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Theatertreffen: German theatre goes for gold

The Theatertreffen comes (May 3-20)! Every year for half a century, the Theatertreffen summit has brought to the Berliner Festspiele 10 extraordinary productions. Read on for a taste and be on the lookout for our Theatertreffen Blog starting Friday!

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Photo by Julian Roeder

Every year for half a century, the Theatertreffen summit has brought to the Berliner Festspiele 10 extraordinary productions, as selected by a panel of critics.

It’s a unique opportunity to see the best performances from Austria, Germany and Switzerland all in one place. Here’s a glimpse into the excitement of two of the productions and more info about the fest at the link on the left.

A chat with… Sebastian Nübling

Produced for the Kammerspiele in Munich, Orpheus steigt herab (main photo), Nübling’s German-language production of Tennessee Williams’ 1957 Orpheus Descending, delves into the complexities of being an outsider.

Why did you decide to take on the job of staging this little-known work?

It’s a clear story and not too psychological. It’s more like a parable, sort of an evil fairytale. The second reason for doing it was that [Estonian actor] Risto Kübar would play the male lead; that was the main click. He performs between cultures, between languages and also on the gender level between the sexes – so you can understand a bit why this community where he lands becomes so troubled on different levels.

Is the inspiration still 1950s America?

I think Bavaria is not so far away from America, to be honest: it has, you know, the cowboy hats. It’s sort of a mixture. It’s not really like “this is in America”, but more like prototype characters from movies, and I think that’s good because it’s about a prototypical situation.

You’ve been invited to the Theatertreffen before. What was your experience like?

It’s a bit masochistic to go to Berlin: it’s fun to be there, but you get bashed by the critics. It’s sometimes quite absurd. The first time I was invited with a production from Basel, we had quite a lot of good reviews from the local papers. Then we got bad reviews for the same production in Berlin. In a way, you change frames. And that’s good, to present your work in a different frame.

ORPHEUS STEIGT HERAB, May 19-20, 20:00 | Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Schaperstr. 24, Wilmersdorf, U-Bhf Spichernstr.

A chat with… Kate Strong

The British-born, Berlin-based dancer-turned-actress gets her mind in the gutter for Schauspiel Köln’s production of Gerhart Hauptmann’s tragicomedy Die Ratten (The Rats, photo, right), directed by Karin Henkel.

Part of the concept of Henkel’s Ratten is that all of the performers use different styles of acting. How do your three characters, and speaking English, work within that?

First I’m a drunken old pathetic mother, and then I’m like a fuck monster. The last one’s from the Rhineland, and she has a long, long monologue which is basically garbage. She’s just inventing stuff and it’s embarrassing, because she wants to present herself as better than she is. She talks rot, basically, and so I do it in English.

Why did you switch from dancing to acting?

I started talking for Bill Forsythe on stage. I always felt more comfortable with the voice and speaking. It was less stressy.

What was the transition like?

Really, I thought it would be much easier. I had no idea. I was faced with new jargon, and you can’t decipher that. Especially when that new jargon is coming in East German dialect… and I’m practically deaf.

You first came to Volksbühne with choreographer Johann Kresnik in 1994, then stayed on to work with Frank Castorf – how did that happen?

I asked Castorf if I could stay, but on his side of the house with the actors, and he said “Yeah, sure.” I knew that Kresnik was a complete twat and I used to take the piss out of the productions onstage, and of course Franky likes anyone who’s slightly… ‘subversive’. But it was difficult for him to cast me – I wasn’t East, I wasn’t West; I wasn’t the enemy, I wasn’t the friend.

DIE RATTEN May 16-17, 20:00 | Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Schaperstr. 24, Wilmersdorf, U-Bhf Spichernstr.