I’ve decided to go through my many Facebook posts about theatre from last year and collect all my instant reactions to shows as I saw them — fragmentary, brusque, overly enthusiastic or unsympathetic as they may be. Sometimes these posts spawned spirited discussions, and I’ll try to include whatever else I said as the threads developed (but I’m not including other people’s comments). Plenty of evidence here, I think, that I don’t love everything staged in German! Enjoy. Or whatever.
Not quite as many entries as in the UK version, but still enough for a table of contents:
- The Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare. dir. Stefan Bachmann) Schauspiel Köln, Cologne. 25 April 2014
- Hamlet (Shakespeare, dir. Thomas Ostermeier) Schaubühne, Berlin. 27 April 2014
- The Seagull (Chekhov, dir. Leander Haussmann) Thalia Theater, Hamburg. 28 April 2014
- Die Ratten (Hauptmann, dir. Jette Steckel) Thalia Theater, Hamburg, 30 April 2014
- Schuld (Dostoevsky, dir. Karin Henkel) Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg. 2 May 2014
- Die Rasenden (Aeschylus, Euripides, von Hofmannsthal, Sartre, et al; dir. Karin Beier) Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg. 3 May 2014
- Common Ground (Yael Ronen et al., dir. Yael Ronen) Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin. 4 May 2014
- Ivanov (Chekhov, dir. Dimiter Gotscheff) Volksbühne, Berlin. 5 May 2014
- Uncle Vanya (Chekhov, dir. Robert Borgmann) Schauspiel Stuttgart, at the Theatertreffen, Berlin. 6 May 2014
- Lungs / Atmen (Duncan Macmillan, dir. Katie Mitchell) Schaubühne, Berlin. 7 May 2014
- Journey to the End of the Night (Celine, dir. Frank Castorf) Residenztheater München at the Theatertreffen, Berlin. 8 May 2014
- The Persians (Aeschylus, dir. Dimiter Gotscheff) Deutsches Theater, Berlin. 9 May 2014
- Tartuffe (Molière, dir. Michael Thalheimer) Schaubühne, Berlin. 11 May 2014
- Vassa Shelesnova (Gorky, dir. Stephan Kimmig) Deutsches Theater, Berlin. 12 May 2014
- A Doll’s House (Ibsen, dir. Michael Thalheimer) Schauspiel Frankfurt. 13 May 2014
- Faust (Goethe, dir. Martin Kusej) Residenztheater, Munich. 29 July 2014
The Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare. dir. Stefan Bachmann) Schauspiel Köln, Cologne. 25 April 2014
Merchant of Venice in Cologne — MEH. Didn’t suck completely, but might as well have been in English, it was such a thoughtless exercise in just putting the damn thing, more or less uncut, nicely spoken, on its feet. Except for one all too brief moment when Gobo started delivering a running commentary on how what Lorenzo and Jessica were saying would have created an effect of “night” in Shakespeare’s daytime theatre. But for a German production of Merchant in particular, this was really distressingly noncommittal. Not a chilling moment in the entire show. And the final act was a total dud. (On the plus side, the guy playing both Aragon and Morocco [yes, of course in blackface, but slapped on in full view as he was talking about his dark skin] made both parts genuinely entertaining — no mean feat.)
Hamlet (Shakespeare, dir. Thomas Ostermeier) Schaubühne, Berlin. 27 April 2014
So, here’s a very good example for why it’s never enough to see a theatre production on video. I thought I knew what I was in for with the Ostermeier Hamlet. I had no idea. SO different live. Easily the most antagonistic actor-audience relationship I’ve ever witnessed (at one point an elderly audience member yelled at Lars Eidinger’s Hamlet “Stop talking to me and get on with the play! I’m here for Shakespeare!”). Half an hour longer than advertised. Eidinger completely lost the plot in the Mousetrap scene and made the audience translate bits of the (English) surtitles for him to get back on track — because he had previously got into a fight with the prompter, who just wanted him to keep going. Amazingly, in the end, all that chaos actually worked for the show: this was the most “dangerous” Hamlet I’ve seen, recreating what it must feel like to be at the mercy of someone like Hamlet.
Kelly Nestruck noted in the comments that “When I saw it, he referred to the surtitles and had the audience translate them too. My favourite moment was when he interrogated two women leaving to go to the bathroom – ‘Pipipause? Pipipause?’ – and stopped the action until they got back.”
