Affairs to remember

For what might be the last time, Foreign Affairs (Jul 7-17) blurs the lines between theatre, music and art at Haus der Berliner Festspiele and stages across the city.

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Forced Entertainment in overnight piece “From The Dark”. Photo by Hugo Glendinning

For what might be the last time, Foreign Affairs blurs the lines between theatre, music and art.

It’s not just the end of an era at the Volksbühne – the Berliner Festspiele’s annual fest which morphed from Spielzeit Europa to Foreign Affairs in 2012, is undergoing yet another transformation next year. So it’s fitting that this summer’s theme is “uncertainty”. Foreign Affairs has always combined performances, art and concerts; for its last iteration as such, these distinctions are coming apart at the seams.

Maybe its because the main artist, South African William Kentridge, himself unravels clear distinctions between visual art, performance, and “real life” in Drawing Lessons, originally conceived as a lecture series at Harvard. For two days straight, Kentridge will hold forth on everything from his artistic process to South African politics.

Most pieces are topsy-turvy like this – the Nature Theater of Oklahoma is making a sci-fi film in different locations throughout the city (your ticket entitles you to be part of the cast); Jan Lauwers’ Needcompany combines music, autobiography, and experimental performance to deconstruct identity in contemporary Europe.

The centrepiece of the festival is Forced Entertainment’s overnight durational piece From The Dark, which will pave the way for more immersive and participatory programming at the Berliner Festspiele next season. What’s this desire to spend the night in the theatre all about? Why do we want, as Allen Kaprow says, “to go in instead of look at”? With Europe itself facing an uncertain future, Foreign Affairs posits that it makes sense to go back to the basics of performance, looking for new forms of intimacy between performer and audience. Watching the sunrise with strangers seems like a good place to start.

Jul 7-17, Haus der Berliner Festspiele (Charlottenburg) and various venues, see website for full programme