At a Berlin Festival, Avant-Garde Theater from Europe and New York

We all walk with our luggage. For some, it’s clinging to the past or worrying about the future.The case is handcuffed to his wrist and can’t be lost.

Written and directed by Train Falch of the Norwegian theater company Susie Wang. “grilled toast” Highlights of this year’s FIND, a new international theater festival held every spring at the Schaubuhne Theater in Berlin. The festival, which runs until April 30th, accidentally or intentionally puts out a large number of entries in a limited space. In many works, the setting itself feels like the main character.

It’s safe to say that you’ve never seen anything quite like Burnt Toast, the mix of ironic comedy and splatter horror staged on the small studio stage of Schaubuhne. It’s gooey, rigorously precise room work, all taking place in an ominous hotel lobby. (The carpet throughout the stage is bright red.)

Shortly after Danny checks in, he meets his mother, Violet, who is nursing her infant. In the unpredictable and unclassifiable play that ensues, Falch unleashes a disturbing yet tender tale of love and cannibalism. The English dialogue is a mixture of the mundane and the outrageous, recited by the three main actors in exaggerated Southern twangs.

Other directors, such as Suzanne Kennedy, Toshiki Okada, and Falch’s countryman Vegard Vinge, have fingerprints here, but the film’s disturbing tone feels unique. is Susie Wang’s first production to be performed in Berlin. Featuring David Cronenberg-style body horror, pregnant infants, and amputations, “Burnt Her Toast” is certainly not a show for everyone, but it left me wanting more.

For the past few years, FIND has featured ‘artists to watch’. Following Angelica Riddell in 2021 and Robert His Le Page in 2022, this year’s guest of honor is New York’s experimental theater company, the Worcester Group. Wooster’s has two of her recent shows in Berlin, artistically staged by her director Elizabeth Lecompte. “Nayat School Redux” We’re revisiting one of the group’s early and influential productions, arriving on the festival’s final weekend. (also 4 additional production streaming online until Sunday)

of “Pink chair (instead of fake antique)” Starting in 2017, Worcester’s will recreate one of the towering Polish theater artist’s last plays in honor of Tadeusz Kantor. Accompanied by Cantor’s daughter, who appears in a recorded video interview, the actors seek out the director through a painstaking reconstruction of Cantor’s play I Shall Never Return. Archived footage from the 1988 rehearsal plays on the TV screen behind them.

The craftsmanship of the production is undeniable, but the technique is so finely honed and executed that it borders on self-parody. , the show feels fresh and moving.

On a more intimate stage at Schaubuhne glove FIND hosted the work of another influential American theater practitioner. Tina Sutter’s 2013 play House of Dance was performed in German for the first time.

Satter released the remarkable “Is This A Room?” at last year’s FIND. The film later became her glamorous film debut as ‘Reality’, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. She returned for her FIND, which was a completely different but equally impressive play. This is her first film she directed in German.

Set in a tap dance studio in a small town in America, House of Dance features a four-person cast drawn from Schaubuehne’s outstanding acting ensemble, supported primarily by music and propulsive tap numbers. It is an enthusiastic indoor theater. Sutter and her actors give us an intuitive sense of the dreams and frustrations of dance studio students and teachers in this stripped-down, focused production. (The play remains in Schaubuehne’s repertoire and is performed until July.)

The main stage at Schaubuehne features a hyper-realistic “Fortress of Smiles” Japanese writer-director Kuro Tanino had a much more monumental set. His two houses with the same layout are side by side. In another, a middle-aged man takes care of his elderly mother with the help of his reluctant college-age daughter.

Upon closer inspection, “Fortress of Smiles”, with its naturalistic, snippets of life dialogue, was the most popular entry in the first week of FIND. And the acting was some of the best I’ve seen at a festival, albeit lacking the immediacy and deep pathos that characterize the Japanese master’s best work, seeing Yasujiro Ozu’s film adaptation As you can see, the play itself felt static and stuffy at times.

The only production on FIND that tried to break free from stage restrictions was a Swiss production. “Wierecht” (“perhaps”). Lead actor Cédric Géger gave a history lesson about Berlin’s “African Quarter” for over two hours. The street name is a district honoring German colonial expansion in South West Africa. Containing a large amount of docudrama and autobiography, this performance lecture given by the equally charismatic Safi his Martín his Ye with Jeje was highly didactic, but rarely engaged as a play. bottom. (It was less substantial and less entertaining than the film Human Measurements, another recent work that confronts German colonial history.)

A much more attractive piece of political theater came from Iran.Written and directed by Parnia Shams “teeth” He took us to a girls’ high school in Tehran. The constant surveillance, or fear of it, makes the classroom on stage feel like a prison. When the brightest student in her class defends her, the other students turn against them, accusing them of having a sexual relationship.

Shams’ play she co-wrote with Amir Ebrahimzadeh was first seen in Tehran in 2019. The way it dramatizes themes of power, coercion, and oppression is exciting, but it’s hard to find a clear social or political critique. But much is not said, but in the aftermath of the protests that have roiled Iran since Martha Amini’s death in September, the piece has acquired new meaning.

When the actresses took off their head scarves for the curtain call, it certainly felt like a statement.

FIND 2023 will be held in Schaubuehne until April 30th.

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