To which I responded:
Same moment? (He couldn’t remember the plot of the Mousetrap, basically, and insisted that he’d left something out. He had. Then he left to get re-focused. But throughout this I just couldn’t tell if he was just playing the whole thing or if he had actually lost it.)
Also, three people in the front row left. He said normally he’d try to stop them, but he understood why people would leave, given his lack of focus. Then he detailed how much those seats would have cost and insisted that three people from the cheap seats come down to fill them. Then waited, for some time, until they were filled.
The funny thing is — and I’ll write about this properly anon — apart from Eidinger’s Hamlet, this is actually a relatively tame production by German standards, and treats the text (or its prose translation) relatively conservatively.
Of course I then DIDN’T write about that properly. Though I still might.
The Seagull (Chekhov, dir. Leander Haussmann) Thalia Theater, Hamburg. 28 April 2014
Interesting production of The Seagull. Director was subbed in half-way through the rehearsal process when the previous director called it quits (!) — so he ONLY had four weeks. By our standards, this would probably be considered a fairly radical production. By German standards, it was tame in the extreme, but effective. Fantastic performances all round. (And the Thalia stage is extraordinary: it’s a proscenium that seems to be taller than wide.)
Somewhat random observation about German theatre makers, prompted by hours spent in theatre cafeterias:
Another thing I find really striking in talking to German theatre makers: they’re all deeply invested in doing something new, something that interests them, something that pushes the art form into new territory. But if that doesn’t work in a particular production, or if a particular production doesn’t quite pull off whatever goals it had set itself — then that’s OK too. And then they hang around the theatre cafeteria for hours, drinking and smoking and talking about totally banal stuff — because why not? It’s such a fascinating mixture of commitment and nonchalance.
Die Ratten (Hauptmann, dir. Jette Steckel) Thalia Theater, Hamburg, 30 April 2014
At this point, I was apparently so caught up in watching shows and writing about others that I didn’t even comment on Facebook on everything I saw. So, from memory:
Jette Steckel’s staging of Gerhart Hauptmann’s Die Ratten (The Rats) at the Thalia Theater I sort of loved, particularly for its parody of Naturalism (there was a super-detailed set of a modern kitchen and bathroom, including fully stocked cupboards, that flew down for some scenes — and as it descended the first time, there was someone taking a shower in the bathroom. The show kept switching back and forth between that and a completely empty stage, commenting in the process on the very project of theatrical realism (in parts by including sections from Einar Schlef’s play Die Schauspieler, which is inspired by what happened when actors went on a research trip to a homeless shelter in their preparation for their staging of Gorky’s The Lower Depths).
Schuld (Dostoevsky, dir. Karin Henkel) Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg. 2 May 2014
Likewise from memory:
I also really enjoyed Karin Henkel’s adaptation of the first half of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Schuld, at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus, largely for its theatrical energy and the playfulness of the cast — all seven of whom played Raskolnikov, often at the same time. The full version is being produced in Hamburg this year, and I’ll try to catch it.
Die Rasenden (Aeschylus, Euripides, von Hofmannsthal, Sartre, et al; dir. Karin Beier) Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg. 3 May 2014
At the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg tonight: 6 hours of classical tragedy, from Iphigenia through the end of the Oresteia, directed by Karin Beier. Not a minute too long. Hilarious, hilarious chorus in both Agamemnon and the Eumenides. Extremely bleak Electra in the middle. The production ran the gamut from super-reduced, spare, quasi-classical staging, complete with huge masks and stylized buskins through to an intermedial part that had the action take place underneath the stage, projected onto two enormous screens. Acting styles, too, ran deliberately from near-declaiming to free riffing on themes. And the texts also traced the long history of this story, from Aeschylus through Hofmannsthal to Sartre (except that the evening started with Euripedes and ended, sort of, with Aeschylus — though not really: it ended with Schroedinger’s cat). And the fall of Troy was represented by a full chamber orchestra, playing a commissioned piece on stage that ended with tons of sand falling from the fly, covering the musicians who dropped “dead” one by one. Huge scale, perhaps too huge — but pretty amazing all the same.
This one, too, deserved a much longer review. It was really a theatrical investigation of how this primal myth, this point of origin of Western tragedy, can find different forms of life on stage now.
Common Ground (Yael Ronen et al., dir. Yael Ronen) Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin. 4 May 2014
Bit annoyed at first that the Gorki cancelled their Cherry Orchard that day, but happy that I got to see this show instead.
