We love Berlin for many reasons. But the main reason is the Berlin theatre. We go to the theatre a lot and saw many plays in our home country the Netherlands. But compared to Berlin theatre, Dutch theatre is quite boring. If Dutch actors fight on stage, they try not to hurt each other. Berlin actors slap each other in the face like they mean it. Who cares about a bit of blood and bruises? It is Berlin theatre in a nutshell. The audience needs to really believe the stories on stage.
Our favourite is the Volksbuhne. The Volksbuhne makes really interesting and modern adaptations of old novels and plays. The best play we saw over here, was a raw adaptation of the novel Berlin Alexanderplatz. The main character, Franz Biberkopf just got out of prison and tries very hard not to be a criminal again. But modern life in Berlin is hard. Franz tries desperately to make a living by selling clip ties to the unwilling audience and by grilling sausages on stage. The Volksbuhne vividly shows how hard Berlin life can be for a homeless bum like Franz Biberkopf.
The Volksbuhne is one of Berlin’s most controversial theatres. We have visited this theatre lots of times. From the outside it looks a bit industrial. The building is a big block of concrete with kitschy wooden decor inside. The inside is a bit tacky, but the plays never bored us.
It is impossible to visit the Volksbuhne and not be amazed. In a good or bad way, depending on what you expect to find in a theatre. If you prefer romantic plays with actors reciting Shakespeare, you better stay out of the Volksbuhne. Or you might end up walking away in anger or disgust during a controversial play, like we saw a lot of people doing. Director Frank Castorf does not want to please that kind of audience.
What Frank Castorf does want is plays with a bleeding heart and a hurt soul. Not only on stage, but in the audience as well. His plays matter, you can not watch them without emotions. And that is what we like about the Volksbuhne so much.
Other Berlin theatre:
The Schaubuhne makes ancient stories bright new. They make Shakespeare spectacularly modern with glossy kings and queens with sunglasses and bling bling. But don’t expect sugar sweet stories. The actors of the Schaubuhne are not afraid to play dirty, swear a lot and dive in the mud. You won’t see actors reciting Shakespeares, but rage, madness, blood and lots of dirt.
Berliner Ensemble is Bertolt Brecht territory. If you are into Meckie Messer playing with his knives and whores Berliner Ensemble is the place to be. Old Mutter Courage and her little kids roam the stage. And one of the scariest dictators are played by star actor Martin Wuttke in der Aufmerksame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui.
Maybe we were unlucky, but the plays we saw at Maxim Gorki Theater didn’t please us very much. We felt like we ended up in an old peoples home. There were many seniors in the audience and on stage intendant Armin Petras tried to make something new out of an old story.
But that didn’t work out really well. The actors tried to rap some of their lines but were way out of their comfort zone by doing so. The seniors in the audience were really happy with the ‘modern result’ but we thought it was a sorry attempt to be hip. The small studio theatre is more experimental.
Deutsches Theater is the more traditional theatre of Berlin. We prefer rough, experimental theatre that represents real life. We think plays at Deutsches Theater are really well performed. We liked some plays, but were not blown away. Some plays can be a bit dull and too traditional.
The Kammerspiele and Junges DT focus more on young and experimental plays and audiences. www.deutschestheater.de
Almost everyone knows the stories of Rapunzel, Sleeping beauty and Puss in Boots by heart. The Marchenhutte has turned these fairy tales and many other into plays. So if you always wanted to see Mother Hulda or the Puss in Boots live on stage, you should buy tickets for their shows. The cabin where the plays are performed is one of the most remarkable building of Mitte.