The 10 Selected Productions
by Friedrich Schiller
Deutsches Theater Berlin
Premiere 30 October 2020
In Anne Lenk’s production, Friedrich Schiller’s duel of the queens becomes a splendidly performed portrait of two women who are both prisoners in different ways.
- 2 h 15 min
- In German with English subtitles
Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, is in English captivity. As long as she is alive, the English Queen Elizabeth cannot be sure of her own power. But Elizabeth hesitates to order the execution of her competitor and kinswoman who can still command strong support, even in the dungeon. Surrounded by male careerists, the two women fight a duel that either both or none of them can win. Director Anne Lenk – whose production of Molière’s “Der Menschenfeind (The Misanthrope)” was invited to the 2020 Theatertreffen – has once again created a contemporary reading of a major canonic subject. She takes Schiller’s text seriously while discovering a surprising amount of wit in it. The company of Deutsches Theater Berlin show themselves at top form in Judith Oswald’s set, a logical response to the adversities of this pandemic-afflicted season.
Theatertreffen-juror Georg Kasch about the production
What could these two women have achieved together? Probably everything. And in a world of male careerists, too, only waiting for the other men – or even the queens – to make a gross mistake. So, what if Elizabeth and Mary Stuart were to discover solidarity for each other?
This idea is already inherent in Friedrich Schiller’s drama. The imprisoned Mary insists on a meeting with her rival: “Elisabeth is of my family, my rank, my sex; / To her alone, a sister, queen and woman / Can I unfold my heart.” Anne Lenk picks up this trail in her production at Deutsches Theater Berlin and shows two strong characters amid a bustling gaggle of spineless mansplainers.
For this attempt at forging sisterhood, Judith Oswald has created a Corona-compliant letter-case set of isolation chambers with bright edges. Inside these magenta-coloured cells, prisoners of their own tasks and passions pace back and forth like tigers. There are only two moments where characters actually meet in the flesh and both times, things go wrong: Mary and Elizabeth part in a hailstorm of mutual abuse and Mortimer nearly rapes Mary. It is as if the walls not only separate people but also protect them from each other.
Sibylle Wallum’s costumes, hybrids of Renaissance and the present day, outline the differences between the two queens: Mary has a girlish and flirtatious radiance, while Elizabeth, styled in a short hair-do, corset and pencil skirt, exudes a politician’s severity. Accordingly, Julia Windischbauer’s Elizabeth struggles to keep her composure in a timid and nerdy effort to hold on to her power, a permanently suspicious and defensive woman whose confidence only gradually gains a foothold. Franziska Machens’ Mary, on the other hand, brims with brilliance, seductive powers and an actual feminist consciousness. With her powerful eloquence, she gives short shrift to her self-important tormentors, who try to show off their power while hopelessly overestimating it.
With a snotty kind of irony – it is rare to see so much humour in this scene – she also tries hard to have the final word in her encounter with Elizabeth. Which of course goes horribly wrong for this nightmare of a pair, hiding behind poker faces and masks at the crucial moments instead of practising female solidarity. It’s no wonder that the men – figures of fun as they all may be – are free to hatch their plots for too long. How Elizabeth still manages to thwart them in the end (and pays a considerable emotional price) is one of the great moments of this show, which is rich in subtle acting throughout.
Anne Lenk Director
Judith Oswald Set design
Sibylle Wallum Costume design
Camill Jammal Music
Cornelia Gloth Lighting design
David Heiligers Dramaturgy
Julia Windischbauer Elizabeth, Queen of England
Franziska Machens Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland
Enno Trebs Lord Burleigh
Alexander Khuon Earl of Leicester
Jörg Pose Earl of Shrewsbury
Paul Grill Amias Paulet, Mary’s Warder
Caner Sunar Earl Aubespine, French Envoy / Wilhelm Davison, Undersecretary
Jeremy Mockridge Mortimer, Paulet’s Nephew / Melvil, Friend of Mary from Earlier Days