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Press notes, 11 January 2018

The past year came to an end with honours for two of the Volksbühne’s associated artists. The Guardian newspaper chose the Volksbühne production 10,000 Gestures by Boris Charmatz as the top dance production of the year for 2017. On 17 December, Susanne Kennedy was presented with the “Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities” in Rome. Her Women in Trouble has been a successful part of the Volksbühne repertoire since its premiere on 30 November. The next performances are on 20 January and 10 February. After debuting at the Volksbühne Tempelhof, 10,000 Gestures can be seen for the first time on the Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz main stage from 1-3 February.

The Volksbühne’s former artistic director had less cordial New Year’s greetings for the theatre under its new leadership. In a recent interview in the Theater der Zeit magazine (issue 01/2018), Frank Castorf explains that the Volksbühne is no longer a theatre – only theatre laymen would “suddenly write about the Volksbühne and celebrate the current artistic leadership” and he even calls for politicians to finally do something about it. Chris Dercon: “We weren’t aware that the theatre’s future is only allowed to be a theatre of Mr Castorf”.

In the current issue of the Schweizer Wochenzeitung newspaper, Tobi Müller takes stock in a critical essay titled “Wende ohne Ende”: “The bitter dispute over Chris Dercon as successor to Frank Castorf at the Berlin Volksbühne over the last two years is outrageous. Almost the entire theatre world seems authoritarian in this shitstorm (...) Not only are more women working in the new Volksbühne, the style of leadership is actually different. It takes time to adapt a city theatre to artists’ needs. Dercon, Piekenbrock and co. often say that they do want to build an ensemble, as well as a repertoire of pieces that reappear in the programme. But they want to let the artists participate in these processes. This cannot take place during a new management’s preparations, but only after it gets started (...) If one doesn’t give Dercon the time to realise these plans, one might as well give up right away and leave the theatre to its beauty sleep and memories of one’s own past youth. A new leadership team is usually allowed two to three years to find itself. It was already proclaimed that Dercon’s time was up after ten minutes.”

More commentaries:

“It is a sombre colour that this theatre displays in its dance and theatre productions. In the concepts of negation, refusal of opulence on stage, in thwarting the expectation of tension, in marking conventions as unnecessary prerequisites for art, the programming at Tempelhof and then in theatre on Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz fits together very well. A strong statement artistically.” (Katrin Bettina Müller in the taz, 31.12.2017).

“Susanne Kennedy has made the leap into a new dimension. Her creation, Women in Trouble, fills the room and turns it into an intensive care unit”, but: “Kennedy's calculated aesthetic of a life in a laboratory characterises the Dercon Volksbühne. It doesn’t have any character yet.” (Rüdiger Schaper in Der Tagesspiegel, 30.12.2017).

“What comes after humans? Other humans, artificial humans, no humans at all? Meditating robots and digital avatars? Chris Dercon and his team have, with sparse bonuses, fairly consistently tackled a major and menacing topic.” (Eva Behrendt in Theater heute 01/2018).

“One thought it was impossible, but suddenly a sense of density is appearing in the new Volksbühne - out of the spirit of the art installation, of all things.” (Kolja Reichert in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 10.12.2017).

Upcoming premieres: Waffenruhe by Michael Schmidt and Einar Schleef as a nocturnal projection beginning on 31 January; the P14 production Betrunken am Highway (Drunk on the highway) based on Frank Wedekind's Franziska on 2 February; the world premiere of Health and Safety by Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff in the Grüner Salon on 8 February; the premiere of Left to tell by Tim Etchells and Marino Formenti on 15 February on Volksbühne Fullscreen, and on 17 February live in the 3. Stock; as well as the premiere of Liberté by Albert Serra on 22 February.

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