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Schaubühne’s 2019 FINDs

Berlin’s premier international theatre festival is back from April 4 through 14. We've previewed some highlights from this year's sharply curated guest performances from China to Chile.

Danke Deutschland – Cảm ơn nước Đức. Foto: Thomas Aurin
Thomas Aurin

Berlin’s premier international theatre festival is back from April 4 through 14. We’ve previewed some highlights from this year’s sharply curated guest performances and international co-productions from China to Chile.

FIND is a Schaubühne staple and season highlight. From its humble beginnings as a space for rehearsed readings from budding writers the world over, the Festival for International New Drama has evolved into an 11-day bonanza of performances, workshops and discussions. Focussing on a different theme each year, the festival invites emerging talents from around the globe to premiere their work in Berlin for the first time, with a few recent in-house hits on the bill to sweeten the deal. The Schaubühne is well placed to deliver such an international programme, regularly touring the globe with its own repertoire. The result is a carefully curated selection of performances that provides a thrilling snapshot of contemporary global theatre. Alongside guest performances, the Schaubühne also invites former guests to co-produce new pieces with their ensemble in a commitment to their long-term international collaboration. It’s a winning recipe that wowed us into crowning it our top theatre festival of 2018. For its 19th instalment, FIND does a little digging to present a theatrical “archaeology of the present” – think a contemporary brand of documentary theatre that excavates hot-button issues from migration and integration to climate change and patriarchal oppression. All in all, 10 productions from nine countries unearth societal structures through objects and places from our most recent history. The festival kicks off with a world premiere by Serbian director Sanja Mitrović (read our interview here). 

For its 19th instalment, FIND presents contemporary documentary theatre that excavates hot-button issues from migration and integration to climate change and patriarchal oppression.

Danke DeutschlandCảm ơn nước Đức (photo) surveys the fault lines of reunification through the lens of Vietnamese immigrants in East and West Germany. Mitrović is no stranger to FIND, having showcased two of her productions in 2016. Now she returns with her first piece developed in-house for the Schaubühne with a cast made up of the institution’s ensemble as well as several generations of Berlin’s Vietnamese community. The documentary performance examines the shifting experiences of “boat people” and contract workers to arrive at a critical perspective on what it means to be a (good) German. It’s a case study that poses far-reaching questions on the dialectic at play between immigration and integration. Then it’s full steam ahead with the German premiere of Anne-Cécile Vandalem’s Arctique. Set in 2025 aboard the Greenlandbound cruise ship “Arctic Serenity”, the acclaimed Belgian director presents a frighteningly dystopian yet scarily real vision of a Europe to come. Rising temperatures have thawed Greenland to reveal a resource-rich polar El Dorado that has claimed independence from Denmark. Six stowaways sneak on board the otherwise vacant cruise ship being towed to Nuuk to reopen as a hotel, before the tug boat disappears and the crew are left drifting aimlessly. But these are no unchartered waters for the rising star of Belgian theatre. This cinematic performance marks Vandalem’s second FIND appearance following 2017’s resounding success Tristesses. It won’t be her last at the Schaubühne either: expect a Berlin-debut in the coming season. With two invitations to Avignon also under her belt, Vandalem is undeniably one-to-watch in European theatre. Also returning to FIND is Chilean director Marco Layera, whose Paisajes para no colorear celebrates its European premiere at the festival – a deeply moving documentary piece on gender-based violence in his native society. Performed by nine teenage girls, Paisajes re-enacts episodes of violence based on personal experiences, survivor testimonies and criminal investigations. Scenes that were once buried or covered-up are now unearthed on stage in a heavy yet gripping performance. Layera’s productions are always a mix of politics and performance. As founder of the La Re-sentida collective, made up of young activists and artists, he uses theatre as a critical tool to challenge society. The Schaubuhne made headlines last year when their Chinese tour of Ibsen’s Ein Volksfeind was cancelled by authorities, officially because of “technical problems”.

Marco Layera’s Paisajes para no colorear is a deeply moving documentary piece on gender-based violence in his native Chile.

In reality the play – which features a dialogue with the audience on power and corruption – opened a passionate discussion on freedom of speech, environmental scandals and state repression, which quickly spilt over into the social media sphere, causing its censorship. The invitation of Beijing-based director Li Jianjun’s Popular Mechanics is significant in this context. It not only demonstrates the theatre’s commitment to international dialogue but also marks the first Chinese production to feature at FIND. Jianjun’s documentary piece stages a panorama of real-life stories from the capital of the People’s Republic, juxtaposing fictional characters from literature and film with everyday experiences to portray a cross-section of contemporary Chinese society. But these characters also play a practical function to circumvent censorship: through them, the cast of Beijingers can express their own dreams, desires, fears and worries by proxy. Over in the studio are also some must-see performances throughout the festival. In A Generous Lover, the British-born genderqueer performer La John Joseph tells of a journey into the cash-strapped underbelly of Britain’s NHS: a psych ward where La JJ’s lost lover Orpheus is in an acute manic phase. La JJ was once a visible part of Berlin’s queer arts scene, so it’s a pleasure to see the now London-resident return to the city for FIND. Meanwhile, Trap Street, another London-based production —  this time by the young Kandinsky ensemble, offers a perspective on Tory Britain that should strike a chord with Berlin audiences too. Set in an East End council block marked for demolition to make way for luxury apartments, the play examines the rubble of social housing and the cold reality of neoliberal gentrifi cation. The group’s James Yeatman is a familiar face for Schaubühne regulars, having co-directed Stefan Zweig’s Beware of Pity. If that wasn’t enough already, FIND is also a great chance to catch some recent classics from the Schaubuhne repertoire with English surtitles: from Thomas Ostermeier’s production of Edouard Louis’ sophomore novel, History of Violence, to resident dramaturg Maja Zade’s first eff orts as playwright, abgrund and status quo. But there’ll also be plenty of opportunities to mingle: head down to the opening party on Saturday 6th April, soundtracked by drag queen Gloria Viagra, or see out the festival with a concert by ensemble member Carol Schuler and her band The Maenads. 

Danke Deutschland – Cảm ơn nước Đức Apr 4-5 22:00, Apr 6, 17:00 | Arctique Apr 4-5, 19:30 | Paisajes para no colorear Apr 6, 20:00, Apr 7, 16:00 & 20:00 | Popular Mechanics Apr 10, 21:00, Apr 11, 18:00 & 22:00 | A Generous Lover Apr 6, 22:30, Apr 7, 22:00 | Trap Street Apr 5 & 7, 18:00, Apr 6, 15:00