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Highlights: Theater der Welt 2010


From 30 June to 17 July nearly 400 artists from all over the globe have been invited by the Theater an der Ruhr, Schauspiel Essen and the European Capital of Culture RUHR.2010 to Mülheim an der Ruhr and Essen. During Theater der Welt 2010 they present their personal visions of our world.

Artists from all over the World
The Theater der Welt artists come from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and Oceania. They live in mega-cities, come from emerging nations, natural paradises and crisis regions. They work alone or in a collective as directors, choreographers, performers, dancers or musicians. Some are well-known greats, others are performing for the first time in Europe.

Theater der Welt believes in the individual personality of the artist and views the contemporaneous as the language that connects all cultures. Contemporary art is free from aesthetic conventions and moves along the interface between genres and cultural traditions. These Theater der Welt artists are not representatives of their culture. They do not stand for the traditions and conflicts of their homeland, however much they might grapple with them. They stand and speak for themselves. They unify the radical search for new forms and ways of working, for a language of the here and now.

A Festival on the Move
Theater der Welt is a festival on the move. Since its first incarnation in 1981, the festival has taken place every three years in another city, another region of Germany, with another artistic director. Each and every Theater der Welt is a snapshot. Each and every festival is re-shaped by the artistic directors, by the invited artists and by the region in which it guests. In this year of the European Capital of Culture, Theater der Welt is breaking its three-year cycle. Only two years since its last season in 2008 in Halle, the festival has accepted the invitation from the European Capital of Culture RUHR.2010, Theater an der Ruhr and Schauspiel Essen.

Programme Director Frie Leysen
For the first time in the thirty-year history of Theater der Welt, not only the programme participants but even the programme director is an international artist. In 1994 Frie Leysen founded the multi-disciplinary Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels. At a point when the ongoing conflict between the Flemish and the Walloons was coming to a head, she worked consistently and successfully with artistic means towards integration and understanding. As its long-standing director, she turned the Kunstenfestivaldesarts into one of the most influential international festivals in Europe.



© Ville Hyvönen

© Ville Hyvönen

Kristian Smeds comes from the northern-most part of Finland, ‘where there is nothing apart from a couple of houses, a lot of woods, snow, vodka and even a theatre in Kajaani’. He invited Lithuanian actors of the pre-Communist and post-Communist generation to read Anton Chekhov’s last play. The actors ask themselves what they still have to say – twenty years ago, before the myth of political opposition was apparent, the stage was in fact the most important place for criticism of the system. In their life biographies they come up against the same questions that preoccupy Anton Chekhov’s characters. How do you deal with your past and how quickly does it catch up with you? Who wins and who loses? Cooped up in a dacha on the edge of Vilnius, these revival attempts at Russian realism are streamed live into the surrounding garden in Vilnius, to the Baltoscandal Festival in Riga and to Theater der Welt in Mülheim. The audience sits outside, the cherry orchard grows exuberantly right up to our front door. This mixture of research project, role-play, ritual and video-broadcast from a director who has twice been nominated for the European Theatre Prize, penetrates the ground rules of the game with our own lives, and the lives of others.


© Handspring Puppet Company

© Handspring Puppet Company

The frail, demi life-sized wooden puppet lies on a hospital bed, Odysseus is tired from his decades-long wanderings and broken by life. He will stand up just once more to tell us of his return to his wife Penelope. Dressed as a beggar – a god had ordained it so – at first she does not recognise him. It is only after he describes the marital bedspread that the two come together: it has to be love! Philippe Pierlot’s ensemble for old music, Ricercar Consort, play Monteverdi’s composition on historical instruments. The singers give voice to the wooden puppets of the Handspring Puppet Company. In front of the animated worlds of William Kentridge based on Greek mythology, the hand-made puppets are brought to life as unpredictable gods and hopeless humans. This exceptional production of the kunstenfestivaldesarts has toured from Australia to the USA and was last seen at the Edinburgh International Festival 2009.


© Márton Ágh

© Márton Ágh

Where do they come from, these two trucks with the seven young girls tied onto the loading bays? And where are they going? Their life in the lorry is hanging onto silken threads of hope for a better future in the west, for which they have given up their freedom and identity. One of the five people bringing them in seems to have fallen into the job by chance. At first he is shocked by the brutality and mercilessness of the laws of the street, however he soon realises that he only has one choice, to fight back using the same methods – violence and destruction. In the 1964 original, the science fiction classic Trudno byt’ bogom by the Russian Strugatsk brothers of Solaris fame, this watcher was called Anton. God or man, sit there and watch or get involved and accept the consequences? In his latest theatre project Kornél Mundruczó, who has received several awards for his films in Cannes and Venice, has interlaced stories from a lost Soviet future with the reality at the eastern edges of Europe for a stirring reality show on the loading bay of the truck.


© Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom

© Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom

Khaya is released from Rocksburg prison on his 21st birthday. He returns to the township of Matlapeng, back to where he comes from. ’Cause even if I hate Matlapeng, I hate jail more!’ He has barely been there a minute before he is kissing the girlfriend of the local gang leader – and so begins a wild cat and mouse chase. Followed by underworld bosses and a corrupt police service, Khaya fights to the bitter end for his own future and for a future together with his new love. King Kong – so-called because of his deformed features – and his new flame Palesa live out their romance amongst the rhythms of urban beats, it is a romance that Beauty and the Beast can only wonder at. Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom’s deliberate stereotypical characters and stories are taken from everyday life in Pretoria and so come across in the best kind of blockbuster style. He and his troupe know what street life is really like, something cinema stars can only imitate. Grootboom is resident director at the state theatre of Pretoria and a fanatical film fan who began his career writing for television. In Welcome to Rocksburg he unmasks the tricks of the dream machine by quoting them, twisting them and juxtaposing them with his concept of popularity.


‘I know of more than a thousand painters who have spent half their lives reproducing the unutterable almost invisible suffering of his lips. And now he is no longer here.’ Romeo Castellucci’s work in Essen is the first component of J, an ‘encounter with Jesus in his absolute absence’. The Italian director is not interested in questioning religion or postulating morality, he wants to look right into the face of Jesus and that is precisely what he will do. In 1981 he founded the Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio, named after the Italian Renaissance painter, together with Claudia Castellucci and Chiara Guidi in the town of Cesena, not far from Rimini. Their Nuovo Teatro (Engl.: new theatre) is virtually without dialogue and captivates with its radical image and sound worlds. Romeo Castellucci is considered a seminal European theatre-maker and has been invited to festivals from Tokyo to Buenos Aires.

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