Schaubuhne: bright new ancient stories
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.
Blood and mud in the Schaubuhne
He walks on stage like a scary animal. His eyes are wide open and he looks everywhere. There is danger in every corner. His shiny crown is upside down and the cloak that looked beautifully before, is now dirty and wet. He sits in the mud and rain pours down on him. King Hamlet is getting mad.
Hamlet at the Schaubuhne
It is an image we won’t forget soon. Shakespeare is often played in a very traditional way. The old rhymes are recited like it is a poem. Beautiful, of course. But also a bit boring. We think Shakespeare would like the way they perform his plays in the Schaubuhne better. Because at the Schaubuhne they perfectly know how to play a rich king getting mad, adapted to modern, big city life.
At the Schaubuhne Hamlet is a king, wearing a lot of bling bling. He is surrounded by bored and glamorous people that want to become more powerful. They look a bit like modern mobsters. Hamlet, played by the great actor Lars Eidinger, wants to be the biggest mobster of them all. But the way to the top is slippery and sometimes literally, very dirty. He doesn’t trust a single soul. Hamlet thinks his friends and family all want the same crown. Slowly, Hamlet turns truly mad. He kills his rivals, his love and leaves a stage full of blood and mud.
The Schaubuhne knows really well how to bring old stories, like Shakespeare, come back to life. Visiting plays of the Schaubuhne is watching a spectacle. A lot of theatres wouldn’t dare to use so much mud on stage and let rain pour down on it’s actors. Like they did with Hamlet. Maybe this has something to do with the history of the Schaubuhne. The theatre started of as a cinema and films are of course often spectacular.
Film is still an important part of the Schaubuhne. The actors often use a camera to make great close ups of the faces of the actors on stage. And the stage is always an image that sticks in your mind. Like the mud at Hamlet. Or the bushes and the simple couch with a man on it in his plain, white underwear at Death of a Salesman. You know instantly this salesman is fed up with his work and tries to find refuge at his own house. Without finding it.
The stage at the Schaubuhne is stripped of unneccesary elements and left with artifacts that enhance the image and story of the men and women on stage.
We not only like the Schaubuhne because the decor is so simple and good, but also because the way they play. If someone in the play is mad, this is very clear. They slap each other in the face, fight, say dirty things and drag each other by the hairs. Old fat man are not afraid to sit in their underwear. The story is the most important thing at the Schaubuhne. Not shame, blood or bruises. And for the people that don’t speak German but love theatre, we have good news: once a month the Schaubuhne has plays with English subtitles.
More Berlin Theatre:
The Volksbuhne is one of Berlin’s most controversial theatres. We have visited the Volksbuhne lots of times. From the outside it looks a bit like a bunker. 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
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 staractor Martin Wuttke in der Aufmerksame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui.