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Free scene free-for-all

Anything goes at this year’s Performing Arts Festival (Jun 13-18), a six-day introduction to the world of independent performance in Berlin.

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Photo by Barbera Braun / MuTphoto

Anything goes at this year’s Performing Arts Festival, a six-day introduction to the world of independent performance in Berlin.

Because there’s no real curator or jury or any organising principle, the Performing Arts Festival is a good reflection of anything and everything going on in Berlin’s free scene. Open submissions, baby! The 120 productions come from brand-new ensembles formed this year and artists who have been touring internationally for decades. Based on the programme, here’s what we know about the free scene today:

It doesn’t care about genre: Call it “have it your way!” neoliberalism or call it a necessary response to changing times: you can’t put together a theatre festival these days without concerts, theme parties, panels, keynotes and art installations. What’s music and what’s stage? What’s immersive theatre and what’s installation art? The Performing Arts Festival is too cool to care. The most far-out example might be the “Fear Detox” (Jun 17, 12:00, Alte Münze), a meditation and yoga class that’s also a performance about resisting the far right.

It plays well with others: State-run theatres serve up star vehicles and cults of personality, but the free scene keeps it collective. Most of the pieces are devised and developed rather than written by a playwright, read by actors, and directed by a director. The “Fear Detox” collective Nazis & Goldmund describe themselves as a “many-headed poetological monster”. Alexander Karschnia of Andcompany&co is on the constant hunt for co-authors.

It wants you to know it’s read Deleuze: Yeah, you know, it’s been working on a part-time master’s for the better part of a decade and the odds of something by Elias Canetti in the programme notes are high. E.g. Brazilian Toula Limnaios’ and Gira Danca‘s Die einen, die anderen dance performance, based on Foucault’s lectures on the utopian body. The two companies dance in dialogue in the two-part evening (Jun 15-18, 20:30, Halle Tanzbühne).

It feels free to steal: Die Neue Kompanie, a new dance collective presented as part of the festival’s “emerging” platform, presents a “Dancical” mash-up of dance forms from Pina Bausch to Flashdance (Jun 15, 18:00, Ballhaus Ost). Other companies turn a critical eye to Goethe, Shakespeare, Wilde and Heiner Müller. There’s even a “hiking trail” – this is the festival’s neologism for “themed platform” – to guide you through all the adaptations. The free scene couldn’t stage these classic texts in a classic style even if it wanted to, so good thing no one seems to try.

It’s trying to change the world: Yes, everybody’s got something to say about democracy or migration or technology, and some groups have something to say about all three. We’re excited for Malte Schlösser’s piece on the concept of justice, and Martin Clausen & Co’s Come Together, based on a seven-hour encounter between strangers from different class backgrounds. For a sure thing, try Rimini Protokoll’s Evros Walk Water 1&2 (Jun 14-18, HAU2), originally mounted in 2015 with boys living in refugee camps in Greece. They are now all across Europe, and the updated piece reflects that.

It’s happy to dance in your living room: Or a furniture store. Or the banks of the canal. Or an RV. You get the idea. We’re particularly excited to check out the penthouse venue ZUsammenKUNFT, a think-tanky concept lab devoted to the migrant crisis (Jun 17-18). Even the more established venues are getting in on the site-specific action: Sophiensaele has set up a “Performance Vending Machine” (actually just a VR performance).

Performing Arts Festival, Jun 13-18 | Various venues, see www.performingarts-festival.de for full programme