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Berlin Theatre Preview - Top 10 Berlin Plays To See This Fall

Berlin Theatre Preview - Top 10 Berlin Plays To See This Fall

Picture of Lukas Frenzer
Updated: 13 December 2015
Innumerable stages, brilliant directors, and enthusiastic young audiences: there is no doubt that Berlin is a Mecca for theatre lovers. The coming season promises to live up to Berlin’s prestigious standing in the theatre world. We checked out the playing schedules for the next season and compiled our top picks for this fall. The result is a mix of promising premiers and plays that have already swept us off our feet and that we’re eager to watch again.

Die Brüder Karamasow – Volksbühne

The 2015/2016 Season will mark the end of an era at the Volksbühne and in German theatre in general: Frank Castorf, legendary director and manager of the Volksbühne, enters his last year at what many would call Germany’s most prestigious theatre. Castorf has been called a ‘destroyer of plays’ and this fall he will destroy Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. To watch Castorf tear this classic apart and piece them together in his radically idiosyncratic style over the course of seven hours, will be torture for theatre traditionalists. But for everyone who appreciates awe-inspiring madness on stage and for everyone who understands theatre as creation rather than recreation, this is a must-watch.

Volksbühne, Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz,Berlin, Germany, +49 30 240655

In unserem Namen – Maxim Gorki Theater

In response to the hundreds of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, Elfride Jelinek wrote Die Schutzbefohlenen (The Wardens). Its relevance has not declined. If anything, the moral questions it raises only reach us now with full force. In light of the current refugee crisis the Gorki Theatre will perform In unserem Namen (In Our Names), based on Jelinek’s text and Aeschylus’ The Supplicants. The refugee crises might be the most pressing issue of our time but it is by no means peculiar to our time, as Aeschylus also had a group of refugees at the centre of his play. Bringing together two texts that were written some 2500 years apart, this play promises to elicit the fundamental, timeless moral drama of a situation that is currently being negotiated ‘in our names’ on the political stage.

Maxim Gorki Theater, Am Festungsgraben 2, Berlin, Germany, +49 30 202210

Life and Times Episode 7-9 – Hebbel am Ufer

This is not so much a play in the traditional sense. But then again, what could possibly be traditional about a play that is based on a 16 hour long telephone conversation and that is being performed over the course of several years and several different art forms? In ten episodes, the New York artists Liska and Kelly Cooper perform the life story of fellow artist Kristin Worrall, who originally narrated it on the phone. In October the artists who call themselves Nature Theatre of Oklahoma will show episodes seven, eight and nine at Hebbel am Ufer. After previous episodes were made in the form of animations, mute theatre and musical performance, the latest three instalments will be presented as movies, which range stylistically from Citizen Kane to Rap music videos.

Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin, Germany

Woyzeck – Berliner Ensemble

Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck belongs to the grimmest stories in the history of literature. After all, it revolves around a character who is belittled and humiliated without cease. With its relentless examination of the reification of the individual in the wheels of modern society, it was prophetic when it was written in the early 19th century and is still highly relevant today. Leander Haußmann, who directed a number of successful comedies next to his theatre work, might not be an obvious choice for this material, and indeed critics have accused him of a sledgehammer approach. Yet he has also been applauded for his thoughtful handling of the material. As the critics range from unconditional ardour to almost scathing criticism, it is certainly worth watching to make up your own mind.

Berliner Ensemble, Berlin, Germany

Richard III – Schaubühne

Richard III is the archetypal anti-hero. He is underhanded and deceitful, but also blessed with admirable wit and calculating intelligence. Lars Eidinger, a heartthrob, who once referred to himself as the best actor in the world, is the perfect choice for this likable murderer. The staging is just as paradoxical as its protagonist’s character. While Ostermeier spared no costs and built his own, more rustic version of the Globe Theatre into the Schaubühne, the production is in no way traditional. After all, a Richard who raps Tyler the Creator lyrics while plotting his countless intrigues is not something for Shakespeare purists. It is however great, exuberant entertainment.

