The selection 2016

On 3 February 2016, the jury for the 53nd Theatertreffen announced its selection.

They attended 394 productions in 59  cities in the German-language region. 741 votes were given and each jury member watched between 78 and 131 productions. A total of 38 productions was nominated and discussed.

The Theatertreffen-team would like to congratulate the invited directors, companies and theatres!

der die mann

Based on texts by Konrad Bayer
Directed by Herbert Fritsch
Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Berlin
World premiere 18 February 2015

Herbert Fritsch has done it again: A theatre that merges the art of abstraction and a celebration of actors. Featuring an artist of language whose love of rhythmic mindlessness is in no way inferior to Fritsch’s own: Viennese word-Dadaist Konrad Bayer, for whom language was sound, and meaning was a mere ancillary reverberation. Language divides and creates community. Fritsch’s wonderful performing brothers and sisters in spirit give each other words and take them back: a collective mumblemumble which suddenly leaves one of them behind to launch into a doleful aria of “Nobody helps me.” But that is not the final word, because here comes Karl! First one, then two, then seven Karls, “the entire Karl has gathered here”. And the final “a” in “Kaaaaarl” has a long echo and transitions straight into the rhythmically fraternizing “a and o” of a total abstraction of letters. One voice, one rhythm, one body – one blissful moment of utopia, fragile and strong.

Effi Briest – allerdings mit anderem Text und auch anderer Melodie
(Effi Briest – although with a different text and a different melody)

By Clemens Sienknecht and Barbara Bürk based on Theodor Fontane
Directed by Clemens Sienknecht and Barbara Bürk
Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg
Premiere 19 September 2015

Initially, the premise seems like one of these typical, rather forcedly original repertory ideas: Effi Briest’s tragic death-by-virtue, staged as a gag-filled radio show. So it is all the more surprising how smoothly musical silliness and serious narration enter into a love match. In the cozy, plushy-armchair atmosphere of “Radio Briest”, Clemens Sienknecht and Barbara Bürk merge the essential scenes of Fontane’s Wilhelmine tragedy of grievances with the easy-going pseudo-liberty of the Seventies, combining them into a trippy musical. And it works, because these two eras continually serve as mirrors of each other’s embarrassments. The desire to flaunt the rules of the prevailing codex leads to mishaps of unsuccessful liberation in both these periods. Of course, this patchwork of key scenes in serious costumes and punchlines from a provincial radio-station full of embarrassing types in paisley shirts and sweater vests is sewn together with the thread of irony. But the way this becomes a grand, entertaining celebration of sad contemplation – that is the ultimate hit.

Ein Volksfeind (An Enemy of the People)

By Henrik Ibsen
An adaptation by Dietmar Dath
Directed by Stefan Pucher
Schauspielhaus Zürich
Premiere 10 September 2015

Director Stefan Pucher avoids the risk of a half-hearted update of this piece by performing a radical adaptation. Dietmar Dath’s version is more than congenial; he precisely renders the newspeak of today’s media-democracy without betraying Ibsen or the underlying story. Dath transfers Spa doctor Dr Tomas Stockmann’s home to a small town with the “most progressive local authorities ever”. Initially, Tomas, played by Markus Scheumann, mistakes the shiny happy people around him for upright pillars of society. He is aware that his brother, the mayor, is a grey eminence, but other than that he prefers to believe in the good in people. Meanwhile, Robert Hunger-Bühler, aka Peter Stockmann, knows how to turn the tricks of open government to his advantage. He knows which information to whisper into whose smart phone and when it pays to intervene personally in the newsroom of a key medium: This master of local politics has the art of timing down to a T. Stockmann vs. Stockmann – that is what the final conflict boils down to, staged as a double-dealing talk-show spectacle which gives the audience a choice: They can either get on the bandwagon of Billing’s suggestive questions in the foyer, or keep faith with the indomitable Tomas Stockmann in the auditorium, who has yet to face the shitstorm which his town has in store for him.

