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Theatertreffen 2012: A German theatre summit

May 4-21 marks the return of the eclectic TT. Hosted by Haus der Berliner Festspiele, it promises the 10 most noteworthy productions from the German-speaking theatre world. Check our own cooperation with Theatertreffen Blog for the latest on it.

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Hate Radio. Photo by Daniel Seiffert

It’s here! The brand spankin’ new edition of the festival lovingly known as the “German theatre Oscars” will run from May 4-21. Hosted by Haus der Berliner Festspiele, TT 2012 promises the 10 most noteworthy productions from the German-speaking theatre world – and this year it’s quite a colourful mix.

Here’s our guide to the madness.  

Spotlight on Stückemarkt

New Theatertreffen head Yvonne Büdenhölzer began as the director of the Stückemarkt (play market) back in 2005, developing it as a truly pan-European platform for the development of new plays and playwrights – in a German theatre world known for its director-oriented productions.

This year the six pieces chosen from 325 submissions come from Germany, Poland and Great Britain, and include, for the first time, a theatre collective. This means that in addition to the traditional staged readings, the collective Markus&Markus will present their neo-agitprop work Polis3000: respondemus (Haus der Berliner Festspiele, May 14, 19:30) after a development period with mentor and Theatertreffen invitee René Pollesch.

TT Tips

From children growing up in a glass cage to an actor urinating into his own mouth to a marathon staging of works by Sarah Kane, this year’s Theatertreffen invitees represent a range of remarkable aspects of German theatre. The programme also includes discussions, the premiere of the film Knistern der Zeit Christoph Schlingensief and his opera village in Burkina Faso (HAU 1, May 6, 16:30, English subtitles; 19:30 German subtitles) and live broadcasts of productions in the Sony Center.

To read updates on the happenings around the festival, including reviews and commentary, check out the TT blog at theatertreffen-blog.de, as well as your trusty exberliner.com for English-language posts.

Selections with English Surtitles

Three pieces by deceased British playwright Sarah Kane have been stitched together in Cleansed / Crave / 4.48 Psychosis (Haus der Berliner Festspiele, May 4-5, 19:00), a production from Munich that finds the soft, beautiful and even humorous side of the tragic works.

Vienna’s Burgtheater manages a pitch-perfect traditional staging in their production of Anton Chekhov’s Platonov (Haus der Berliner Festspiele, May 19, 21, 18:00, May 20, 16:30).

The smaller, regional German theatres are represented with a multiracial production of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People (Haus der Berliner Festspiele, May 15, 19:30, May 16, 20:00) from Theater Bonn.The International Institute of Political Murder present their journalistic theatre piece Hate Radio (HAU 2, May 16-17, 20:00, May 18, 16:00), which recreates the radio programing in Rwanda during the Tutsi genocide in 1994, allowing the audience to grapple with their own reactions to this propaganda-laced broadcast.

And in a triumph for English-speaking theatre makers, the Berlin-based German/English-language collective Gob Squad was honoured with an invitation for its co-production with Campo in Ghent, Before Your Very Eyes (Haus der Berliner Festspiele, May 17-18, 20:00, May 19, 15:00). A group of Flemish children play in a one-way mirrored box on stage, as a voice from above prods them to grow up in fast-forward. The use of video projections and onscreen filming only adds to this beautifully composed and surprisingly touching representation of the passing of time and the loss of innocence.

Selections without English surtitles

John Gabriel Borkman (Volksbühne im Prater, May 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 16:00) from Vegard Vinge and Ida Müller uses extreme measures including bodily fluids to break the fourth wall in a fairly language-independent, up to 12-hour-long installation version of the original Ibsen play.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Die (s)panische Fliege (Volksbühne, May 10, 17, 19:30) makes for a finely tuned piece of commentary on bourgeois theatre, while a streamlined version of Macbeth (Haus der Berliner Festspiele, May 7, 19:00, May 8-9, 19:30) from Munich strips Shakespeare’s text down to two hours.

The clever and multi-layered Kill your Darlings! Streets of Berladelphia (Volksbühne, May 9, 19:30, 16, 21:00) piece from René Pollesch casts Brecht in a whole new light, and the nine-hour Faust I+II (Haus der Berliner Festspiele, May 12-13, 15:30) from the Thalia Theater in Hamburg takes a meta approach to Goethe’s classic work.