The selection 2018

On 30 January 2018, the jury for the 55th Theatertreffen announced its selection.

They attended 409 productions in 54 cities in the German-language region. 683 votes were given and each jury member watched between 85 and 112 productions. A total of 33 productions was nominated and discussed.

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

Am Königsweg (The Royal Road)

By Elfriede Jelinek
Directed by Falk Richter
Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
World premiere 28 October 2017

Ostensibly structured as a reckoning with the “stable genius” of US-president Donald Trump, Elfriede Jelinek’s “Am Königsweg (The Royal Road)” turns out to be an eagle’s flight across around 2000 years of human history and its mountain ranges of authoritarian politics. What kinds of contexts of violence cause societies to take form through the exclusion of others? What archaic longings drive them to see their will embodied by an individual, a king, a leviathan? Jelinek asks these questions and director Falk Richter clothes them in a burlesque, quintessentially anti-authoritarian aesthetics of abundance: a bombardment of images and brilliant solo acts – including the brazen stand-up interludes of comedienne Idil Baydar, whose alter ego Jilet Ayşe deconstructs everyday racism in Europe. United in spirit, Jelinek and Richter fight for a free, exuberantly associative and open poetry that will pulverise the crude “us or them”-ideology championed by the Putins, Orbáns or Trumps of this world.


A Cycle at the Schiffbau
Based on “The Trojan Women” by John von Düffel, based on Euripides (interlinear translation by Gregor Schreiner) and “Iphigeneia in Aulis” by Soeren Voima, based on Euripides
Directed by Karin Henkel
Schauspielhaus Zürich
World premiere 2 December 2017

Karin Henkel’s account of the Trojan War is told from the point of the women who have to suffer it – without ever betraying the classical material’s mythological force. In intimate proximity, the wonderful performers portraying the watchful and determined characters of Cassandra, Helena and Andromache whisper their fates into our headphone-clad ears, all eager reinterpretation, cynical analysis and simple lament, laced with cool pathos. At the same time, a crafty Kate Strong questions: Who is actually in charge of writing history and how exactly is it that women allegedly collaborate in these catastrophes. There has rarely been such an unflinching demonstration of how mainly power-hungry men lecture us in fake-news-mode, tell us that there is no alternative to aggression and commit murder behind the smokescreen of political morality. Karin Henkel’s production is an intelligent rewriting of history, a feminist (in the best sense of the word) redistribution of the interpretational prerogative.

Die Odyssee (The Odyssey)

A wandering journey, based on Homer
Directed by Antú Romero Nunes
Thalia Theater, Hamburg
Premiere 20 May 2017

What do you do when your progenitor is a dominant father figure, shrouded in mythology and never at home, because he is off having adventures that can’t even be verified? You bring the hero into your room and make mincemeat of his incredible tales. In “The Odyssey – A wandering journey”, Antú Romero Nunes tells the story of Odysseus’ sons Telemachus and Telegonous: How they finally meet as young men and go on to assimilate their father’s violent stories together. Nunes builds this fraternal chamber drama in the face of the massive paternal vacancy on hoopla and virtuoso slapstick, propelling it through all conceivable psychological and pop-cultural stages of emotionality, into escalation and back out again. With the help of only apparently harmless cabaret acts and a specially invented art-language, actors Thomas Niehaus and Paul Schröder develop a fierce fantasy of emancipation. Smellt nach aventiure!

Die Welt im Rücken (The World at Your Back)

Based on the novel of the same title by Thomas Melle
Directed by Jan Bosse
Burgtheater, Vienna
World premiere 11 March 2017

Joachim Meyerhoff is a specialist for artistic solos of all kinds, and – having spent his childhood at a psychiatric hospital (where his father was Senior Consultant) – he is not afraid of this medical field’s concerns. He was one of the initiators of this dramatization of Thomas Melle’s autobiographical novel “Die Welt im Rücken (The World at Your Back)”, and now he sets out on an equally ecstatic and painful introspection of a manic-depressive patient. He may be alone on stage, and yet it is as if there were many. The protagonists’ story is constructed along lines of perceptions that have spiralled out of control and a total loss of reason. Jan Bosse’s production translates this into an artistically unbounded “theatre of objects”, where reality and mania are often indistinguishably alike. Gigantic dream-fabrications emerge from the smallest things, opening up new horizons with the apparently simplest of theatrical devices. Super-ego or brain mass? Breakfast egg or ping-pong ball? That is the question, over and over again.


Based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Directed by Frank Castorf
Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Berlin (under the Artistic Direction of Frank Castorf)
Premiere 3 March 2017

It is serendipitous: A directorship which has shaped theatre history like no other since 1989 sets its final chords with a work of considerable theatrical force. Frank Castorf`s reading of Goethe’s “Faust” shows total freedom of interpretation and ample additions of external text. For him, it is not the drama of the German thinker, but rather the drama of the European bourgeoisie, who had set out in 1789 to free all peoples from feudal bondage. And what actually came about was the bondage of capitalist economisation. This journey takes us from the “creation of man”-scenarios of “Faust II”, via France in the Second Empire, to the colonial reality of the Algerian war. We follow Faust not so much as a character, but rather as a complex of problems: Global Player Faust. For his expedition campaigns, Castorf has assembled a throng of exceptional actors who hold this eruptive stage event together at its core: Marc Hosemann, Sophie Rois, Alexander Scheer, Lilith Stangenberg, Martin Wuttke. And Valery Tscheplanowa, who was selected as “Female actor of the year” for this performance.


