November 30, 2021

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Two Theaters, Totally different Worlds

Two Theaters, Different Worlds

MUNICH — This month, a whole lot of stylish Bavarians, many decked out within the area’s conventional gown of lederhosen and dirndls, gathered for the festive opening of the brand new Volkstheater, a placing and opulent performing arts advanced constructed into the cobbled courtyards of a Nineteenth-century abattoir.

That the Volkstheater was inaugurated every week after the opening of Isarphilharmonie, a world-class live performance corridor, appeared an extra sign that Munich is throwing off its provincial status and rising into a world cultural powerhouse.

But tensions between native and cosmopolitan impulses within the metropolis’s arts scene stay, and nowhere are they clearer than within the completely different approaches of the Volkstheater and one other state-funded playhouse, the Münchner Kammerspiele. As soon as described as Munich’s “unloved youngster,” the Volkstheater was willed into existence in 1983 by a conservative mayor who needed a extra conventional various to the artistically and politically provocative Kammerspiele.

The Volkstheater’s $150 million venue is a vindication of the creative course that its longtime chief, Christian Stückl, has charted for the home. In 2002, Stückl arrived because the creative director and set about constructing an ensemble of younger actors, together with many contemporary out of drama college. Practically twenty years later, the theater is thought far and huge as an incubator of expertise. The company’s “Radical Young” festival, based in 2005, showcases productions by up-and-coming administrators from theaters all through the German-speaking world.

The Kammerspiele — whose historical past stretches again greater than a century and consists of world premieres by the dramatic titans Bertolt Brecht and Frank Wedekind — can also be within the midst of a brand new starting. It not too long ago kicked off its second season below its creative director, Barbara Mundel, who has introduced in a largely new (and enormously expanded) appearing ensemble and a various group of creative collaborators.

Beginning in the midst of a pandemic, nonetheless, has not been straightforward, and the Kammerspiele has typically struggled to outline or articulate its imaginative and prescient. So I wouldn’t be too stunned if the theater is eying the Volkstheater, whose splashy opening continues to be making headlines and producing pleasure right here, with one thing like envy.

With a swanky house for its tried and examined mannequin of conventional theater carried out by younger gamers, the Volkstheater appears within the ascendant. However it stays to be seen whether or not the corporate can enchantment to a public past its largely native base.

Stückl’s production of Christopher Marlowe’s “Edward II,” which inaugurated the stage, appears the kind of trendy but standard staging that might entice wider audiences. The manufacturing is sensitively acted and poignantly illustrates the medieval English king’s passionate and heedless love for Gaveston, the earl of Cornwall, which the monarch pursues as his court docket plots towards him.

With its sizable dramatis personae, “Edward II” proves alternative to indicate off the Volkstheater’s fresh-faced ensemble, in addition to the technical capacities of the stage. The costumes and the minimal props — together with a tub and throne — vibrate with electrical pinks and purples towards the black expanse of the neon-lit stage, whose frequent rotations facilitate seamless entrances and exits over two intermissionless hours.

“Edward II” is the primary of 15 premieres that the home has deliberate for this season, together with works by George Orwell and Oscar Wilde and several other new performs. But the corporate’s repertoire leans closely on the classics, from Shakespeare to foundational German works.

A brilliantly acted chamber version of Thomas Mann’s “The Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man” is the Volkstheater’s first revival in its new house. Offered in the home’s second, smaller theater, the 2011 staging, tailored from the novel by the present’s director, Bastian Kraft, feels remarkably contemporary contemplating its age. Kraft succeeds in conjuring the colourful life and globe-trotting adventures of Mann’s charming confidence man with restricted means.

The solid stays unchanged from a decade in the past: Pascal Fligg, Nicola Fritzen and Justin Mühlenhardt give heroic performances, dividing the position of Krull amongst them. The three carry the rakish trickster to life by means of a sequence of quick, witty and sweaty performances which might be triumphs of bravura appearing.

“Felix Krull” is among the Volkstheater’s traditional productions, and it nonetheless sells out. Issues look very completely different over on the Kammerspiele, which is build up its repertoire just about from scratch. (Virtually not one of the firm’s productions from earlier than Mundel’s tenure have been retained.) This system consists of few well-known performs or recognizable titles. As a substitute, the Kammerspiele is taking a bet on latest and freshly commissioned works by worldwide artists, dramatists and theater collectives.

One younger writer working on the theater is the Israeli author Sivan Ben Yishai, whose “Like Lovers Do (Memoirs of Medusa)” recently received its world premiere there. This provocative play is a ferocious and uncompromising dramatic treatise about sexual violence, abuse, self-harm and the psychologically damaging expectations positioned on women and girls in a sexist society. The playbill incorporates a trigger warning which may be tongue-in-cheek. (“Set off warnings promote,” a personality tells us.)

Fortunately, Pinar Karabulut’s stylishly campy and colourful manufacturing doesn’t put any violence or cruelty onstage. The spirited five-member solid, drawn from the home’s ensemble, recite (and infrequently sing) the X-rated dialogue whereas decked out in wacky comic-book costumes by Teresa Vergho. Karabulut’s whimsical dollhouse aesthetic offers a much-welcome distinction to the play’s relentless brutality; the manufacturing’s irony and darkish humor assist the viewers get by means of what would in any other case be an unremittingly grim night.

The Kammerspiele’s terrific ensemble can also be entrance and heart in “The Politicians,” a dramatic monologue by Wolfram Lotz. It’s a prolonged poetic manifesto that feels outraged and pressing — although what it means isn’t at all times clear. In its incantatory energy and rhythmic movement, it may be mesmerizing on a purely aural degree, and its mixture of sense and nonsense opens up an infinite variety of theatrical prospects.

When carried out for the primary time, embedded inside a Berlin production of “King Lear” at the Deutsches Theater, the whole lot of “The Politicians” was entrusted to a single actress; in Munich, the director Felicitas Brucker distributes Lotz’s textual content amongst three performers. For a bit over an hour, Katharina Bach, Svetlana Belesova and Thomas Schmauser declaim the agitated textual content with white-hot depth. Acting from remoted cubbyholes that resemble a bed room, a workshop and a kitchen in a single, and whose partitions typically crawl with video-game-like animation, the agile actors inject hilarity and disquiet into their absurd speeches.

The one weirdest, most fantastic second on this dizzying night is when Bach — who delivers essentially the most impressively unhinged efficiency — pauses briefly amid a fiery torrent of nigh-incomprehensible babble to ask the viewers, with deadpan directness, “Any questions?”

Based mostly on the proof up to now, the Kammerspiele below Mundel is extra fascinated with artwork that poses questions reasonably than offers solutions. I hope Munich’s theater lovers rise to the problem of discovering the untested repertoire that she is introducing to this storied home. By comparability, the extra well-liked and crowd-pleasing Volkstheater, put in in its state-of-the-art house, finds itself in a greater place than ever earlier than to persuade audiences — together with these skeptical a couple of extra conventional strategy — of its theatrical imaginative and prescient.

Edward II. Directed by Christian Stückl. Münchner Volkstheater, by means of Nov. 25.
Felix Krull. Directed by Bastian Kraft. Münchner Volkstheater, by means of Nov. 6.
Like Lovers Do (Reminiscences of Medusa). Directed by Pinar Karabulut. Münchner Kammerspiele, by means of Nov. 15.
The Politicians. Directed by Felicitas Brucker. Münchner Kammerspiele, by means of Nov. 24.

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