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  • FIND 2021: International theatre comes to Berlin


FIND 2021: International theatre comes to Berlin

This year’s edition of the annual festival returns with great new works from five countries and two continents, and an homage to the subversive Angélica Liddell.

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The Scarlet Letter depicts a moralistic totalitarian society in which the artist is branded as a pariah is subject to scrutiny. Photo: Bruno Simao

It’s back! Launched on September 29 with director Katie Mitchell’s excoriating rendition of Chris Bush’s play about climate change, Kein Weltuntergang, the 20th edition of FIND (Festival International New Drama) serves up some of the most exciting stage works of recent time. Many of last year’s programmed acts have shimmied into this year’s selection, along with the new, a staged reading and panel discussions.

A feast for English speakers, shows not in English all have English surtitles. In line with 2021’s theme, focus is on creations whose content and aesthetics seek to break prevailing power structures, questioning and subverting them. Be ready for images and narratives often suppressed and erased from social discourse in works guaranteed to sear away blind spots.

One new curatorial addition to the festival is a focus artist: this year, Spain’s incendiary theatrical force, Angélica Liddell. The playwright, director and performer is renowned for her sharp, eloquent and poetic analyses of our human condition. Much lauded, her 2009 work La casa de la fuerza (‘The House of Force’) brought her widespread fame. This 2013 winner of a Venice Biennale Silver Lion was last at Schaubühne in 2017 directing her dystopian play Dead Dog at Dry Cleaners: the Strong. Her first work in FIND, Liebestod (October 6, 20:00; October 7, 18:30), hunts the sublime as if a rite of incantation, pitting spirituality and transcendence against a culture focused on reconciliation and consensus. It conjures up legendary revolutionary bullfighter Juan Belmonte and calls on Wagnerian tragedy and the myth of Tristan and Isolde as an invitation to experience absolute love.

Then it’s back to dystopia in The Scarlet Letter (October 8, 19:30; October 9, 20:30; October 10, 19:00), where a moralistic totalitarian society in which the artist is branded as a pariah is subject to scrutiny. Rather than Nathaniel Hawthorne’s adulteress, this time the red ‘A’ is for ‘artist’. For the duration of the festival, Schaubühne’s website will also host screenings of Liddell’s earlier works.

LOVE (October 1, 18:30; October 2, 15:00) is a production fresh from the Vienna Festwochen. Part of London writer and director Alexander Zeldin’s celebrated trilogy exploring precarity, The Inequalities, in this chapter people are at the mercy of the UK’s social care system under austerity politics. The needs and fears of residents in a temporary homeless shelter collide in their communal kitchen – love is their common denominator as they find out how to live together in dignity.

Outside (October 1, 21:00; October 2-3, 20:00) is the new production from renowned Russian stage and film director and theatre designer Kirill Serebrennikov. Despite several years under (a just-lifted) house arrest in Moscow after being accused of tax fraud, he managed to continue his work as artistic director of the city’s Gogol Centre. Mirroring his own experience of totalitarian repression, this piece is a tribute to Chinese photographer Ren Hang, who killed himself in 2017 aged 29, mere days before the two were due to meet and plan a collaboration. Hang’s images – for which he was frequently arrested – often portrayed the naked bodies of a rebellious new Chinese generation daring to counter the state-sanctioned image of youth. An explicit salute to freedom of the mind despite imprisonment. 

The Guardian described THIS IS HOW WE DIE (October 9, 18:00; October 10, 17:00 & 21:30) as “mesmerising”, “razor wit in a ranting monologue” that will “leave you reeling”. Starting out as a rehearsed reading, Canadian-American author, performance artist and musician Christopher Brett Bailey evolves his show into a tidal wave of words, a personal psychedelic homage to the rebellion of the Beatniks presented as a Beat poetry performance. A transformative road-trip of the soul where spoken word and storytelling mesh into white noise.

Other than Kein Weltuntergang, FIND presents another of Schaubühne’s own productions, Qui a tué mon père (‘Who Killed My Father’ – October 7, 21:00; October 8-9, 20:00; October 10, 19:30). Playwright Édouard Louis is coming across from Paris to appear in his own play, directed by Thomas Ostermeier, a second collaboration for the two. Confronting his now seriously ill father, whose alcoholism and homophobia made early life hell, anger is transformed into compassion and at the same time the evils of neoliberalism are placed under the microscope. Weekend afternoons see a staged reading of Spaniard Guillermo Calderón’s DRAGÓN followed by a moderated discussion, as well as two panel discussions in German about poverty and inequity, and one in English on October 10 about new playwriting in Germany and the UK.

Visit schaubuehne.de for the full festival programme.