Schaubühne, Kurfürstendamm 153, Berlin, Germany, +49 30 890020

Zweiland – Radialstem V

Sasha Waltz, influential and celebrated choreographer, is a master at telling stories by means of music and movement. In December, one of her earlier pieces will be performed at Radialsystem V, which Waltz cofounded herself. Zweiland, which was first performed in 1997, utilizes German mythology and music to sketch a picture of Germany as a unified country with a divided society. It would come as no surprise however, if we miss all of the deeper symbolic meaning, simply because we will be to distracted by the breath-taking power of movement.

Radialsystem V, Holzmarktstraße 33, Berlin, Germany,+49 30 28878850

Thisisitgirl – Schaubühne

This fall Patrick Wengenroth and his team explore the state of today’s feminism. Thisisitgirl is announced as a theatrical examination of ‘current female perspectives on the complex terrains of love, live and the supposed ‘clash of genders’ in the age of neoliberalism’. The play is not based on a prewritten script, but was developed by the team during discussions on feminism, both theoretical and about personal experiences of the ensemble. Accordingly, the preview to the play muses about Judith Butler’s abstract feminist philosophy, the activism of Laurie Penny as well as Lena Dunham’s HBO show Girls. Meanwhile, information on what is actually going to happen on stage is scarce, but our curiosity has been piqued.

Schaubühne, Kurfürstendamm 153, Berlin, Germany, +49 30 890020

Und dann kam Minna – Maxim Gorki Theater

Women’s experiences and gender relations again. In this case less Butler and Penny and more motherhood and mortality. Und dann kam Mirna is the sequel to Sibylle Berg’s Es sagt mit nichts, das sogenannte draußen, which was voted best German play of 2014 by Theater Heute. By now the mid-twenty protagonists have grown up and try to reconcile their bygone rebellion with their present family lives. Sabastian Nübling, who critics applauded for his staging of Berg’s previous play, will put on Berg’s words for the Gorki Theatre again this fall and it will almost undoubtedly be a pleasure to hear them.

Maxim Gorki Theater, Am Festungsgraben 2, Berlin, Germany, +49 30 202210

Ein Volksfeind – Schaubühne

In the beginning Thomas, his family and friends eat spaghetti in a cosy atmosphere, they joke and they make music. In the end Thomas bellows, ‘civil society is built on the befouled ground of lies’. Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People is a story full of rage and desperation. What makes this production so great is that amongst all the severity it finds the humour in Ibsen’s writing. Just like with Richard III, Ostermeier again manages to strike a perfect balance between closeness to the original material and topicality. He keeps Ibsen’s scathing dialogue very much intact. And yet his protagonists come across as if they are part of the Prenzlauerberg Bohème, while they speak dialogue that was written more than 100 years ago. The real highlight of Ostermeier’s production is the discussion with the audience at the height of dramatic tension. While audience interaction in theatres usually runs the risk of being either gimmicky or awkward, somehow Ostermeier and his actors make it work. This is engaging theatre at its best.

Schaubühne, Kurfürstendamm 153, Berlin, Germany, +49 30 890020

Terror – Deutsches Theater

A plane is hijacked by terrorists and heads towards a football stadium. A fighter jet pilot has to make a tough decision. The story of Terror, which premiers at Deutsches Theater this fall, reads more like an action thriller than anything we would expect to see on a theatre stage. However, most likely we will not see John McClane chasing terrorists in an undershirt as the play centers on the trial that follows the incident. Terror is the first play written by bestselling author and lawyer Ferdinand von Schirach. Schirach is mostly known for his crime novels, which are supposedly based on real criminal cases that were tried by his law firm. This might not be the most demanding, highbrow play to premier this season, but it promises to be highly enthralling.

Deutsches Theater, Schumannstraße 13, Berlin, Germany,+49 30 284410

By Lukas Frenzer