The Schaubühne’s Festival for International New Drama – or FIND – is a yearly highlight of Berlin’s theatre world. This year, it turns 20. Thanks to extensive guest performances from Tehran to Ramallah to Beijing, the Schaubühne is perhaps Berlin’s most international theatre. Thomas Ostermeier and his team are incredibly well connected, searching the globe on tour and finding a crop of headline names and under-the-radar talent that make for a thrilling festival programme of nine guest performances, two in-house premieres and a repertoire piece. So what stands out this year?
Kirill Serebrennikov’s Outside (Mar 13-15) is a sure-fire highlight. The acclaimed Russian director and artistic director of Moscow’s Gogol Center has been persecuted by authorities at home, allegedly because of corruption, although there is no evidence of this – and his pro-LGBTQ views and stance against the annexation of Crimea are unlikely to have won him any comrades in the Kremlin.
In Outside, Serebrennikov looks at Chinese photographer Ren Hang, also a victim of state oppression, to examine the rebellious spirit of a new generation in China. Serebrennikov was due to meet with Hang about a collaboration just two days before Hang killed himself, aged just 29. The piece was written in shock at the loss of a great artist and friend and premiered at last year’s Festival d’Avignon. This month, Serebrennikov’s Decamerone also opens at the Deutsches Theater. That two of Berlin’s most prominent theatres are giving the persecuted Russian director a stage is a vital political signal and a testament to their integrity.
Another highlight is the first Thai production in FIND history: Uthis Haemamool’s Pratthana – A Portrait of Possession (Mar 21-22). Directed by Japanese rising star Toshiki Okada, whose The Vacuum Cleaner at the Münchener Kammerspiele has been invited to this year’s Theatertreffen, the piece offers a panorama of artistic counterculture in Bangkok through the eyes of a young artist from the countryside. Expect drug-fuelled excesses and gay porn scenes in this dramatic study of a corrupt political system’s collapse.
There’ll also be some familiar faces: in Familie (Mar 17), produced at the NTGent in Belgium, Swiss director and long-time Schaubühne collaborator Milo Rau examines the construct of the family through the real-life case in Calais of a couple who hanged themselves and their two children. In The Scarlet Letter (Mar 19-21), Spanish dramatist, director and performer Angélica Liddell, who was also invited to FIND in 2017 and 2018, imagines a dystopian society hostile to art. The piece takes both Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 as its cues to explore art’s potential to break free from totalitarian structures.
This year’s FIND will also unveil an experiment: French literary sensation Édouard Louis has teamed up with Thomas Ostermeier to create a performative reading. Last year’s Who Killed My Father (Mar 20-22) offers a tender, nuanced perspective on Louis’ difficult relationship with his father. This is the first time the author has performed one of his texts and the Schaubühne has cautiously labelled the performance as a “try-out”. That doesn’t make it any less exciting, though – grab your tickets quick!
FIND Festival | Schaubühne, Wilmersdorf. Mar 11-22, all plays with English surtitles or in English.