The selection 2017

On 7 February 2017, the jury for the 54th Theatertreffen announced its selection.

They attended 377 productions in 63 cities in the German-language region. 666 votes were given and each jury member watched between 61 and 111 productions. A total of 38 productions was nominated and discussed.

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


Based on the novel by Peter Richter
Directed by Claudia Bauer
Schauspiel Leipzig
Premiere 16 September 2016

The title of Peter Richter’s autobiographical novel “89/90” refers to the period of Germany’s reunification. Dealing with this great era of upheaval, it is told from the pop-literary point of view of a 16 year-old youth from Dresden, caught between high-spirited anarchy before and humiliating shopping binges after the fall of the wall. Director Claudia Bauer reverses these personal memories into their opposite and stages a reunification-oratorio, in which the subjective voice of the narrator repeatedly descends from the radio station of memories, joining the collective on stage and disappearing in it: In an ensemble of pudgy Pinocchio-puppets, in a school class drilled for socialism, in an amateur choir that intonates ironically celebratory songs from the German Democratic Republic, both pro- and anti-regime. At the same time, the production tells the story of a fundamental schism that persists up to our federal German present: At the crossing of right and left, you had a choice between authoritarian nationalism and self-responsible freedom. Bauer translates both choices into image and sound and thus helps to novel to attain a grand form.

Der Schimmelreiter
(The Rider on the White Horse)

By Theodor Storm
Directed by Johan Simons
Thalia Theater, Hamburg
Premiere 25 November 2016

Twenty years before Max Weber’s epochal analysis of how the spirit of capitalism originated in Protestant ethics, Theodor Storm had already exemplified this development in the character of the pioneering dyke builder, Hauke Haien. In a maelstrom of social, superstitious and natural violence, Storm demonstrates that transitions between eras are rarely glittering success stories, but instead detachment processes entailing brutal consequences. Johan Simons’ dark and repetitive interpretation focuses on this incompatibility between two ideologies: The traditional security of permanently repeated life-cycles and the technical optimism of an entrepreneur who has liberated his personal ambition grind each other down like mental millstones, until the decelerator breaks the accelerator. With a cast of brilliant actors, Simons sketches a world with no touch or colour – a review of a time which, like our present days, was shaped by the conflict between those who profit from modernisation and those who lose.

Die Borderline Prozession
(The Borderline Procession)

Ein Loop um das, was uns trennt (A loop on what divides us)
By Kay Voges, Dirk Baumann and Alexander Kerlin
Directed by Kay Voges
Schauspiel Dortmund
World premiere 15 April 2016

A music, art, theatre and film installation: Totaltheater of philosophy. Kay Voges surveys today’s world as a raging, image-spewing machine and fathoms its effects on modern states of consciousness. Every spectator has a different insight into the monumental ten-roomed building complex, decked out in tasteful retro middle-class chic. They see atmospheric still lives, inspired by artists like Edward Hopper or Gregory Crewdson, and take their mental pick from the music medley and thunderstorm of quotations playing over it all. A procession of 23 performers circles them, carrying incense and singing as though to ward off the world spirits gone mad. Soon, the initially banal everyday life becomes a fortress against an increasingly escalating crisis that breaks through the cozy interior and the varnish of civilization. “Borderline Procession” is a reflection on the terror of simultaneous events, which we all ingest incessantly, like addicts, through the media. A meditation on the general confusion of the world.

Die Räuber (The Robbers)

By Friedrich Schiller
Directed by Ulrich Rasche
Residenztheater, Munich
Premiere 23 September 2016

In an era of emerging mass movements, where the enemies of democracy line up against the open society in market places and on social media platforms, Ulrich Rasche’s unconventionally severe chorus theatre, cultivated over a period of years, is the art-work of the hour. Rasche places his actors on gigantic treadmills that rotate like tank treads, ascending towards the heavens and inclining into the abyss. Whether it is the Moor household, hijacked by the scheming Franz, or Karl’s robber horde – they all stride along like galley slaves, all of them caught in the slipstream of the masses, congenially orchestrated by Rasche’s composer Ari Benjamin Meyers through meditative, archaic drum compositions. In this grim, operatic production, the fantasies of a breakthrough and criticism of the authorities which inflame Schiller’s protagonists condense into an apocalyptic monument.

Die Vernichtung (The Extermination)

By Ersan Mondtag and Olga Bach
Directed by Ersan Mondtag
Konzert Theater Bern
World premiere 15 October 2016

A deserted quasi-idyll is the first superb image that Ersan Mondtag, director and designer of the world premiere of Olga Bach’s “Vernichtung”, presents to the audience. Brahms’ “Ein deutsches Requiem” surges through this cunningly sampled nature- and culture-park – and then they plunk onto the scene. Four little people. They gape and marvel and don’t know what to do with all this splendour. Mondtag turns Olga Bach’s kitchen-table drama about young people in search of a kick to fight off the dreariness of everyday life into a total work of art of an incredible atmospheric concentration. The characters are human puppets, clothed in painted foam material. They stalk to and fro, as if pulled by marionette strings, in erratic conversation with each other, moving in behavioural patterns, at times conventional, at others ritual, but consistently without discernible motivation. One of their hobbies is to “cause urban strife”. A community of underemployed do-gooders is crumbling. Mondtag translates this social prognosis into sci-fi sequences of powerful images, heralding the end of the party and a budding appetite for totalitarian groups.

