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This month in stage: Identity crisis

From post-humanist to genderqueer, this month's stage offerings tackle the topic of identity.

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Photo by Esra Rotthoff

From post-humanist to genderqueer, this month’s stage offerings tackle the topic of identity.

Identity politics are all the rage on the Berlin stage. This month’s programming is a case in point: from race to class and gender to generation, satires on assimilation meet post-migrant perspectives as upbeat gender jams segue into intersectional theory.

At Gorki, Franz Kafka’s short story Ein Bericht für eine Akademie (A Report to an Academy) premieres in an adaptation by the Bosnian-born, former Croatian National Theatre director Oliver Frljić. Kafka’s story is one of assimilation: the ape Rotpeter delivers a speech to the scientific community on his journey from monkey to man, a mastery of human identity that freed him from captivity. There’s no shortage of competing interpretations in Kafka’s oeuvre and Ein Bericht is no exception, although an understanding of his own intersectional identity certainly strengthens any reading of the text: he belonged to the double minority of a German-speaking Jew living in Austro-Hungarian Prague. While a compelling case can be made for interpreting the text as a satirical take on Jewish assimilation in Western Europe, the true allure of Kafka’s texts lies in their ambiguity. Known for his provocative productions, Frljić promises a brutal performance about the cost of conformity in modern civilisation.

Over at the Schaubühne’s smaller studio, Patrick Wengenroth’s recently premiered follow-up to last year’s acclaimed Love Hurts in Tinder Times, He? She? Me! Free., continues its opening run. From Queen numbers to Mine tracks, Judith Butler to Ludwig Wittgenstein, Wengenroth’s collaborative garage band jam criss-crosses pop music and critical theory to dissect gender constructs and queer identity under patriarchy.

At the recently renovated Ballhaus Naunynstraße, Gritty Glamour returns for four nights this February – a grimy performance that channels the perspectives of four post-migrant artists in a white-dominated queer scene, set in the hazy backstage of a Kreuzberg club. The night-owl protagonists chart their trials and tribulations, from house hunting to meat prowling, abuse to rejection. Actor Toks Körner’s debut drama Walking Large also returns to the Naunynstraße this month, a tale of two black German brothers, one a model German citizen who follows the Regeln, the other a troublemaker involved in skirmishes with the law.

For a more theoretical dissection of identity, head to the Berliner Ensemble. Talk show host and former CDU politician Michel Friedman continues his Friedman im Gespräch series with yet another impressive guest: GDR civil rights activist and former Bundespräsident Joachim Gauck. The two elderly white gentlemen will dis- cuss questions of belonging and differentiation, collective and national identities. Big topics for big men.

If all these identity constructs sound rather anthropocentric to you, HAU has a herbal remedy. Angela Schubot and Jared Gradinger explore the connection between (wo)man and nature in the third instalment of their biotic cycle, The Nature of Us – a post-humanist choreography featuring an ensemble of plants and people. Their immersion in non-human eco-systems serves to highlight the inherent intelligence of Mother Nature.

Ein Bericht für eine Akademie Feb 8, 9, 21, 19:30 (English surtitles) Maxim Gorki Theater, Mitte | He? She? Me! Free. Feb 2, 20:30, Feb 3, 19:00 Schaubühne, Wilmersdorf | Gritty Glamour Feb 25-28, 20:00 (English with German surtitles) Ballhaus Naunynstraße, Kreuzberg | Walking Large Feb 16, 20-21, 20:00, Feb 17, 19:00, English surtitles on Feb 20-21 Ballhaus Naunynstraße, Kreuzberg | Friedman im Gespräch mit Joachim Gauck Feb 14, 20:00 Berliner Ensemble, Mitte | The Nature of Us Feb 28-Mar 2, 19:00, Mar 3, 17:00 HAU2, Kreuzberg