John Gabriel Borkman

Based on Henrik Ibsen by Simon Stone
Directed by Simon Stone
Burgtheater im Akademietheater, Vienna / Wiener Festwochen / Theater Basel
Premiere Vienna 28 May 2015
Premiere Basel 30 January 2016 | |

The 31-year-old Australian’s method is simple, yet striking: Only very little original text remains of the plays that he applies himself to. He retells the story in his own, modern-day words. This version of Ibsen’s “John Gabriel Borkman” is set in the present, where people google themselves and follow each other on Facebook. The financial scandal that sent Borkman to prison has left persistent traces on the Internet. Similarly to the characters, who only gradually dig themselves out of the drifts of continuous snow-fall created by designer Katrin Brack, disgrace and shame are only superficially covered up. In the icy setting of this often astonishingly funny production, a society of wolves gets ready to tear each other to pieces. Martin Wuttke as a long-haired, degenerate outcast Borkman who pisses into buckets, Birgit Minichmayr as his deeply disappointed wife, the alcoholic diva Gunhild, and Caroline Peters as her sister, a cancer patient who has come home to die, are pulling no punches. The others take to their heels (Max Rothbart as son Erhart) or go to the dogs (Roland Koch as a woolly-minded Foldal). High-pressure theatre, where no prisoners are taken and even the dying exit giving a defiant victory sign.

Mittelreich (Middle Rich)

Musical theatre based on the novel by Josef Bierbichler
Directed by Anna-Sophie Mahler
Münchner Kammerspiele
World premiere 22 November 2015

Being medium-wealthy is fraught with more problems than one would generally imagine. As a prisoner of his inn and its long tradition, the landlord “Seewirt” seems to have no other option but to repeat the mistakes of his elders. Escape is apparently not an option; there is far too much traction. This is one plotline from Sepp Bierbichler’s book which Anna-Sophie Mahler lays open. The other thread deals with the deluge of refugees, the displaced people who were forcibly billeted with civilians after the Second World War – unthinkable nowadays – which caused great resentment against them. The more unobtrusively Jochen Noch as Viktor clears his throat and says no more than absolutely necessary, the more this gets under our skins and shows us that this fight for prosperous territory is an archaic one, a matter of instinct. In this adaptation, there is a wealth of finely drawn characters, of excellent chorus arrangements. But if there were a danger of these arrangements drifting towards the epicurean, it is warded off by the harshness of the second part. There is an extreme transformation in Annette Paulsmann, who changes from a resolute landlady to a demented old hag in the turn of a chair. Beautifully measured are Steven Scharf’s confessions about the insanity reigning in a boys’ boarding school, where he is thrown among the clerics and, tormented by homesickness and a longing for tenderness, lets them get away with far too much.

Schiff der Träume (And the Ship Sails On)

A European requiem based on Federico Fellini
Directed by Karin Beier
Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg
Premiere 5 December 2015

On the funereal “ship of dreams” (based on Fellini’s film about a sinking vessel) Karin Beier quotes Marthaler-moments with delicate irony (Marthaler’s performers Bettina Stucky, Rosemary Hardy, Sasha Rau and Joseph Ostendorf are members of her stunning crew) for an hour and a half - musical, whimsical and melancholy. The very best of German city theatre! Until composer Wolfgang and his symphony Human Rights No. 4 have been utterly dispatched posthumously by his malicious orchestra and the dust of a lovely culture of irony has flown from the urn. And then, a cut: Black performers, playing the role of refugees, enter the theatre ship, a gang of five (among them Gotta Depri and Michael Sengazi, two performers steeled in Gintersdorfer/Klaßen’s German-Ivorian shows). No more delicate lighting, no tenderly dripping music. They’re brash, loud, offensive and want to reach the upper decks. For the next hour and a half, their confident performance makes the funeral orchestra reel back and forth between humanitarianism and the preservation of their property, concluding in a dance that spans the cultures. The final self-abandonment of decadent Europeans? Not quite yet! We will have to continue working in this profoundly unsettled zone of goodwill, where the distribution of roles may well to be negotiated.

