph?

Christa Wolf was one of the most beloved German authors of her generation. Her first full-length novel They Divided the Sky was hailed at the time for its artistic achievement and excoriated for its “decadent” politics. This timely adaptation by Daniel Schlusser has been written for two of our finest performers, Nikki Shiels and Stephen Phillips.

From the novel by Christa Wolf adapted for the stage by Daniel Schlusser
Director Daniel Schlusser
Performed by Stephen Phillips, Nikki Shiels
Designer Robert Cousins
Costume Designer Mel Page
Lighting Designer Amelia Lever-Davidson
Sound Designer James Paul
Produced by froudist


“Amelia Lever-Davidson’s lighting design uses florescent and incandescent lighting to underline shifts in time, keeping us abreast of what might otherwise be a slippery narrative.”

“The most sophisticated of the 25A productions we’ve seen, They Divided the Sky has been made with exceptional care and the performances – tenderly drawn and perfectly scaled to this intimate space – are delightful.”

-AUDREY Journal

“Amelia Lever-Davidson’s lighting choices enhance the piece’s overall impact.”


“Arresting. Interesting. For thoughtful theatre experiencers.”

“At Belvoir during three weeks in the month of June, Mr Schlusser, working with two outstanding actors, Stephen Phillips (Manfred) and Niki Shields (Rita) has developed a physical language and mode of performance – a hyper-theatrical tension of reality that has a self-conscious awareness of its stylistic explorations, incorporating, knowingly, a very vivid and character-filled, demanding of attention, Composition and Sound Design, by James Paul, with the deliberate punctuations/punch into the action by the Lighting Design of Amelia Lever-Davidson.”

-Kevin Jackson Theatre Diary

“Incisive lighting design by Amelia Lever-Davidson helps us tune in, with a degree of meditative attention, in order that we may approach the staging with a heightened sensitivity.”

-Suzy Goes See

“That beginning, under stark fluorescent tubes is indicative of the rest of the production and how gently elucidatory it will be.

Warm amber is contrasted with steel whites as their life adventures are played out against a background of expressive technical conceptualisation.  In one elongated sequence, for example, the audience travels with them for a sensuous few minutes of light and sound.  Toward the end of these deliciously aesthetic moments one of the characters will extricate themself with considerable effort from under their burdens and the other eases away the time until sliding gracefully out from under.  The rest of the show might be dynamic with movement and ideas but here we have a revealing of the gulf that will grow between a couple who often ask questions of each other in the third person.  It’s dramatic, coherent and generous evocation.”

-Sydney Arts Guide

“The novel is written in defiance of linear time; rather, it’s structured in fragments and flashbacks, and Daniel Schlusser’s new theatrical adaptation honours that lateral, linked approach – especially through James Paul’s thoughtful, heart-pounding sound design.

A cassette tape rewinds or fast-forwards, something breaks, and the scenes shift accordingly. Amelia Lever-Davidson’s lighting indicates a tonal lurch before the actors land it, so we can brace ourselves accordingly. Her palette favours cold blues and a swathe of oranges; day and night, hope and resignation, passion and fear.”

-Witness Performance

AUDREY Journal

Witness Performance

Kevin Jackson Theatre Diary

Susie Goes See

Sydney Arts Guide

Sydney Morning Herald