Unvanquishable emotion is irresistibly dramatic, and this month, it comes to Berlin’s stages in different guises.
About 60 years ago, the French author Annie Ernaux experienced her first sexual encounter at the age of 17. Despite, or perhaps because of, the indifference of the older man involved, she developed an obsessive infatuation for him that affected her life indelibly. In 2016, Ernaux confronted this unexpectedly violent encounter and cataclysmic event in her book Mémoire de fille (A Girl’s Story). The Schaubühne is bringing her story to the stage as Erinnerung eines Mädchens, a monologue performance directed by Sarah Kohm. With actor Veronika Bachfischer, they will explore this turning point in a young woman’s life as well as the intensity of its aftermath and repercussions.
In 1996, the transgressive, revolutionary playwright Sarah Kane rewrote the classical story of a woman’s obsession for her stepson in Phaedra’s Love. This shocking play – which Kane called “my comedy” – focuses instead on Hippolytus and his total indifference, not just to Phaedra but to his entire passionless existence. The Berliner Ensemble’s new version, Phaidras Liebe, features one actor, Stefanie Reinsperger, playing all roles. Kane saw herself both as Phaedra and Hippolytus so, in a way, Reinsperger’s delivering all the lines casts her in the role of the playwright as well. With theatre and opera director Robert Borgmann providing live music, the production is another instance of the imaginative reworking of Kane’s oeuvre today.
Passion can also lead to heights of wonder and achievement, even glory. Beethoven’s compositions – with their dizzying highs and lows, their fiery spirit – inspired music theatre group Nico and the Navigators to explore his music with all five senses. Acclaimed for their interpretations of classical music, the company originally embarked on the project Force & Freedom as part of Beethoven’s 250th anniversary celebrations in 2020. Here they’re joined by the Kuss Quartett playing live. That group’s name comes from their leader, Jana Kuss – but could easily have come from the line in the choral 9th symphony: Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt (“This Kiss for the Whole World”).
It’s not only for fellow beings, but also for ideas and concepts, goals and dreams, that people harbour passion. In 1960, a certain Edward Festus Mukuka Nkoloso established the Zambia National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy. Its mission: to send a girl and two cats to the moon, and to launch a trip to Mars as the first African entry to the space race. After postponements due to lockdown, Company Christoph Winkler are finally able to take We are going to Mars – a performed exploration of these “Afronauts” combining video, dance and music – to the stage. Was this a serious astronautical engineering project, or a satirical comment on the race to the moon between Cold War adversaries USA and USSR? Whatever the answer, let’s hope the feature film will soon come to a screen near you. It would give Cool Runnings a definite run for its money. In the meantime, don’t miss the show. T
- Erinnerung eines Mädchens Apr 9-10, 12-14, 16, 19-20, 23 Schaubühne
- Phaedras Liebe Apr 22-24 Berliner Ensemble
- Force & Freedom Apr 14-17 Radialsystem
- We are going to Mars Apr 7-10 Sophiensæle
This piece, devised and directed by Alexander Zeldin, looks into the lives of workers bound by their situations to zero-hour contracts. It’s part of a trilogy of plays, all inspired by Zeldin’s first-hand research, that eschew pathos to deliver a devastating comment on people crushed by exploitative working conditions.
- Schaubühne Previews Apr 25-26, Premiere Apr 27
A week and a half of star artists and choice opera, this year with a focus on Mozart. Feast on Così fan tutte, Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni, conducted by Daniel Barenboim and directed by Vincent Huguet, along with concerts by Igor Levit, Martha Argerich, Renée Fleming and Cecilia Bartoli. Blissful stuff.
- Staatsoper Unter den Linden Apr 6-17