Heimat has become something of a buzzword. For the fourth instalment of Maxim Gorki Theater’s biennial festival Herbstsalon (autumn salon), Shermin Langhoff ’s stronghold of postmigrant theatre critically reflects on the concept. Under the motto “De-heimatize it!”, the festival presents a counter narrative to increasingly right-wing political rhetoric in a programme boasting exciting names from around the globe. Five premieres are joined by three guest performances, an exhibition and a conference in what is sure to be a season highlight.
The festival opens with the world premiere of Israeli playwright Sivan Ben Yishai’s Or: You Deserve Your War (Eight Soldiers Moonsick) in Studio – the final piece in her tetralogy Let The Blood Come Out To Show Them. The play is a philosophical dissection of the (female) perspective on what it means to die for a fatherland. In a theatre landscape dominated by German Regietheater, it’s refreshing that playwright Sasha Marianna Salzmann is directing. If previous productions are anything to go by, Salzmann will let Yishai’s literary prowess speak for itself.
House director Yael Ronen has also conjured up a new performance for the festival that will be sure to spook the patriarchy. In Rewitching Europe, Ronen explores the genesis of female degradation under capitalism through the persecution of witches in the early modern period. Even then, Germany stood out as Weltmeister, burning tens of thousands of women – over half of all victims in Europe.
Polish director Marta Górnicka shines a light on the darkest chapters of German history in Jedem das Seine (Each to their own) to expose the sexual exploitation of women in brothels at concentration camps. In doing so, she draws parallels to a modern resurgent fascism that instrumentalises the female body in its toxic political crusade.
A Herbstsalon highlight is undoubtably the dream-team of shooting star director Ersan Mondtag and cult author Sibylle Berg. Add the unconventional yet acclaimed actor Benny Claessens to the mix and it’s hard to see how this production couldn’t steal the show at any festival. In theory. Hass-Triptychon – Ways out of the Crisis, comes to Gorki fresh from its May premiere at the Wiener Festwochen, where critics weren’t particularly overwhelmed. The piece – an anti-musical of sorts with a cast of neon trolls – was lambasted by the Süddeutsche Zeitung as a Hobbit-version of Les Misérables that made a farce of Berg’s text. But what do critics know? The audience gave a different verdict through loud bravos and cheers.
Fans of Oliver Frljić can rejoice as the provocative Bosnian director returns with two guest performances: Imaginary Europe, a co-production from the Schauspiel Stuttgart, the Nowy Teatr in Warsaw and the Zagreb Youth Theater, and Medea from the Slovenian National Theatre Maribor. Another intriguing addition to the festival is the Young Curator’s Academy, in which 35 artivists from around the world will report on their projects and the political climate in their respective homelands. Once more, Gorki flexes its muscles to assert itself as a theatre on the frontline of emancipatory politics. And it looks like their Herbstsalon will pack quite the punch.
All plays at the Maxim Gorki Theater with English surtitles.
Or: You Deserve Your War (Eight Soldiers Moonsick) | October 26-28
Jedem das Seine | October 26-27
Rewitching Europe | November 1, 20:00
Imaginary Europe | November 7, 20:00
Medea | November 8, 19:30
Hass-Triptychon – Ways out of the Crisis | November 17, 18:00