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Plays in May: Theatertreffen

Larger-than-life sets, nudity and chicken suits: Get ready for Theatertreffen, your annual cheat sheet to what’s hot in German theatre – May 6-21.

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Photo by Rolf Arnold

Larger-than-life sets, nudity and chicken suits: Get ready for Theatertreffen, your annual cheat sheet to what’s hot in German theatre.

What’s not to love about the biggest theatre festival in the whole German-speaking world? Art festivals can be too icy and film festivals too shiny, but Theatertreffen is just marching to its own weirdo beat. From May 6-21, the Haus der Berliner Festspiele becomes an early summer camp for theatre nerds, who fly in from all over the world to catch the 10 “most notable” productions of the previous year, the work of five experimental and promising young writers (in the Stückemarkt programme) and as many workshops, panels, and discussions as you could ever want to attend. The German-insecure need not worry, either. All of this year’s featured productions will run with English surtitles, if they’re in German at all, that is: two of them are basically silent, and one (Real Magic) is in English already! Here’s what we’re excited for:


Taxidermy: The eponymous white horse in Rider on a White Horse, from the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, will officially be the fifth we’ve seen this year on the Festspiele’s stage – how can that be right? May 9-10, Festspiele

Chicken suits: a staple of Forced Entertainment’s absurdist costume closet will reappear as part of the repetitive, Beckett-inspired, tragicomic Real Magic. May 9-11, HAU

Giant puffy baby suits with Pinocchio masks: honestly your guess is as good as ours as to what these monsters are doing in Claudia Baier’s meditation on the Wende in 89/90 (photo). May 14-15, Festspiele

Literally far out: Kay Vosges’ Borderline Procession is a surrealist procession of tableaux for which you’ll have to go to a former factory in the Schöneweide hinterlands. It seems worth it. May 7-11, Rathenau-Hallen


Herbert Fritsch does Herbert Fritsch: You know what we thought about Pfusch, the latest piece of nonsense from the Volksbühne director. It’s not his best, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. May 18, 21, Volksbühne

Simon Stone does Simon Stone: Inserting jokes about cell phones into Ibsen and Chekhov at Theatertreffen since 2016! Stone’s trademark is rewriting classic texts – not through direction, but actually rewriting the plays themselves. But actually, his production of Three Sisters looks very chic. May 6-7, Festspiele

Thom Luz does Thom Luz: The Swiss musician-director presents Sad Magicians, an absurd comedy with plenty of music but no speaking. May 17-18, Festspiele

Milo Rau does Milo Rau: You want documentary theatre taking on an issue from all sides using actual testimony, but not about immigration or the future of Europe this time? Okay, what about a play about Belgian child-murderer Marc Dutroux starring kids? We really recommend Five Easy Pieces. May 13-14, Sophiensaele; 20-21, Festspiele

Theatertreffen, May 6-21, full programme at berlinerfestspiele.de