The Theatertreffen team congratulates all the directors, companies and theatres invited!
Till may - we look forward to seeing you then!
By Jérôme Bel / Theater Hora – Stiftung Züriwerk, Zurich
Directed by Jérôme Bel
Theater Hora – Stiftung Züriwerk, Zurich / R. B. Jérôme Bel / Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin / Auawirleben, Bern / Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Brussels / Documenta (13) / Festival d’Avignon / Ruhrtriennale / Festival d’Automne, Paris / Les Spectacles vivants – Centre Pompidou, Paris / La Bâtie – Festival Genève
World premiere Brussels 10 May 2012
German premiere Essen 23 August 2012
Who is handicapped here? The actors, because they have Down syndrome and learn more slowly than average? The audience, because they don’t know how to react to handicapped actors in a “normal” way? The critics, because their usual categories, tried and tested on conventional theatre of representation, are not effective here? French choreographer Jérôme Bel and the Swiss company Theater Hora upset our perception. When the eleven performers introduce themselves on stage, are they being themselves or are they playing themselves? And when we allow ourselves to be transported by the energy and the immediacy of their solo dance numbers, aren’t we just giving in to cliché? And when we don’t want them to expose themselves to us, don’t we really mean that we don’t want to be subjected to them? This theatre is not “disabled”, on the contrary: Seldom has there been a performance more able to make use of the “live-character” of theatre. Nothing is predictable, everything can go wrong. Or can it?
www.hora.ch / www.hebbel-am-ufer.de
Die heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe (Saint Joan of the Stockyards)
By Bertolt Brecht
Directed by Sebastian Baumgarten
Premiere 29 September 2012
Since the birth of neoliberalism at the beginning of the millennium, Brecht’s classic business play is performed simply everywhere and mostly transferred as close to the present as possible. At first glance, nobody makes Brecht’s “Saint Joan” look older than Sebastian Baumgarten in Zurich. A piano player’s jazzy rhythms pervade her; Brecht’s blank verse, usually a little antiquated, sounds like a libretto straight from the 1920s. The business men wear latex half-masks, straight out of a production by Ruth Berghaus, which wipe their faces empty of emotion. Meanwhile, the Kings of Cool look irretrievably ridiculous in their cowboy hats and their grotesque costumes – it’s as if someone had raided a dusty alienation storage room at the Berliner Ensemble. This is roughly what the East imagined capitalism would look like in the 1950s. But the further away the production pushes Brecht’s script, the more the old story seems to come closer. The laws of supply and demand have not changed; where morals and intelligence exist, they are mostly used to secure one’s own interests. The difference is that a solution is no longer in sight, not even as a utopian dream. Only at the end does the outward appearance of Baumgarten’s production reach the here and now. The markets have recovered, wages may be 30 percent lower, prices 30 percent higher and there may be 30 percent more unemployment, but that’s just the way it is. 70 percent at least get by fairly well.
Jeder stirbt für sich allein (Alone in Berlin)
After Hans Fallada
Directed by Luk Perceval
Thalia Theater Hamburg
Premiere 13 October 2012
If you think that morality is a flexible entity, that there’s a victim in every perpetrator or a perpetrator in every victim, that good and evil are a question of perspective, then you should definitely see “Jeder stirbt für sich allein”. Mr and Mrs Quangel only manage to hand out 18 cards bearing the lapidary sentence “The Führer has murdered my son”, before they are tortured and killed in the Gestapo’s dungeons. Luc Perceval’s production approaches Fallada’s resistance novel with concentration. It avoids milieu and atmosphere and creates a tersely sketched panorama of the followers and opportunists, the stairway-spies and rear house blackmailers, the small bandwagon effects and huge mistakes without which no dictatorship could ever exist. The more the Thalia Theater’s ensemble shows a thorough and simple understanding of these people, who just want to make their modest profits or simply be left in peace, the more unbearable those characters become. Violence has a clammy handshake.
Krieg und Frieden (War and Peace)
After Leo Tolstoy
Directed by Sebastian Hartmann
Centraltheater Leipzig / Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen
Premiere Recklinghausen 10 May 2012
Premiere Leipzig 20 September 2012
Almost two-thousand pages of war reports, nobility salon gossip, higher philosophy and the economy of match-making: Sebastian Hartmann and his cast find an intelligent and original answer to the challenge of Tolstoy’s epic work of world literature. This adaptation from Leipzig follows neither the rampant trend for Reader’s Digest renditions nor the discursive method of breaking up material in the style of Frank Castorf. Instead of presenting linear plots, it is structured by motifs, condensing recurrent topoi into essential scenes with strong images, and it is only logical that they end up dealing with the ultimate issues. “I”, “Death” or “Faith” are appropriately complex titles of some units of meaning from this five-hour performance, which takes place on a highly symbolic, tilting and lifting stage platform. The actors take an increasingly direct line towards the present, without conspicuously displaying this course. Template-like products for giving meaning become increasingly prone to decay. In this, the production is as consistent as in the waiver of a clear assignment of characters: Big universal questions, as we all know, befall the human species regardless of age and gender.
www.centraltheater-leipzig.de / www.ruhrfestspiele.de
Directed by Michael Thalheimer
Premiere 14 April 2012
In contemporary theatre, Colchian Medea is mainly known as a great tragedian, enraptured and enamoured of pathos or, by the dim light of kitchen psychology, as the cheated wife next door, as it were. In the face of this, Constanze Becker achieves something truly sensational in Michael Thalheimer’s Frankfurt Euripides production: By avoiding both these traps of stereotype, Becker always allows the concrete to shine through the universal myth, and vice versa – not by a process of elimination, but dialectically, not by resounding loudly, but by being unaffected and clear. In fact, this Medea, acting alone on a raised stage protrusion in Olaf Altmann’s appropriately massive set, almost as far apart from her fellow actors as from the stalls, allows us to watch her think. Thalheimer’s production strips away traditional histories of interpretation without reducing the height of the tragic fall, thus conquering new facets for this ancient character.
