2018 on stage

Our annual roundup of tops and flops. Read on, because there's still time to catch the tops before the end of the year!

Image for 2018 on stage Our annual roundup of tops and flops. Read on, because there’s still time to catch the tops before the end of the year! Top festival: FIND 2018 Returning for its 18th instalment, April’s FIND Festival of International New Drama at the Schaubühne simply wowed us with guest performances from around the globe that provided a welcome breath of fresh air in Berlin’s – at times – stale and homogenous theatrical climate. While these international voices undeniably stole the show, Ostermeier’s homegrown hit Rückkehr nach Reims, complemented by a panel discussion with author Didier Eribon, was certainly a highlight. But our stand-out favourites from the festival were:
  • KIND OF “A piercing analysis of speech, identity and power, Ofira Henig juxtaposes authoritarian grammar lessons with military manoeuvre to examine the politics of exclusion and oppression in Israel – a powerful performance of marching music, classroom choreography and polemical text fragments.” NP
  • ¿Qué haré yo con esta espada? “Angélica Liddell comes to visceral grips with the concept of extreme violence, sparing her audience no excess (including memorable scenes of octopus erotica). This is uppercut theatre that left some a little groggy, others a little upset – but no one indifferent. We left the Schaubühne in an unusual state of euphoria.” NV
Venue of the year: Volksbühne It was the best of years, it was the worst of years. The fierce resistance sparked by the appointment of Chris Dercon as intendant demonstrated, if anything, how passionately territorial Berliners are about the fate of their theatres. Granted, most people had made up their minds before the Belgian had even arrived, dooming him to fail from the start. And Dercon’s resigna- tion was the logical outcome of a miscasting only the Berlin Senate should be held responsible for. Nevertheless, Dercon can count a few successes to his short tenure: commissioning two productions from Mohammad Al Attar helped ensure Gorki didn’t remain the sole bastion of Arabic and Middle- Eastern theatrical voices in the city. And adding Danish choreographer Mette Ingvartsen and French legend Claude Régy to the programme were also big wins for the Berlin stage. Whatever your take is, it was the theatre everyone was talking about this year. And its future may be uncertain, but at least the iconic wheel sculpture is back. Lifetime achievement award: Sasha Waltz She’s the queen of the scene, the mother of Berlin dance and a staple of the city’s stages. Following the continued popularity of 2000’s seminal Körper, showing at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele again this month, she has continued to produce gripping yet critical choreographies with wide appeal like this season’s Exodus. Her company Sasha Waltz & Guests celebrated its 25th anniversary this year with tours to the USA and Japan, and a showcase of a few classics as well as a new instalment of her Dialoge series at Radialsystem. From 2019, Sasha will take over the traditionally classical Staatsballett in an appointment that was not without controversy, though the company’s dancers seem to have made their peace after a little dialogue. For her sustained creative impact on contemporary dance in the city, we would like to honour her with our first ever lifetime achievement award. Bravo, Sasha!
PLAYS Tops Die Hamletmaschine Maxim Gorki Theater “In a season of productions that obsessively pleaded for their own social relevance, it felt like it ‘needed’ to be done – Müller’s text needed to have the dust blown off of it in order to remind us of its lasting relevance, and the Middle Eastern interpreters needed Müller in order to give their representation of the region’s suffering the mythic magnitude it deserves.” DM Im Herzen der Gewalt Schaubühne “Thomas Ostermeier is proving himself to be a rare child of German Regietheater who is willing to restrain the obtrusiveness of his directorial choices in order to foreground the presence and power of his actors, to embrace intellectual ambiguity while not shying away from visceral emotional experience.” DM Welcome to Hell Neuköllner Oper “Peter Lund’s musical take on last year’s G20 summit in Hamburg is as nuanced as it is entertaining. Tight choreography and an infectiously catchy score by Peter Michael von der Nahmer make for a riotous performance.” NP Flops Liberté Volksbühne “Albert Serra’s foray into the milieu of de Sade betrayed a profound lack of understanding of the theatrical medium itself.” DM Les Misérables Berliner Ensemble “Following the psychodrama his departure unleashed, Frank Castorf’s first post-Volksbühne performance was met with high expectations. It was an unanimous disappointment. What we said: “Stuffed with his stagnant directorial habits, it elicited ambivalent frustration as a work whose virtuoso actors had great moments but were ultimately dragged down by the length of the evening – seven and a half hours for the premiere!” DM Ungeduld des Herzens (Beware of Pity) Schaubühne “McBurney is too slick for his own good. At times, it feels like he’s throwing every directorial trick at Zweig’s text, with incessant photographic and video projections and copious musical scoring.” DM Die Hamletmaschine Dec 20, 19:30 Maxim-Gorki-Theater, Mitte | Im Herzen der Gewalt Dec 6-9 (English surtitles Dec 7-8) Schaubühne, Wilmersdorf | Welcome to Hell Dec 1-30, 20:00 Neuköllner Oper, Neukölln | Kreatur Dec 19-22, 20:00 Radialsystem V, Friedrichshain | Körper Dec 6-9, 20:00 Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Wilmersdorf | Unterwerfung Dec 18-19, 19:30 Volksbühne, Mitte