If Common Ground is anything to go by, the Maxim Gorki Theater is doing just fine under its new leadership and with its newly diverse ensemble: a devised working-through of the Yugoslavian civil war, seemingly mostly autobiographical, but an extremely effective, intense piece of theatre. My first reaction was to compare it to She She Pop’s Testament, but that’s too simple: these are trained actors and I suspect they were playing characters as much as themselves. In any case, serious, high-stakes stuff pretty much entirely devoid of the maudlin self-indulgence I tend to complain about with autobiographical theatre.
And then I discovered this:
Mind blown: one of the central elements of the piece is the story of the two younger female actors, one of who had her father murdered in a concentration camp — where the father of the other woman worked. They first met in Germany, at an audition. I’m assuming that’s autobiographical. However, as I’ve just discovered (I don’t think it was mentioned in any of the reviews), in the show, the victim’s daughter is played by the perpetrator’s child and vice versa!
Ivanov (Chekhov, dir. Dimiter Gotscheff) Volksbühne, Berlin. 5 May 2014
The late, great Dimiter Gotscheff’s production of Ivanov at the Volksbuehne tonight: one of those theatre events I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
Not easy to describe or talk about, let alone analyze — I’m not enough of a Chekhovian, for starters. Yes, it had that remarkable balance of the hilarious and the boundlessly sad. I’ve come to recognize the phrase “I don’t understand that at all” as the hallmark of Chekhov’s dramaturgy (or at least of German theatre’s key angle on Chekhov). Wonderful performances of a very particularly Volksbuehne kind: at one point, I thought “This is just like Baroque Opera — they’re turning two lines into a spoken-word da capo aria!”
But the most remarkable, astonishing really, thing about this show is the set of fog. I’ll gush about this on the blog later, but here’s the killer moment: at the end of the play, all the characters but Ivanov come down to the edge of the stage and the fog flows in behind them, out into the auditorium, getting so thick that suddenly the stage is gone; and then the actors are in the same space as us, except above our heads. We suddenly were in the set. I’ve never been embraced by a theatre before — until tonight.
Uncle Vanya (Chekhov, dir. Robert Borgmann) Schauspiel Stuttgart, at the Theatertreffen, Berlin. 6 May 2014
A bit of a mixed bag.
The first half, I thought, was kind of brilliant: taking its cue from the universal ennui in the play, everything on stage was about slowness and emptiness. (The show started with Elena challenging an audience member to a game of badminton — an appropriately slow game of badminton. That seemed like a good visual metaphor to me: what’s slower than a shuttlecock?) A beat-up old white Volvo circled the stage, endlessly, at snail’s pace. And if Borgmann was taking the text at its word in that regard, he was also staging it almost word for word — very unusually for a German production.
Everything changed after the interval: suddenly the text became a plaything. Sonya speaks a heavily cut version of Act 4 all on her own, at the edge of the stage (in a pretty fantastic performance by Katharine Knap). Then Vanya delivers a soliloquy that’s from a Chekhov short story (“Fear”). Then some of the stuff from Act 3 happens. Then the play is more or less over: the last image is of Sonya clipping Vanya’s toe-nails; the last sound is an “Ouch” from him when she cuts him. There’s also a huge star/sunburst thing of neon strips that defends from the fly, tilts upright behind the actors, then tilts forward a bit. Can’t say I got what that meant.
During the Q&A, the director explained that the first half is all exterior, the second half interior — specifically, in Sonya’s and Vanya’s minds. Conceptually, I get that idea, but I don’t think it read on stage — at least not to me. There was also a really striking (if problematic) clash of acting styles, with some actors doing very intensely psychological work, others doing deliberately over-the-top and highly gestural work, and still others hovering somewhere in between. Much of that work was good, impressive, compelling on its own; but I’m not sure the clash quite worked. They defended the choice during the Q&A (so it was a choice), but I still have my doubts and questions about it. Then again, I like that this was so clearly Sonya’s Vanya. I think that’s an interesting angle.
Lungs / Atmen (Duncan Macmillan, dir. Katie Mitchell) Schaubühne, Berlin. 7 May 2014
The electricity for the entire show was generated by the two actors, who were pedalling on stationary bikes from the moment the curtains opened, and by four supplementary bikers off to the sides, who generated the power for the sound system and the projector. The actors controlled their own lights — when they slowed down, the lights dimmed.