Drei Schwestern (Three Sisters)

By Simon Stone based on Anton Chekhov
Directed by Simon Stone
Theater Basel
World premiere 10 December 2016

A glasshouse straight from the wish list of affluent children: This is where director Simon Stone sets Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”. A modern ambience, accessible from all sides, thanks to a revolving stage. Only for seconds, if that, does the façade block the audience’s view of arguments and sex and boozing sessions – because that’s what goes on in this most contemporary Chekhov adaptation the theatre has seen for a long time. Stone completely re-wrote the dialogue and fitted his characters with a modern-day skin, while retaining Chekhov’s story and conflict constellation, his tragicomedy, melancholy, longing and pain. The excellent Basel acting company enhances the triviality of events surrounding Irina’s birthday party by also acting out the phoniness of the daily soap set in the sisters’ holiday home. Triviality is a thin, transparent protective cover. Underneath, the characters wear nothing but naked despair. And the scars of their fruitless search for happiness.

Five Easy Pieces

By Milo Rau
Directed by Milo Rau
A production by International Institute of Political Murder and CAMPO Gent
Co-production with Sophiensaele, Berlin / Kunstenfestivaldesarts Brussels 2016 / Münchner Kammerspiele / La Bâtie – Festival de Genève / Kaserne Basel / Gessnerallee Zürich / Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) / SICK! Festival UK / Le phénix scène nationale Valenciennes pôle européen de création.
World premiere 14 May 2016 Kunstenfestivaldesartes Brussels
Premiere 1 July 2016 Sophiensaele Berlin | |

Staging a play about the Belgian child murderer Marc Dutroux with children between the ages of 8 and 14, of all people? This reeks of scandal – and of an idea developed by Swiss director Milo Rau, who has been exploring the representability of evil for some time. In “Five Easy Pieces”, Rau duplicates the theatre situation by showing seven children and a director (Peter Seynaeve) at rehearsals. Scenes based on documentary material from the Dutroux case – interviews with the perpetrator’s father, but also with victims’ parents, a policeman’s report, a never-sent letter from a kidnapped girl to her parents – are increasingly superimposed by the question of how and whether children can play characters in this case at all. In his highly ambivalent production, which rigorously reflects on its own ethics, Milo Rau manages to set the self-confident individualities of the children from Ghent against evil, including the evil in art.

Pfusch (Botch)

By Herbert Fritsch
Directed by Herbert Fritsch
Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Berlin
World premiere 24 November 2016

In his free theatre works of recent years, Herbert Fritsch has created something quite unique: a theatre that liberates artistic play from obsolete questions of meaning, that doesn’t tell stories, but rather composes image sequences, and that in all of this is not at all inaccessible, but rather a happy-faced avant-garde. In his final production at the powerhouse of his creations, the Berlin Volksbühne, Fritsch extends his physical theatre into a comprehensive piece of sound art. In its central section, the production is a polyphonous piano concerto, born from the spirit of early Modernism – mercilessly dissonant, physical, impelling. The other two parts allude to the end of the era of long-term artistic director Frank Castorf at the Volksbühne with discrete irony: At the start, Fritsch’s company of horrible aunts executes death-defying gymnastics on a colossal stage pipe, all the while paying homage to the theatre’s infrastructure. Following Castorf’s witticism about the end of his time as artistic director, that after his successor Chris Dercon, the Volksbühne could always be used as a “public swimming-pool”, the finale brings us synchronized swimming in a pool – with the highest possible style scores, of course. Because no-one knows this quite like Fritsch: “Timing is not a place in China”.

Real Magic

By Forced Entertainment
Conceived and directed by Forced Entertainment
Artistic director Tim Etchells
Co-production with PACT Zollverein, Essen / HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin / Künstlerhaus Mousonturm Frankfurt / Tanzquartier Wien / ACCA Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, University of Sussex / Spalding Gray Consortium – On the Boards, Seattle / PS122 NYC / Walker Art Center, Minneapolis / Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh
World premiere PACT Zollverein Essen 4 May 2016

A small, radical show: It could make you die laughing or drive you crazy. Three above-average types are playing at quiz-shows. The performing area consists of a piece of artificial lawn and some lamps grouped around it in a half-circle. The three seasoned Forced Entertainers Jerry Killick, Richard Lowdon and Claire Marshall take on the roles of both quiz master and contestants. The task is to guess terms. Following Samuel Beckett’s well-known adage of “Fail again. Fail better”, the same scene is repeated in a different way, over and over again, all possible modes tried, all conceivable gestures exhausted. All this accompanied by a horrific laugh track and some upbeat show music. The result is a highly energetic performance that deals with compulsive repetition and the futility of liberating oneself from established patterns. This absurd show is just as well-versed in the realities of life as it is in the magic of the theatre.

Traurige Zauberer (Sad Magicians)

A silent comedy with music
By Thom Luz
Directed by Thom Luz
Staatstheater Mainz
World premiere 21 May 2016

No one stands up for ridiculous characters with quite as much consistency as Thom Luz. Whether they go on crazy exploration excursions and phone the great beyond, whether they are demented encyclopedists and friends of LSD, hypochondriacs or artists in all their vulnerability – they are the heroes of this young Swiss author and director. In all his works, he communicates his deep faith in the fact that these parallel worlds hold more of what is miraculous than all the temptations of consumption, careers and credit. And now he turns to magicians, these pilots of illusion, who would have us believe in things that ought not to be. In this musical test assembly, Luz sets these pros of deception against each other, looks for traces of their special talents and reveals them to be jealous competitors, sabotaging each other and fighting over their female assistants. But even in all their human baseness, these weirdos hold an illusion of happiness which immediately fascinates all those of us with a more normal craving for recognition. That is this evening’s happy magic: The dignity of the ridiculous cannot be made to disappear.


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Shortlisted productions

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


Database 1964-2017

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