The lettering “Theatertreffen” on a purple background in front of the Haus der Berliner Festspiele.

© Fabian Schellhorn

The 10 Productions 2024

Ten remarkable productions from the last season were selected by a jury of critics to provide a condensed insight into the German-language theatre landscape.

Bucket List

By Yael Ronen & Shlomi Shaban

Director: Yael Ronen
Songwriting and composition: Shlomi Shaban
World premiere: 9.12.2023
Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz
Co-production with Théâtre de Liège – with the support of Wallonia-Brussels International.
Funded by the European Theatre Network PROSPERO – Extended Theatre.
schaubuehne.de

Statement of the Jury

Sometimes the theatre manages to be contemporary in a way that is the opposite of “up-to-date”. In these instances, something seems to lie behind what we see on stage, like a second skin. “Bucket List” is such a show. Because it is precisely not what many had expected – a concrete analysis of the horrors of 7 October 2023. Instead: There is trust in what is your own, in art, music and the original story. But how can this story be told without dealing with the Here and Now? A man wants his memories to be deleted because he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. But some shreds remain, some eerie scraps of yesterday’s memories, like those white pieces of clothing that keep falling from the theatre’s rafters. Among the disconsolate yearning of these images, Yael Ronen, Shlomi Shaban and their cast have created grand musical theatre, effortlessly changing between Broadwayesque glamour and mellifluous singer-songwriter sounds. As masterfully as ever – and yet nothing seems like it was before.

Tojuror Janis El-Bira’s video statement in the Berliner Festspiele Media Library (in German)

A woman sings in an abstract black and white stage set, a man looks on.

Bucket List

© Ivan Kravtsov

Die Hundekot-Attacke

Eine Vorstellung über Finsternis, Schönheit und Vergebung, basierend auf einer wahren Begebenheit.

Concept: Wunderbaum
Director: Walter Bart
Text: Walter Bart, Hannah Baumann, Pina Bergemann, Nikita Buldyrski, Henrike Commichau, Linde Dercon, Leon Pfannenmüller, Anna K. Seidel
World premiere: 27.10.2023
Theaterhaus Jena
A co-production with Wunderbaum.
theaterhaus-jena.de

Statement of the Jury

Right at the outset, the production quotes Robert F. Kennedy: “A life without criticism is not worth living”. And yes, this show does address the faeces-attack that occurred at Staatsoper Hannover in February 2023 – and thereby the debate about art criticism. But it is also a show that has avowedly chosen a sensational title to finally entice the nationwide press to travel to the Thuringian provinces – an aim that it has fully accomplished. It is a show about power structures in the theatre and the genius cult, about the “both attractive and disgusting words dog faeces”. And above all, it is a show that challenges these issues and thus the art (and theatre) scene. It plays on clichés, facts and fiction, on the vanity of actors, the sovereignty of critics and the presumably personal. Created with self-irony, intelligence, pseudo-documentation and within the both emotional and democratic roller-coaster processes of a collective. In short: a charming and captivating show, and of course it features a dachshund, a choreographer and a critic.

Tojuror Katrin Ullmann’s video statement in the Berliner Festspiele Media Library (in German)

A person in a white suit smears a white floor with black paint.

Die Hundekot-Attacke

© Joachim Dette

Die Vaterlosen (The Fatherless)

Tragicomedy by Anton Chekhov
German translation by Ulrike Zemme
Including “DAD MEN TALKING”: A series of conversations with changing guests & Carl Hegemann as well as a monologue by Katja Brunner

Director: Jette Steckel
Premiere: 3.6.2023
Münchner Kammerspiele
muenchner-kammerspiele.de