Stolpersteine Staatstheater (Tripping Stones State Theatre)

By Hans-Werner Kroesinger
Text version by Regine Dura
Directed by Hans-Werner Kroesinger
Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe
Premiere 21 June 2015

Using staff records of Staatstheater Karlsruhe, director Hans-Werner Kroesinger and dramaturg Regine Dura reconstructed the process of anti-Semitic discrimination and the dismissal of left-wing and liberal theatre artists after 1933. Actors and audience sit together at a large work desk. The actors read from files, newspaper reports, memoirs and interviews with contemporary witnesses. Repeatedly, they transition into brief passages of acting. We hear how in Karlsruhe, Jewish actors, a Jewish prompter and the artistic director were dismissed, arrested, driven into exile and to suicide. Individual artists are not reduced to mere victims, but presented in terse, concentrated portraits. The bureaucratic procedure which provided a detailed set of legal regulations for social exclusion and the preparation of a genocide, the legitimation by procedures that liked to conceal this discrimination in inciting articles in the local NS-paper by citing the pertinent legal clause, the polite, formally always correct letters in which a chief councillor informed the Jewish prompter that her dismissal was lawful – all these make the production into a lesson about the impartial operation of a state bureaucracy.

The Situation

By Yael Ronen & ensemble
Directed by Yael Ronen
Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
World premiere 4 September 2015

“The Situation” is what both Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East call their decade-long irreconcilability. Now they encounter each other in Berlin: the Palestinian man with an Israeli passport, the Israeli actress, the Palestinian parkour athlete, the Syrian film-maker, the black Palestinian woman. In a German language course, teacher Stefan asks them to answer educationally worthy questions (Who are you?) in correct German. In vain, of course. Yael Ronen’s energetic performers and their semi-biographical stories are anything but projection surfaces asking for anyone’s pity. This multi-language German lesson is a piece of radically funny political cabaret of self-assertion. Yael Ronen’s patchwork of diversity causes all our fixed images of migration and integration to crumble. Each one of them an individual, at the end they affirm their hope for the impossibility that sometimes happens regardless: to understand each other. To arrive.


By Ersan Mondtag
Directed by Ersan Mondtag
Staatstheater Kassel
World premiere 10 December 2015

In the dark forest, a muezzin calls; a father goes down to the cellar armed with an axe; a very fat girl stomps her feet in defiance and makes the whole house shake. A fairytale mood pervades “Tyrannis” by Ersan Mondtag, the eerie kind of fairy-tale. We watch the avatar-like movements of a red-haired family, via CCTV in their rooms and live in a strange kind of open-plan kitchen, like a human zoo. They don’t talk, they follow strict rituals and they are hiding secrets. Did terrible things happen in the past or are they still in store for these zombiesque detached-house-souls? A patient contemplation of Mondtag’s room-world-dreams evokes associations of horror movies and computer games, of David Lynch and the Brothers Grimm, but also of a petit bourgeois claustrophobia à la Fassbinder and the bashful characters of Christoph Marthaler. The powerfully pictorial concentration composed from these influences by the 28-year-old performer and director produces an intimate commonplace horror in an enchantingly wayward atmosphere.

Väter und Söhne (Fathers and Sons)

By Brian Friel based on the novel by Ivan Turgenev
Directed by Daniela Löffner
Deutsches Theater, Berlin
Premiere 12 December 2015

Daniela Löffner has succeeded in directing a clearly narrated and, in all its playful lightness, intelligent and sensitive production. Her treatment of Turgenev’s novel “Fathers and Sons” trusts the actors. With empathy, precision and not without humour, she shows us a group of people tangled up in their emotions, a group that we follow spellbound through the four hours of the show. Turgenev’s novel explores a generation conflict among the privileged classes. Students lounging in a pose of grand refusal and proudly announcing their own nihilism, while the servant serves their tea, are barely distinguishable from today’s Hipsters. Daniela Löffner’s directing, just like Turgenev’s writing, is not that of an ideologue, but that of a clear-sighted observer, blessed with a sense of humane mockery. So she chooses not to judge, but rather to let the conflict unfold casually, trusting in the highly contoured drawing of its characters. She accomplishes the feat of presenting Turgenev as a predecessor of Chekhov’s and to hold the balance between dry humour and unsentimental melancholy.


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Shortlisted productions

All productions that were considered by this year’s jury.


Chronicle 1964-2016

The data base with all productions, theatres and directors since 1964 as well as the Stückemarkt authors.