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.

 

Adrian Anton, TT-Blogger:

Teach Us To Outgrow Our Madness

Choreographed by Erna Ómarsdóttir

At Norwind-Festival at Kampnagel, Hamburg

This was a very hard decision to make as I recall several really good productions, such as Constanza Marcra’s Berlin Elsewhere, Kristian Smeds’ 12Karamasovs, and Vegard Vinge’s John Gabriel Borkman, which in terms of impact it was by far the strongest. However, I chose Ómarsdóttir’s contemporary song-and-dance piece, as it visualized gender issues in a both very intense and eye-catching manner.

 

Hamed Eshrat, TT-Blogger:

John Gabriel Borkman

Directed by Vegard Vinge and Ida Müller

At Volksbühne im Prater, Berlin

It portrayed the spirit of total “freedom.” The play was convincing not only as a hyper-expressionistic picture, but also as a delicately crafted sketch. For me, it was not just a “play,” but a “Gesamtkunstwerk.”

 

Karl Wolfgang Flender, TT-Blogger:

John Gabriel Borkman

Directed by Vegard Vinge and Ida Müller

At Volksbühne im Prater, Berlin

I’m not too fond of judging art and picking out the „best“ play, but this season there was one play that transcended theatre altogether: John Gabriel Borkman. After my first round of Borkman (I went three times) I was sure I would be getting a new job, something with kids or animals, because theatre was lost for me in that moment. And is still, in a way.

 
Magdalena Hiller, TT-Blogger:

Ich und Ich

Directed by Michael Gruner

At Theater Hamakom, Vienna

The director takes Jewish German playwright Else Lasker-Schüler’s immensely rich text and delicately tackles themes such as: What is power? What is God? What is Evil? The actors were extremely precise and nuanced as well, and through their excellent acting, they led the audience to a hellish jungle. If you want to read more about my choice, find my review here.

 

Miriam Rose Sherwood, TT-Blogger:

All The Sex I Ever Had

Direction and concept by Darren O’Donnell

Created by Mammalian Diving Reflex

At Pazz Performing Arts Festival, Oldenburg

Ten perfectly ordinary pensioners from Oldenburg, Bern, and Canada sat behind a plain black press conference table and narrated their lives via sentence-long, awe-inspiringly frank and honest descriptions of all the encounters with sex they ever had. An MC announced the year, and the different stories interwove with each other chronologically, from childhood confusion („I am 8 years old, and I know that when you kiss a girl they have a baby, and the baby comes out of their bellybutton, but what I don’t know is: What are boys‘ bellybuttons for?“) to divorce, abortion, and affairs with prisoners. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much in a performance, or the last time I was so moved by one – it was clear by the end that there’s no such thing as „perfectly ordinary.“

 

Nadine Löes, TT-Blogger:

John Gabriel Borkman

Directed by Vegard Vinge and Ida Müller

At Volksbühne im Prater, Berlin

I simply think it is an “outstanding” performance because I haven’t seen anything like this before. It was totally new, extraordinary, and filled me up with all sorts of emotions. I was angry, I was impressed (especially by the stage setting), I laughed a lot, I was confused, and I was afraid the entire play long, as anything could happen, mentally and physically, to us, the audience in the auditorium.

 

Gudrun Pawelke, Guest blogger:

Faust I + II

Directed by Nicolas Stemann

At the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Berlin

It starts like a walk in a park. It feels, light, humorous, easy-going, but brings us profoundly into the heart of life, of existence. It is as if Goethe is reaching the audience by himself, and even though Faust is a text Germans know by heart, Sebastian Rudoph spoke his lines in an extraordinary and refreshingly crisp way we’d never heard the text delivered before. Stemann created a fully convincing production, both creatively and in terms of dialogue, retaining its intensity for eight hours.

 

Florian Dujisens, English-language editor for the TT-Blog team:

Before Your Very Eyes

Concept, design, and direction by Gob Squad

At the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Berlin

Though one other TT performance also gained its vitality from youth (Pollesch’s hypnotizing teen athletes in Kill Your Darlings functioning both as capitalist foil and exuberant eye candy), only one reflected on youth and aging as eloquently as Gob Squad’s Before Your Very Eyes. Although the performance has been four years in the making, the evening never felt heavy-handed or forced. It staged the drama of growing up from both the kids‘ point of view as well as that of the adults in the audience, who – no strangers to aging themselves – were smartly brought to giggles and/or tears. It certainly helped that they played some Sufjan too, I must admit.

 

And lastly, my own choice:

 

Kyoko Iwaki, Guest blogger:

For Faces

Concept and choreography by Antonia Baehr

At Dresden Tanz Platform, Dresden

Although I was absolutely overwhelmed by Vincent Macaigne’s puissance in Festival d’Avignon’s Au Moins J’aurais Laissé…, and viscerally shocked by Romeo Castellucci’s On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God, in my opinion they were not the best productions created by both directors. Baehr’s production cannot be compared to the Castelluci’s in terms of scale, budget and lavish spectacularity, instead presenting a small and beautifully crafted choreography with precision, subtlety, and sophistication. In Baehr’s micro-choreography, the wrinkling of the eyes, trembling nostrils, and even blinking becomes a meticulously regulated choreography. And after 50 minutes of Noh-theatre-like total concentration, the audience members‘ physical conditions are altered and they start experiencing time in different dimensions.

 

And the winner is…

Three votes to Borkman, and one each to Faust and Gob Squad. So in general I guess the bloggers agreed with the TT jury’s decision. But, what about your opinion? What was the most outstanding production you saw this season? What was really bemerkenswert? The Theatertreffen might end today, but the discussion should continue on and on.

  1. I’ve been waiting all day for this post! Really interesting to hear everyone’s favourites, and especially to see that despite all the debates, Theatertreffen definitely got something right. GREAT idea for a post!

  2. me too! hope other’s leave comments on their favourites! or their dislikes – or actually we could come up with a whole bunch of lists: favourite piece of music integrated in a performance, favourite quote and so on…

  3. Thanks Miriam and Adrian,
    It was tremendously interesting to hear everyone’s favourites, and was also intrigued to know that the winner was Borkman. I’d really like to know what the readers of this blog have to say about this year’s 3sat prize!