Most bemerkenswert, according to the TT-Bloggers

Last night this year’s 3sat prize was awarded to Nicolas Stemann’s Faust I + II. Some said it was a worthy recipient: the acting of Philipp Hochmair and Sebastian Rudolph was irrefutably intense, the director proved capable of applying just about every German theatre style from Brechtian to post-dramatic, and the whole performance struck just the right balance between classical and avant-garde theatre, splitting the difference between Platonov and John Gabriel Borkman. Others were less satisfied with the result: if the prize was to be given to “innovative, zukunftsweisende Arbeiten” [innovative and pioneering work] maybe Borkman might have been a better candidate, for instance, or anther Stemann production, or either Faust I or II.
I guess it all depends on how you define “bemerkenswert,” the only official criterion for the TT jury. This term is of course subjective, and the jury’s choices consciously or subconsciously form both the international and national definition of what German theatre looks like.
So, I asked all the members of the TT blog team to come up with the most remarkable production they saw this season, giving them only three criteria.
1. The production must be bemerkenswert.
2. It can be any kind of staged performance
3. It doesn’t have to be a German-speaking production.
And so, here are this year’s TT-bloggers most bemerkenswerte productions. Continue reading Most bemerkenswert, according to the TT-Bloggers

The TT-bloggers on Ein Volksfeind

Heiner Müller, Shakespeare, Ibsen’s patriarchal issues, East German comedy, Fukushima, Haribo, “the modern marriage,” fascism, capitalism, communism, racism, and even the delay of the brand-new Berlin Airport were all brought up in the Publikumsgespräch following last night’s Ein Volksfeind. On stage, there were at least a dozen people who’d actually worked on the play talking about their take on it, and yet their answers never made any coherent sense; it was as if they’d all been working on different plays. First, I thought this was due to my lack of German skills, or perhaps those of my interpreter. But then one audience member quite simply asked director Lukas Langhoff what the play was about and Langhoff responded that “there is no one true meaning,” continuing on to say he did not want to “force any one theme or meaning onto the audience.”
Right. As we are now arguably living in a so-called postmodern era where any unitary truths have arguably disappeared, I could have swallowed the director’s response if he had succeeded in convincingly transcending any particular “truth.” However, after sitting in the auditorium of the Haus der Berliner Festspiele for two very long hours, I only got bits and pieces of the aforementioned random themes, and none of them fully persuaded my mind or reached my soul. The only thought that constantly came back to my mind was: Too many cooks spoil the broth.
This is why I decided to write this article “collectively.” That is, I asked all the TT-blog contributors present after the performance to provide their opinion on how “the soup tasted,” or what they perceived to be the play’s meaning. See if we can’t make sense of this together: Continue reading The TT-bloggers on Ein Volksfeind

How German Theatre responded to Fukushima

Question: When you walk into a supermarket to grab some groceries for dinner, what’s the most important information for you? Price, obviously; brand, expiration date, amount of artificial sweetener, possibly; but how about the number of “becquerels” contained in that product? My guess is that maybe becquerel is the last word that pops into your mind when you run errands. But after the March 11, 2011, triple catastrophe of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, a 21.1m-high tsunami, and the following nuclear meltdown that discharged massive amounts of cesium 137 (equal to that of 168.5 Hiroshima atomic bombs), adding the results of a becquerel scan on packages of meat, mushrooms, rice, tea, or anything suspicious of radioactive contamination has become eerily prevalent in Japan.
The Japanese prime minister has described the catastrophe as the “biggest crisis since World War II,” and as is the case with all devastating disasters, it affected the day-to-day life of all citizens. And the crisis is still ongoing. This is why I felt both empowered and astounded to hear that one of Germany’s most prestigious theatre journals, Theater der Zeit, published an entire issue on the Fukushima incident last October, entitled In den Ruinen der Zukunft [In the ruins of the future]. Certainly, TdZ calls itself a “Journal for Theatre and Politics,” inheriting the politically engaged theatre tradition of the former GDR, but it otherwise is a theatre journal pure and simple, not any kind of political or environmental publication. Moreover, Berlin is 8.944 kilometers away from Tokyo, and it is not difficult to close your eyes, cover your ears, and ignore everything that has happened on those little Far East islands. Yet, the Germans didn’t. Which makes me want to hug every single person in this country and thank you for the sincerity with which you responded to the disaster. Continue reading How German Theatre responded to Fukushima

Questions from an Ausländer

I have nothing to say, and I am saying it. And that’s not poetry, just blatant fact. Here I am, in Berlin, a Japanese theatre journalist with some knowledge of theatre but no in-depth anything of German culture, and I’m supposed to be contributing to the TT-Blog. Don’t get me wrong: The last thing I want to do is grumble, because I am simply overjoyed by the broad-mindedness of the German-speaking blogging team who could accept a Tokyo journalist to join them. Yet, I honestly am also a little afraid, because when I look around there are, unlike in London where I live now, exclusively white faces around me, and I know that some people – no, not you, but some – do yammer “Ausländer raus!” as in the late Christoph Schlingensief’s ironic theatre project.
John Cage might say “Silence” in these circumstances. But the difference between the great composer and I is that I can’t shut up, but rather continue shooting foolish questions: Why is German theatre so politically engaged? Why is Regietheater still so strong in this more fluid modern age? Why are most directors men, and white? And why do many end up directing operas? Is that the ultimate success for directors, or is that already an old-school perspective? And, yes, this is a big one, has most of German theatre become totally post-dramatic, abandoning the power of storytelling? You see, I am full of these horribly biased questioned, and am the least qualified person to provide an insider’s view to this festival. Continue reading Questions from an Ausländer