The core of the Theatertreffen was, once again this year, the so-called ten remarkable productions. And in keeping with tradition, this year, too, there was intensive questioning, discussion and criticism about what was so remarkable about the specific selection. The also traditional equalisation of the word remarkable with very, very, very good naturally raised expectations to immeasurable heights.
In the first place, remarkable has neither positive nor negative connotations, but rather indicates that something about a production was special or extraordinary and therefore deserves attention – from the perspective of those who selected it.
In fact, this year’s 10-play selection was not lacking in remarkable elements: In all(!) productions there were very special acting skills to be experienced, which knew how to serve numerous facets of acting – from funny to tragic to under-tense, from introverted to exclamatory or skillfully dilettantish (for example in the frenetically performed “ Ein Sommernachtstraum“).
Many productions – for example „Die Eingeborenen von Maria Blut“, in which a huge statue of the Madonna towered on the stage in central perspective, or „Kinder der Sonne“, for which the luxurious wood-paneled interior of past eras was recreated in great detail – impressed with very pictorial and well thought-out stage designs that burned themselves into one’s brain.
Formalistic-based theater was not neglected either: while the power of symmetry was celebrated in “ Zwiegespräch“, „Hamlet“ relied on the magic of the loop, and „Der Einzelne und sein Eigentum“ knew how to develop its pull by continuous rotation.
New formats for theater were also tried out – for example in „Ophelia’s Got Talent,“ a sensual feminist poetic collage that also managed to accommodate elements of artistry and acrobatics in it, or in “ Das Vermächtnis,“ a theater approach to familiar Netflix aesthetics with all their stereotyped viewing habits. Both productions did not skimp on special effects: trees larger than life rotated into the auditorium, helicopters were roped down from the stage ether. In „Nora“ even a whole house scenery stood on its head, while the production, by selective overwriting of the canonical, also turned Ibsen upside down in terms of content. And “ Der Bus nach Dachau“ tried to re-examine the whole discourse on the cinematic representation of the Shoah (with a innovative cinematic-theatrical concept, albeit without enough involvement of contemporary Jewish perspectives.).
The list of the remarkable was therefore also very long this year. However, it also became clear that all these remarkable elements require a specialized discourse on theater in order to be recognized in all their particularity.
The question that remains – and has been raised several times at the festival: Who would the Theatertreffen like to address generally? Is it a theater fair? A showcase for everyone? A meeting of the theater bourgeoisie? In terms of content, a desired privileged audience became apparent: although the 10 selection negotiated socio-politically relevant discourses – from class consciousness to feminism to German memorial culture – it did so primarily from a central European bourgeois perspective that is even aware of its normativity and openly addresses it in the productions instead of striving for a counter-design.
The selection of 10 productions 2023 is thus: in any case remarkable for continuing the discourse of new theatrical aesthetics, but in terms of content there is still room to think along with multiperspectivity, which has been socially established for a long time, also on the stage of Theatertreffen.