Murmel Murmel (Mumble Mumble)
After Dieter Roth
Directed by Herbert Fritsch
Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Berlin
German premiere 28 March 2012
The text has never been at the centre of Herbert Fritsch’s work. In “Murmel Murmel”, Fritsch has finally liberated himself, his actors and the audience from the burden of words and meaning: The result is 70 minutes of acrobatic physical theatre, splendid slapstick comedy and rhythmical dance gymnastics, supported by musician Ingo Günther and his marimbaphone. If you want, you can see this as a satirical comment on today’s hysterical, overexcited turbo-society, saying nothing in an incessant blahblahblah – but that isn’t really necessary. Why not simply enjoy the sublime events on stage, Victoria Behr’s dazzling Sixties’ costumes, Fritsch’s psychedelically surging set, which joins the dance and sets the rhythm for this Dadaistic art trip? Fritsch reminds us what the theatre is first and foremost: a colourful show with live people. And yet, in all its hysteria, the constant mumblings of the actors, at times solo, at others in a chorus, have something meditative about them.
Orpheus steigt herab (Orpheus Descending)
By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Sebastian Nübling
Premiere 29 September 2012
A rarely performed play about a repressive society hounding outsiders. Sebastian Nübling resists the temptation to update it at all costs. And yet he lifts it from the specific small-town cosmos designed by Tennessee Williams. A chain swing carousel hangs from the flies, incomplete to begin with. One by one, grocery store owner Lady Torrance fits light bulbs and seats, trying to make it fit to run. She is assisted by Val, a night club singer lost in Williams’ bourgeois Hades like Orpheus in the underworld. An awkward romance buds between the careworn lady played by Wiebke Puls and the elusive Val. Played by Estonian actor Risto Kübar, he doesn’t only epitomize the foreign, he represents everything different per se. This sad couple’s attempt to break society’s chains ends in most cruel failure. The majority pack barks its threats and finally bites with no mercy. A terribly beautiful production of timeless significance.
Die Ratten (The Rats)
By Gerhart Hauptmann
Directed by Karin Henkel
Premiere 20 October 2012
From a circuslike bizarre Felliniesque attic-store, a play emerges: The theatre’s devices take us to the depths of human misery and back. Mrs John has bought a child and claims that it is her own. Ever more stubborn, she follows her track of lies, with devastating consequences for all lives involved. Over-the-hill Director Hassenreuter wants to own a theatre again, one that will bring an audience and some cash, so he cheerfully bends towards all sides, with adverse implications for the theatre. With this intelligent interleaving and thematization of comedy and drama, already combined by Gerhart Hauptmann, director Karin Henkel demonstrates how a naturalistic tragedy can unfold on today’s stage void of illusions. Lina Beckmann as Mrs John develops poignant tragedy with her both delicate and straightforward acting, Kate Strong presents wonderfully overwrought, stylized circus figures in various parts, Lena Schwarz delivers vociferous expressionist drama and Bernd Grawert steers his Paul John from a harmlessly affectionate father to the desperation of a Woyzeck, from day-to-day life into the abyss. Truly grand theatre.
Reise durch die Nacht (Night Train)
By Friederike Mayröcker
Directed by Katie Mitchell
Schauspiel Köln / Fifty Nine Production London
World premiere 13 October 2012
A silent couple in a sleeping car. The night train is taking them from Paris to Vienna, but the real journey leads into the mind of the first-person narrator. The woman is going to pieces – and we are there to follow the score: shreds of memories, set pieces from dreams and traumas which she tries to restrain by taking them down in her notebook, to make sure of herself. Katie Mitchell turns Mayröcker’s epic poetry of feminist empathy into a stupendous study of very contemporary attributions of identity. On a broadband film set, bustling performers reproduce these “flashes of memory” in fascinating moments of live cinema. These seem to coherently reveal the protagonist’s life as she seeks to take hold of it in her stream of consciousness. Moving, oppressive and a little perfidious. Because, watch out: What seizes us and makes us believe that we have grasped a biography is no more than a few gestures, glances, stereotypical highlights on marital frustration and daddy issues. If we think that is enough to signify a life – good night, indeed.
Die Straße. Die Stadt. Der Überfall. (The Street. The City. The Attack)
By Elfriede Jelinek
Directed by Johan Simons
World premiere 27 October 2012
Ice cubes glitter like diamonds on the playing area. But soon their splendour melts under the stage lights. It’s all illusion. It’s about transience. And about fashion. And what is more transient than fashion? Munich’s fashion mile Maximilianstraße (which is also the location of the Münchner Kammerspiele, the theatre which Elfried Jelinek donated her play to) – a Vanity Fair, in more than one sense: everything is vain, everything means nothing. But everything can come out of a nothing. As clothes do make the man and little Munich likes to wrap itself in great significance. Strange characters stroll across the stage in Johan Simons’ production: men in high heels, wearing skin-coloured ladies’ underwear and covering up their withered flesh with fashion accessories, fur coats and Louis Vuitton handbags. And among all these men: Sandra Hüller as a fashion victim, brought to hilarious desperation by her fancy new skirt which is reducing her to a nonentity. Because it will never look on her like it does on the models on all those posters. This is theatre of existential depth, beyond all fashion and beautiful surfaces.