Musical theatre based on the novel by Josef Bierbichler
Based on the production directed by Anna-Sophie Mahler
Conceived and directed by Anta Helena Recke
Münchner Kammerspiele
A production by Münchner Kammerspiele and Anta Helena Recke
Premiere 12 October 2017

Two years ago, Anna-Sophie Mahler’s adaptation of Joseph Bierbichler’s novel “Mittelreich” was presented at the Theatertreffen: a quiet evening of musical theatre that deconstructed the concepts of home and family across three generations of Bavarian lake-side innkeepers. Following the tradition of “appropriation art”, which questioned the art world’s normative categories in the late 1970s, director Anta Helena Recke has copied this production, but with one significant change: Her cast consists entirely of actors of colour. This production is the first to ever appropriate a “white” play on the stage of a German city theatre, to address it with an apparently simple thought: What is different when there is a black cast rather than a white one? While on stage the topics of privilege, exclusion and displacement, familiar from the Bierbichler/Mahler-version, are moving in new and doubled vibrations, this “copy” demands a reflection on our patterns of perception and on the institution of the theatre and its structural racisms.

Nationaltheater Reinickendorf

By Vegard Vinge / Ida Müller
Nationaltheater Reinickendorf, Berlin
Production Vinge/Müller & Berliner Festspiele / Immersion
World premiere 1 July 2017

Is it possible to create the world all over and to give it one’s very own imprint? With “Nationaltheater Reinickendorf”, artist duo Vegard Vinge and Ida Müller have made some significant steps towards the realisation of this gigantic project. The self-constructed theatre building in a storage hall in Reinickendorf is surrounded by the “dramaturg’s tunnel”, outlining their own sources of inspiration, and the “Panini Cathedral”. With an obsessive, excessive formation via comic-book masks, painted scenery, voice-over acoustics, serial structures and audience participation, the two artists and their ensemble not only find connections between canonical works like “Hamlet”, “The Master Builder” and “Tosca”. Vinge also unflinchingly acts out the primal scene of his own creative activity in a Freudian sense. In other words: There’s a lot of personal shit involved, as a specific action and self-reflection within a gesamtkunstwerk that keeps its audience captivated in its contradictions until the next morning.

Rückkehr nach Reims (Returning to Reims)

Based on the novel of the same title by Didier Eribon
German translation from the French by Tobias Haberkorn
in a version of the Schaubühne
Directed by Thomas Ostermeier
Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin
Co-production with Manchester International Festival (MIF), HOME Manchester and Théâtre de la Ville Paris
German-language premiere 24 September 2017

Thomas Ostermeier has staged the most fiercely debated novel of the past theatre-season – and has gone beyond it. Together with Didier Eribon, he returns to the working class quarters of Reims, to the volubly denied roots and the established origins of the current nationalist swing to the right. In memory of her father Willi, a co-founder of the German Green Party, Nina Hoss expands on the consequences of Eribon’s book for today’s Left. The show’s artful frame, constructed from elements of reality and re-enactment, documentary project and work of art, gives a utopian twist to Eribon’s pessimistic résumé. How can we responsibly take a stand in a world that is in a state of dissolution? How can we become capable of action in the face of rampant populism? Ostermeier not only raises these questions, he also gives answers.

Trommeln in der Nacht (Drums in the Night)

By / based on Bertolt Brecht
Directed by Christopher Rüping
Münchner Kammerspiele
Premiere 14 December 2017

Bert Brecht’s play “Trommeln in der Nacht (Drums in the Night)” premiered at Münchner Kammerspiele on 29 September 1922, directed by Otto Falckenberg. Around a hundred years later, Christoph Rüping stages an excitingly new version of the drama at the same theatre: By having his cast imitate the acting attitudes of the past and confront them with the theatre conventions of today, he pays homage to the old and praises what is to come. It is the story of Andreas Kragler, who returns home from the war and must make a choice between revolution and love. Outside, the Spartacus uprising is raging, but inside, private happiness awaits. The young Brecht sent his protagonist to Anna’s bed, but later in life, the playwright regretted his decision. And so Rüping has the company play one version “by Brecht” and one “based on Brecht”. Both times, the seductive force of the theatre remains beyond doubt. Over two hours, the company creates an immensely entertaining, touching and encouraging show about the power of the theatre, the departure towards a new day and love as an all too broad subject.


Drama by Georg Büchner
Directed by Ulrich Rasche
Theater Basel
Premiere 15 September 2017

What a deeply unhappy text this “Woyzeck” is, despairing of the world. Rarely has its hopelessness found such poignant expression as in this production, which is in fact a precisely synchronized machine, where sound, words and movement interlock like a well-greased clockwork, giving each other momentum. There are breathtaking stage situations, and what is most astonishing is that this spectacular machine (which is always visibly and audibly recognisable as a machine – and as such develops a beauty all its own) frees an unimagined level of emotionality, a directness of narration that is hard to escape – far beyond any obvious imagery implied by the machine wheel and the circular motion, although it admittedly exactly corresponds with Woyzeck’s hopeless “always”. Even images of nature, like a field or the moors, are evoked with astonishing vividness by this setting that has no a priori connotations of natural environment whatsoever. Above all else, however, it evokes the drama of Woyzeck’s hopeless run.


Theatertreffen 2018 – die Jury spricht!

The jury of the 55th Theatertreffen presents the 10 selected productions on the Berliner Festspiele Blog. (in German)


Shortlisted productions

All productions that were considered and discussed by this year’s jury

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Database 1964-2018

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