Statement of the Jury

There is no fourth wall in the beginning. The Kammerspiele-cast around Wiebke Puls as Anna Petrovna, impoverished widow of a general, casually chat into the stalls, heave beer crates across the ramp and try to get into the party spirit. But there is no buzz, no matter how much the “fatherless” try. This is Anton Chekhov’s first play, written when he was still at school in the Russian provinces, while his bankrupt father had fled to Moscow to avoid his creditors. Jette Steckel stages it as a dance on the volcano’s edge. One after the other, strong women succumb to Joachim Meyerhoff’s toxic school teacher Platonov, throwing themselves at him in a craving for perdition and defiantly declaring him to be their “utopia”. One, at any rate, successfully sues him in a text insert by Katja Brunner – and Platonov promptly declares himself the victim. And then there are the “DAD MEN TALKING”, older gentlemen (and ladies) whom dramaturg Carl Hegemann interviews on the generational experience of fatherlessness in talk show parentheses, until Platonov knocks the stuffing out of them. A celebration of acting, full of collective repressions and projections!

Tojuror Martin Thomas Pesl's video statement in the Berliner Festspiele Media Library (in German)

A man is pierced by long dark rods.

Die Vaterlosen

© Armin Smailovic

Extra Life

By Gisèle Vienne

Concept, choreography, direction, scenography: Gisèle Vienne
Creation and performance in co-operation with: Adèle Haenel, Theo Livesey, Katia Petrowick
World premiere: 16.8.2023 (Ruhrtriennale)
A production of DACM / Company Gisèle Vienne
in co-production with Ruhrtriennale, Théâtre National de Bretagne – Centre Européen Théâtral et Chorégraphique, MC93 – Maison de la Culture de Seine-Saint-Denis Bobigny, MC2 : Grenoble – Scène nationale, Théâtre national de Chaillot, Maillon – Théâtre de Strasbourg – Scéne européenne, Tandem – Scène nationale de Douai, Points Communs – Nouvelle Scène nationale de Cergy Pontoise, CN D Centre national de la danse, Comédie de Genève, Le Volcan – Scène nationale du Havre, Centre Culturel André Malraux – Scène nationale de Vandoeuvre lès Nancy, NTGent, Printemps des Comédiens – Cité du Théâtre Domaine d’O Montpellier, Festival d’Automne à Paris, Comédie de Clermont, International Summer Festival Kampnagel – Hamburg, Triennale – Milan, Tanzquartier Wien, La Filature, Scéne nationale de Mulhouse.
ruhrtriennale.de

Statement of the Jury

A bleak no man’s land beyond the outskirts of the city. Clara and Felix are stranded here after a whole night of dancing. The siblings had grown apart but now, for the first time, they are able to talk openly about what Uncle Charly did to them. This much is certain in Gisèle Vienne’s “Extra Life”. Everything else fans out in associative splinters in Yves Godin’s breathtaking lighting design. Over and over, Godin uses individual spotlights and colourful laser beams to create new spaces that never become concrete locations. They mark landscapes of the soul through which Adèle Haenel, Theo Livesey and Katia Petrowick move in slow motion. Thus, Gisèle Vienne and the performers consistently dissolve time as we know it. It does not pass, but rather opens up in many different, diverse directions. Present and past, reality, dreams and nightmares become one. The persistent trauma of the abused children expresses itself in equally poetic and painful images and becomes tangible through art.

Tojuror Sascha Westphal’s video statement in the Berliner Festspiele Media Library (in German)

A woman on the roof of a car leans on her hands and looks into the distance.

Extra Life

© Estelle Hanania

Laios

ANTHROPOLIS II

By Roland Schimmelpfennig

Director: Karin Beier
World premiere: 29.9.2023
Deutsches SchauSpielHaus Hamburg
schauspielhaus.de

Statement of the Jury

Following Pentheus – and preceding Oedipus – Laios is the rightful heir to the Theban throne. In the second part of the five-part series “ANTHROPOLIS” Roland Schimmelpfennig has invented a personal biography for this supporting character from the ancient world. He allows space for myths and possibilities as well as for kebab shops and rattling motor scooters. After all, those handed down stories of the ancient Greeks, this “sick shit”, is nothing but conjecture. Gods are at play here, as well as flying cats and banished princes, some of them with pierced feet. Karin Beier needs only few devices to stage this monologue of multiple perspectives with all its versions, variations and maybes. And at the centre of it all, she firmly places the phenomenal Lina Beckmann who fills the black worlds of the stage with roaming assurance. With superb presence of mind, physical suppleness and an overwhelming joy of acting, she invokes a grand, far-away world while always staying in touch with the audience. From the light-heartedness of a teenager via the human abysses of a Butoh-dancer and a politician’s calculations to the calamitous cough of a seer, Beckmann fascinates in alternating characters. But her principal role is that of a highly concentrated, captivating narrator.

