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2022 in review

Feminist chaos and French literature: Berlin’s best theatre of 2022

From Florentina Holzinger’s Ophelia’s Got Talent to an unlikely Ring cycle - what were the highlights of the Berlin stage in 2022? We look back on a year of theatre.

Unlikely Ring

Ring Cycle. IMAGO / Future Image

No Rhineland landscapes or medieval outfits for Wagner’s Ring Cycle at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden. Instead, the drama was largely moved to a modern human testing laboratory, where Siegfried, an Adidas-clad youth, fought a metaphorical dragon. If you missed it last year, it will be back in April 2023 – but remember: all parts of the cycle put together add up to around 15 hours.

KO post-Kosky

Barrie Kosky’s All-Singing All-Dancing Yiddish Revue, Photo: IMAGO / Future Image

Barrie Kosky ended his time at Komische Oper with a customary flourish. His Barrie Kosky’s All-Singing All-Dancing Yiddish Revue was a joyful celebration of Jewish culture presented as a camp, sexy cabaret night. The KO’s first season without the Australian-German guru at its helm got off to an equally thrilling start with Intolleranza 1960, which turned the entire auditorium into an icy landscape for a deeply moving fable of migration. Kosky will be back as a director for La Cage Aux Folles in 2023, before the current KO building shuts for renovation in the summer.

Crème de la crème auf Deutsch

Elise de Leede in SIGMA’s Die Ruhe. Photo: Erich Goldman

The Haus der Berliner Festspiele, closed for two years of renovation that coincided with Covid-induced hybrid and online events, reopened in time for the world-famous real-life Theatertreffen in May. Out of the 10 selected shows (most noteworthy performances of the previous year in the German-speaking world), there were several stand-out plays, like the immersive, five-hour long Die Ruhe from Hamburg-based theatre group SIGNA. The festival is back in May 2023.

Inclusive and engaging

Queering the Crip, Cripping the Queer. Photo: Christopher Andreou

Germany’s first ever festival for disabled, queer performers and directors was hosted by Sophiensaele this year. Queering the Crip, Cripping the Queer threw light on some of the extraordinary artists with disabilities creating art today. Festival curators also used the opportunity to draw attention to the difficulty of accessing certain theatres in Berlin. It showed how achievable tools like audio description and relaxed performances can be. The folks over at RambaZamba have known this for years: their One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was an exciting look at what theatre can be when we dare to think outside the box.

70 years not out

Three Sisters. Photo: IMAGO / Cathrin Bach

The Maxim Gorki Theater turned 70 in October 2022 and celebrated the history of what was once East Berlin’s premiere spot for new writing with a look back. Oliver Frljić’s war pieces including Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder felt a little toothless – but an experimental retake of Chekhov’s Three Sisters broke boundaries, having the actors mimic a 1979 production played out on a screen behind them while they donned gimp suits in a green box stage. The original actors’ own takes on the production were mixed in via interviews, making this a joy for theatre nerds.

Jaw-dropping Ophelia

Ophelia’s Got Talent. Photo: Nicole Marianna Wytyczak

A rather uncategorisable highlight of 2022, Volksbühne darling Florentina Holzinger’s Ophelia’s Got Talent was an astonishing experience. Blood, gore, drowning, a helicopter and live tattooing were all part of the whirlwind that took place on stage… maybe that is all you need to know. This is a original feminist dance piece with a clear loud and strong voice. Holzinger is one to watch. After a somewhat rocky start, René Pollesch can be proud of this as the standout show of his tenure so far.

Franco-fête chez Thomas

Nina Hoss in Didier Eribon’s Returning to Reims. Photo: IMAGO / Martin Müller

Schaubühne’s intendant and guiding light Thomas Ostermeier has carved out a niche in recent years with his infatuation for France’s hot radical/queer/social authors, adapting their novels for the stage, one darling at a time. Among them were Didier Eribon (Returning to Reims), Virginie Despentes (The Life of Vernon Subutext), Nobel prize winner Annie Ernaux (A Girl’s Story) and Édouard Louis (Who Killed My Father), with the latter even having built up a close relationship with the City West premiere stage. The amazing film work by Sébastien Dupouey and the top-notch live music by Nils Ostendorf make these worth a visit in 2023.