There should also have been a projection of a live counter of the world’s population, ticking up baby by baby every 2.5 seconds. But that didn’t work last night.
Really interesting conversation with the two actors afterwards. On the one hand, they called the play a “Hörspiel” — basically a radio play. Since they can’t have physical contact, and never even look at each other, they were conceiving of their interactions as purely aural. As an audience member, I think their physical, visible presence does make a difference, but there’s an interesting division between the actors’ bodies (increasingly sweaty and visibly weary as the evening wears on) and the characters, who, no matter what struggles they’re involved in, are obviously not riding bikes for years (as the play covers decades of time). So in a sense the characters are characters in a radio play here, and the means by which they’re produced are foregrounded and separated from the characters; but both are equally put on display or made available to the audience as part of the theatrical experience.
They also said how much their vocal work in the play is driven by the kinds of breathing that are and aren’t possible while riding a bike, how breathlessness produces certain vocal energies — i.e., what sounds like emotional distress is often “just” an effect of physical exertion. They embraced those effects in rehearsal, but they were a kind of side-effect, not an emotional state they were trying to attain (i.e., the work derived in large part from the body, not from the mind).
Finally, they only rehearsed for 2.5 weeks, unheard of in Germany. Both were off book when rehearsals started, though. They thought about running some scenes naturalistically, with physical contact etc., first, but decided against that. And they spent a week months before in London developing detailed biographies for their characters with Katie Mitchell — most of the details of which they couldn’t remember!!!
Journey to the End of the Night (Celine, dir. Frank Castorf) Residenztheater München at the Theatertreffen, Berlin. 8 May 2014
Frank Castorf’s “adaptation” of Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night at the Theatertreffen: an infuriating, endless, loud, cluttered, extreme, messy, repetitive, confusing, deliberately opaque, aggressively non-narrative, brutally unapologetic production, over four hours long. A huge, multilevel, shambolic set (now typical for Castorf shows), with lots of obscured spaces where the actors would disappear to be filmed and projected onto a huge screen towering over the set (my neck is still a bit sore). A bleak vision of life, a bleak vision theatre.
And yet. Some of the most compelling performances I’ve seen in a very long time; in Bibiana Beglau, an actor of astonishing, utterly astonishing physical and vocal presence, driven by an awe-inspiring will-power (there were moments in those 4.5 hours where you could see the actors digging deep and coming up with new levels of energy, none more so than Beglau). At one point she was carrying a male colleague around the stage while wearing high heels, repeatedly collapsing, repeatedly picking herself up, cursing and yelling at him as she went. Totally gobsmacking work. Vocally, too, there were passages that went on for so long at such high intensity that I have no idea where the actors found the power to keep going. Often, these happened on camera, infuriatingly; the explosion of immediacy that invariably followed whenever those same actors then left the secluded spots of the set to continue a scene right in front of our eyes was kind of amazing every time, but made the mediation all the more frustrating — though that frustration is obviously entirely deliberate. Castorf’s theatre is viciously non-crowd-pleasing, all the more so for the moments in which he has the actors play completely to the crowd. (He feeds and frustrates an audience’s desire for presence.)
This is undeniably powerful stuff. I can’t say I really liked it as a piece of theatre, in the end: it’s just too brutal, too much deconstruction for deconstruction’s sake, too dismissive. But it is powerful. Castorf’s “voice,” his “vision” — all those awful clichéd terms we use to talk about directors — are about as strong as any contemporary director’s. I wonder how much room there is for the actors in his shows, how much they are slave to the juggernaut of Castorf’s theatrical machine; but if they’re reduced to cogs, they’re very powerful cogs, and he’s clearly extraordinarily good at getting his actors to give his shows everything their bodies can give.
So, yeah. I find this practically impossible to analyze or dissect, and I kind of hate its cynicism and sheer bleak negativity. But it’s a massively impressive, unquestionably theatrical self-destructive exercise.
I can’t recall the last time I’ve felt this conflicted about a show. On one level, I really, really dislike it; on another I really, really admire it.
Oh, and there was a chicken. A real, living chicken that got carried around, and hugged, and stared at, and mouth-fed. I’ve been assured that it was a movie-trained chicken (there is such a thing, apparently), that it was vet-approved, and that the actors took great care of it and loved it. But I still pitied the poor bird and still feel that it’s kind of arseholic to do that sort of thing to an animal.