Tojuror Katrin Ullmann’s video statement in the Berliner Festspiele Media Library (in German)

A masked woman stands in front of five antique masks with open mouths.

Laios. ANTHROPOLIS II

© Monika Rittershaus, 2023

Macbeth

By William Shakespeare
German translation by Angela Schanelec and Jürgen Gosch
Director: Johan Simons
Text version: Koen Tachelet
Premiere: 12.5.2023
Schauspielhaus Bochum
schauspielhausbochum.de

Statement of the Jury

It is basically an obvious idea, and now director Johan Simons has taken a spirited hold of it. He construes William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” as the prototype of the Theatre of the Absurd. Which is exactly what this horror play with all its improbabilities and its penchant for the supernatural and the cruelly grotesque has always been. Conceived as a farce, the tragedy shines in new splendour, bestowed not least by Marina Galic, Jens Harzer and Stefan Hunstein. They play all the roles and use the rapid transitions from one character to the next as opportunities for abstruse gags. As sad clowns, they don Shakespeare’s characters like costumes while constantly intuiting the senselessness of it all. This lends their characters a surprising and, all their savagery notwithstanding, touching vulnerability. “Fair is foul and foul is fair”, is the witches’ announcement at the beginning of the play. Simons and his cast make this reversal of values work. The tragic is comical, the comical is tragic.

Tojuror Sascha Westphal’s video statement in the Berliner Festspiele Media Library (in German)

Two people in black suits and crowns on their heads are in a stage set made of Delft tiles.

Macbeth

© Armin Smailovic

Nathan der Weise (Nathan the Wise)

Dramatic poem in five acts
By Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Director and set designer: Ulrich Rasche
Premiere: 28.7.2023
Salzburger Festspiele
salzburgerfestspiele.at

Statement of the Jury

The radiance of enlightenment in Ulrich Rasche’s production of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s “Nathan der Weise” (Nathan the Wise) shines and blazes so brightly that it is hard to say whether it will lead humankind into a better future or simply blind them. Short, interspersed external texts by Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Voltaire suggest the latter. They reveal the deluded side of enlightenment and the fact that there were unbridled anti-Semites among its thinkers. And Lessing took a rather pessimistic kind of stance against these anti-Semites. It is exactly this pessimism that pervades Rasche’s staging and Valery Tscheplanowa’s equally sharp-thinking and moving portrayal of Nathan. Together with light artist Alon Cohen, Rasche creates boundaries made of light. These walls of light enable beautiful entrances, but they also repeatedly separate the characters, underlining Rasche’s idea of the limits of enlightenment – an idea already illustrated by Lessing’s awkward happy ending which excludes Nathan, of all people, from the family.

Tojuror Valeria Heintges’ video statement in the Berliner Festspiele Media Library (in German)

An ensemble of actors stands in a tense posture on a blue-lit stage.

Nathan der Weise

© SF/Monika Rittershaus

Riesenhaft in Mittelerde™

Based on “The Lord of the Rings”™ by J.R.R. Tolkien
An accessible installation by Theater HORA, Das Helmi Puppentheater and Schauspielhaus Zürich

Directors: Nicolas Stemann, Stephan Stock, Florian Loycke & Der Cora Frost 
World premiere: 22.4.2023
Schauspielhaus Zürich
schauspielhaus.ch

