I Beg Your Pardon: A Survey of the British Perspective on German Theatre

Pretzel or Royal headgear. Andre Schurrle moving to Chelsea. How to properly translate Paddington Bear. Just a few of the highly controversial debates causing sparks to fly between the Germans and the Brits these days.

Yet tonight sees the Theatertreffen premiere of Night Train, a Schauspiel Köln and 59 Productions adaptation of Friederike Mayröcker’s poetry which dispels any doubt that a German-British collaboration is not only possible, but capable of being “remarkable.”

And despite being by definition the most German of German theatre festivals, Night Train’s director Katie Mitchell and dramaturgs Duncan Macmillan and Lyndsey Turner aren’t the first Brits to be included at the Theatertreffen. Last year alone featured three British playwrights: Dennis Kelly opened the Stückemarkt with the memorable speech “Why political theatre is a complete fucking waste of time,” Pamela Carter nabbed the Stückemarkt commission prize (see the result for yourself on Friday 17th at the Maxim Gorki Studio), and Simon Stephens just missed out on a coveted Top Ten spot in the line-up with the German-British-Estonian production of his Three Kingdoms.

Clearly the Brits are infiltrating. But what do they really think of German theatre? I asked directors, playwrights, critics, actors and academics from across the UK to answer four simple questions. Here’s what they said:

WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORDS “GERMAN THEATRE”?

Qu1Survey_MiriamSherwood

Continue reading I Beg Your Pardon: A Survey of the British Perspective on German Theatre

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

The Future Archive of Theater

Over the course of the festival, I’ve been asking theater makers within and without tt10 about the state of German theater by asking them about the past of theater from the perspective of the future. I’ve been asking the theater makers to assess or reassess their position to the theater of now by looking out from an imaginary future. This tactic, which has been developed by two critical theorists, Manuela Zechner and Anja Kanngieser, is called the future archives and it provides a space to think about the possibility of change. I’ve asked:

Imagine you’re living in the year 2050.  Please describe the theater of 2010 as you remember it.  What’s improved?  What do you miss?

In my correspondence with theater makers, some have said they’d prefer not to discuss the future of German theater or the future at all. Others have said such speculations of ‘visionaries’ have proved to be dangerous over the course of history. But others have agreed with Manuela Zechner and Anja Kanngieser, that talking about the present in the future in the now can help us reframe our desires. These answers can be read and discussed here.

Continue reading The Future Archive of Theater