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Production of the Year 2023: Scene from »Ophelia's Got Talent« by Florentina Holzinger


Gordon Welters / laif

Six mostly naked performers and six children put on a spectacle with a huge glass swimming pool and a helicopter suspended in the stage sky – the wild Volksbühne show "Ophelia's Got Talent" is an outstanding, reliably sold-out Berlin cultural event. Now the critics of media from Germany, Austria and Switzerland have chosen the work of Austrian director Florentina Holzinger as the theatre production of the year. The Swiss director Jossi Wieler takes second place in the annual survey of the magazine »Theater heute« – with his world premiere production of the Elfriede Jelinek play »Angabe der Person«, which can be seen at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin.

Holzinger's work, which cleverly operates with quotations from pop culture and art history, which SPIEGEL has described as "ingeniously brute", is obviously something of a common denominator in the stage world at the moment – only recently, "Ophelia's Got Talent" was also named the dancer event of the year in another magazine survey of dance experts. The 37-year-old Austrian choreographer and director Holzinger, who usually plays in her productions herself, once described her critical relationship to the tradition of classical dance with the words: "Ballet is a thoroughly patriarchal event." She calls the ballet shoe an "ultimate phallus".

The play of the year also tries to take a critical look at traditional forms of representation and performance. It is called »Stage Insult« and is a work by the great Israeli author Sivan Ben Yishai, who lives in Berlin. The text is a critical, but also funny examination of the tendency to navel-gazing, which theatre people are often accused of, and thematizes, among other things, the patriarchal structures and the capitalist messed-up nature of the stage business. The subtitle of the reckoning with the theatre system is: "Do I not love it anymore or do I love it too much?" The world premiere will be staged at the Maxim Gorki Theater in Berlin.

Award for the Deutsches Theater: deserved for many reasons

In general, if you believe the »Theater heute« survey, Berlin is apparently almost unrivalled as the centre of German-language spoken theatre work. The actor of the year, Joachim Meyerhoff, will also be honoured for his performance in a Berlin production, playing the writer Trigorin in Thomas Ostermeier's production of Anton Chekhov's comedy »The Seagull« at the Schaubühne. Berlin's Deutsches Theater was voted "Theatre of the Year", which for the first time in 13 years has been honoured as the best German-language stage under the direction of Ulrich Khuon (who will soon become interim director of the Schauspielhaus Zurich).

The award for the Deutsches Theater is well deserved for many reasons. The theatre has a sensational ensemble of actors, Jossi Wieler's work »Indication of the Person« is the best production of an Elfriede Jelinek play in years. Among the directors who work in the house are ingenious will-o'-the-wisps such as Sebastian Hartmann and outstandingly clever directors such as Anne Lenk and Karin Henkel. In other words, during the years of his directorship, the artistic director Khuon managed to convert and build up his house into a kind of Bayern Munich of the Theater Bundesliga.

More on the subject

  • Theatre premiere in Munich:Wutbürger und WutwürgerBy Wolfgang Höbel

  • René Pollesch is the new artistic director at Berlin's Volksbühne:»You can't do a poodle act with predators«By Wolfgang Höbel

  • Plans for the occupation of the Volksbühne: Curtain up! This is where reality takes placeBy Elisa von Hof

Nevertheless, of course, great theatre also succeeds far away from Berlin. In this year's critics' poll, the most important stars working outside the capital are the "Actress of the Year" Wiebke Mollenhauer and the "Young Director of the Year", Rieke Süßkow.

Mollenhauer is praised for her brilliant performance work in Sarah Kane's "Greed", at the end of which she plunges live (and transmitted to the theatre by camera for the audience) into the waters of Lake Zurich. In Vienna, Süßkow has very cleverly and analytically dismantled a Peter Handke piece called "Zwiegespräch". The poetic pomposity of the vain poet Handke is evaporated and radically condensed by the young director Süßkow – and this is not only cheeky and funny, it also fits perfectly with the motto of the theatre season, which the editors of »Theater heute« have come up with for their yearbook. The motto is intended to set the mood for an era after abundance and is "Scarcity – everything on edge".

Disclaimer: SPIEGEL editor Wolfgang Höbel took part in the critics' vote for the "Theatre of the Year".