Statement of the Jury

A 1250-page novel on stage – and how! The production’s four directors constructed a lovingly equipped walk-in fantasy world in Schauspielhaus Zürich’s Schiffbau-Halle. At first, the audience is allowed to enter and explore; then Frodo’s adventures in Middle Earth unfold with plenty of commotion, music, plastic foam, films and gags. It is a spectacle, a huge merriment, an analysis of a monster film that has thousands of fans in spite of its racist and misogynist undertones. All of this is incorporated, but only in passing. All of the cast perform on an equitable footing, the actors from Schauspielhaus Zürich, the HORA-players, the puppets of Das Helmi, Der Cora Frost. And the co-artistic director accompanies them all on the piano. That’s class, that’s confidence; this is a celebration of the theatre and its wealth of devices, of methods, of faces, of approaches. And even its shortcomings, which are revealed but not exposed. An immersive spectacle where both Tolkien-experts and high culture-nerds will get their money’s worth and vanquish evil together.

Tojuror Valeria Heintges’ video statement in the Berliner Festspiele Media Library (in German)

Several people in imaginative costumes are standing in a black stage area.

Riesenhaft in Mittelerde

© Philip Frowein

The Silence

By Falk Richter

Director: Falk Richter
German-language premiere: 19.11.2023
Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz
schaubuehne.de

Statement of the Jury

An aged father who still has nightmares about the war, a mother who inspects her children’s diaries, parents who show no pity when their son falls victim to a homophobic attack: In his auto-fictional play “The Silence”, author and director Falk Richter sets out to find the reasons behind the silence that shaped his childhood and adolescence in the Nordheide, a region south of Hamburg. He confronts his mother in documentary film footage where she describes her life as a story of perseverance, of “resilience”; he invents wickedly funny dialogues with his old school-friend and with a therapist. On a stage designed to resemble a front garden in Buchholz, he is represented by actor Dimitrij Schaad who furiously empathizes with the artist – and yet he has his own views of this kind of self-exploration. In “The Silence”, Falk Richter has not only created a captivating and reflected analysis of how deeply the traces of fascism and the experience of war have penetrated into the mentality of people in the Federal Republic of Germany. He also allows the audience to share the struggles and shifts of perspective that may perhaps allow a new beginning.

Tojuror Eva Behrendt’s video statement in the Berliner Festspiele Media Library (in German)

On a stage with a park-like landscape, a man sits at a laptop, the image of a swimmer is projected onto the background.

The Silence

© Gianmarco Bresadola

ÜBERGEWICHT, unwichtig: UNFORM

A European Eucharist by Werner Schwab
In a version by Rieke Süßkow and Klaus Missbach

Director: Rieke Süßkow
Premiere: 6.10.2023
Staatstheater Nürnberg
staatstheater-nuernberg.de

Statement of the Jury

Director Rieke Süßkow does not brush Werner Schwab’s “faeces drama” from 1991 the wrong way, on the contrary: She has studied it closely and stages it with delightful perfection in all its adolescent, sniggering obscenity. The inn where a group of miserable and violent regulars envy (and eat) a couple of beautiful newcomers is located inside a mouth that smacks and slurps most disgustingly. The characters wear half-inflated sex dolls and are targets in a fairground shooting gallery or a gaming machine. Their movements appear mechanical and each individual one is backed by a noise. Only after they have committed violence against the beautiful rich people do they become able to liberate themselves. Süßkow applies a strict concept and yet the details of its implementation remain surprising throughout. So we keep watching eagerly and begin to side with individual characters – although the only character that Schwab is interested in is language itself.

Tojuror Martin Thomas Pesl’s video statement in the Berliner Festspiele Media Library (in German)

An ensemble with costumes reminiscent of sex dolls is on a black stage.

ÜBERGEWICHT, unwichtig: UNFORM

© Konrad Fersterer

The 2024 Shortlisted Productions

43 productions were suggested and discussed for nomination for the 2024 Theatertreffen by the jury members.

To the shortlist

Between 21 January 2023 and 17 January 2024, 690 productions from 82 cities were viewed either in person or online. 1.105 votes were submitted and a total of 43 productions were suggested and discussed for nomination for the 2024 Theatertreffen.
We would like to congratulate the selected production teams and all other participants!