Then a bit later, in response to a colleague’s comments:
I can’t really pass judgment on this as an adaptation, and I do think it’s an achievement as a performance. I just didn’t like it. That doesn’t mean I’m dismissing it; I do think it worked on its own terms. But I have to say that this is the sort of work that makes me understand and even sympathise, a little, with [Bernd] Stegemann [and his critique of contemporary German theatre].
When challenged on that final point:
I was thinking more in terms of actorly “Mündigkeit” and postmodern irony/cynicism. I ultimately don’t care if the cynicism is Celine’s or Castorf’s — I don’t actually think the production “confronted” anything (it would gave been far more confrontational if it hadn’t immediately ironized all the “offensive” stuff; as is, I actually found it very easy not to be made uncomfortable by any of the attitudes or figures).
But then there was this marvellous, marvellous, marvellous ending — two of the most joyful minutes in any show I saw this year:
The Persians (Aeschylus, dir. Dimiter Gotscheff) Deutsches Theater, Berlin. 9 May 2014
A glorious start — essentially, two clowns fighting a border conflict, by shifting, and ultimately spinning, a massive wall (about 10 by 6 metres).
Then things got VERY austere: this is Heiner Müller’s Aeschylus, and it sounds exactly like what it is. Not easy to digest — not even easy to follow, the language is so disjointed, deliberately unwieldy, compressed, mechanical almost. The actors’ discipline is remarkable, but this is work that’s not seeking any kind of emotional connection. One major highlight, though: Samuel Finzi and Wolfram Koch delivering the messenger’s report from Salamis in unison, perfectly matching each other’s intonations and movements. A really striking take on choral work: they’re speaking with two voices, but as one, with verbal tics, with occasional colloquial inflections, sounding dismissive one moment, ironic another — in other words, although the acting situation is as impersonal as it could be (since neither actor “owns” the speech), the delivery makes it sound like an individual, not a collective, is speaking.
And a very strong ending: Finzi as Xerxes, at the edge of the stage, urging us, loudly but with the driest neutrality of tone, to “Lament! Lament! Leave, quietly.”
Tartuffe (Molière, dir. Michael Thalheimer) Schaubühne, Berlin. 11 May 2014
First show today: Michael Thalheimer’s Tartuffe, with Lars Eidinger as Tartuffe and Ingo Hülsmann as Orgon. Bit disappointing — some fantastic slapstick turns (something Thalheimer is clearly into; there’s also a great and very long bit in his DT Wiener Wald) and a virtuoso performance from Hülsmann; but Eidinger was either off his game today, after DJing the Theatertreffen party last night, or feels constrained by Thalheimer’s direction. Either way, he lacked the energy he normally has. Since the entire production turns on the idea that no-one can resist him, that lack of magnetism was a big problem. Very cool set, though (basically, a rotating golden cube set in a sheer black wall). On the whole, not a strong outing for Thalheimer — not that I’m surprised. I just don’t see him as a good fit for the Schaubühne’s aesthetic.
Looks like I had nothing to say about Bastian Kraft’s production of Dürrenmatt’s Besuch der alten Dame (The Visit). Not quite sure why — I didn’t hate it, though it left me a little nonplussed. Almost all the characters are played by four actors, three women and a man, who all four take turns at playing the eponymous old lady. Set and costumes made from (mostly red) cardboard cut-outs and Lady Gaga songs as a recurrent motif, particularly hilarious when intoned by Margit Bendokat in her inimitable voice, more at home in Heiner Müller than in Gaga’s texts…. But while I wasn’t bored, I also wasn’t quite sure what to think. Or say.
Vassa Shelesnova (Gorky, dir. Stephan Kimmig) Deutsches Theater, Berlin. 12 May 2014
Woah. What is going on? Is the DT trying to become the Schaubühne? Just saw a preview (!!!) of Stefan Kimmig’s production of Gorky’s Vassa Shelesnova. Set could have been from one of Ostermeier’s Ibsen productions. Acting: mostly TV realism. On the plus side, I got to watch Corinna Harfouch vomit (like, actually throw up) right in front of me. And make endless cups of tea, waiting for the kettle to boil every time. But this is the guy who directed the amazing Thalia/DT Maria Stuart and last season’s mainly brilliant Ödipus Stadt? Is this some sort of joke? Are they going to do something between now and the actual opening next week that’ll make the entire thing more, I don’t know, like theatre?
(As a side note: previews aren’t really a thing in German theatre, at all. This one was the first complete run through of the play they’d done — the dramaturge spoke briefly beforehand to let us know that there wouldn’t be a curtain call [bad luck] and that they didn’t know how long the show ran. Overall energy was probably a little low, but other than that, this felt no less polished than many opening night performances I’ve seen elsewhere…)
This really feels like what they call “Boulevardtheater.” Or, if it’s really well acted, “Edelboulevard.”
Though perhaps it wasn’t quite that (apparently Kimmig’s Children of the Sun was, though — I wonder why he does that to/with Gorky). This Vassa had at least a few weirdnesses, including one daughter who kept clinging to set elements. And, well, a vomiting actress.
A Doll’s House (Ibsen, dir. Michael Thalheimer) Schauspiel Frankfurt. 13 May 2014
Michael Thalheimer’s Nora/Doll’s House in Frankfurt: MUCH better than the Schaubühne Tartuffe. It’s kind of old-school Thalheimer, quite reminiscent of his Emilia Galotti: lots of very rapid dialogue, a text stripped down to essentials, rhythms that alternate very fast speech with very long silences. 80 minutes all told.
The set is fantastic: an enormous pitch-black funnel, wide as the (VERY wide) proscenium downstage, narrowing to maybe 1.5 metres at the back wall, where a door a tall as the set (perhaps 10 metres?) is the only real entrance. Nora stands all the way downstage left for the entire show, and there’s only one light for most of the evening: a huge spot on her (which bleeds into the rest of the space). Whenever someone else enters, they run or creep all the way from the back to downstage (in Brack’s case, that takes forever). Nora begins the show whistling like the songbird she is, and she ends it like that, too, still rooted to her spot, while Thorvald keeps yelling “Nora” (in anguish) until the light snaps off. Krogstadt is literally soaked in water (he is “shipwrecked,” after all).
Something I had never quite realized is how much into slapstick Thalheimer is. In retrospect, it’s been evident is other shows of his I’ve seen as well — obviously in Tartuffe, less obviously in Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald. (Not at all in Medea, and not really in Emilia Galotti.) Here it’s very clear: Krogstadt, wet as he is, takes forever to produce the IOU, and when he does, it too is soaked, so it takes forever to unfold it and show it to Nora. Thorvald bends and twitches like a cartoon villain, too. There’s kind of a cartoonish quality to all the movements, in fact, and I think it works — it certainly gets at the somewhat cardboard-y quality of Ibsen’s characters in this play.
That said, it’s not as riveting as Galotti was: the very cartoonishness of the figures, as rigorously as it’s done, also mutes any sense of emotional intensity; in Galotti (also in Wiener Wald, and in The Rats), there was a kind of visceral, physical energy that the language could never catch up with or capture, there was always something that eluded speech but was being expressed by bodily means; here, there is largely emptiness. That’s the point Thalheimer is getting at, I take it — but it doesn’t make for the most gripping kind of theatre.
Faust (Goethe, dir. Martin Kusej) Residenztheater, Munich. 29 July 2014
Martin Kusej’s Faust at the Residenztheater is a pretty major reading of a play that’s second only to Hamlet in its status, I think — I can’t readily think of other plays that come with as high stakes for directors and actors, that make similar demands that each staging measure up to what others have done with and to the play. I’ll write a full post about this one. Austere, swerving from massively controlled treatments of space and time to some of the loudest (and hottest) explosions I’ve heard in a theatre and scenes of near-burlesque, philosophically trying to bridge a totally universal reach and a near-claustrophobic focus on the private. Yet another fantastic performance by the amazing Bibi Beglau as Mephisto, a very strong Andrea Wenzl as Margarete, and a consistent if perhaps a bit diffuse performance by Werner Wölbern as a Faust that seems permanently adrift. Too many thoughts — but I didn’t nod off once, despite the jet lag!
And another failure to live up to plans and best intentions. I took a lot of notes about this one. This is what they look like (written, weirdly, in German — not what I normally do):
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- The Changeling (Middleton & Rowley; dir. Jackie Maxwell) Stratford, July 2017
- How to Kill a Great Theatre: The Tragedy of the Volksbühne
- Three Sisters (Chekhov/Stone; dir. Simon Stone) Theater Basel/Theatertreffen, May 2017
- British Theatre under the Influence (of much more than The Roman Tragedies)
- Hamlet (Shakespeare; dir. Robert Icke) Almeida, London; Mar. 2017
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