When Pascale Rambert explains the vision for his theatre he points out that just like his cat: ‘he hates it when doors are closed and he will sit in front of them and stare at them for hours’, the artistic director from the Théâtre de Gennevilliers (T2G) says during the Thinklabs at Kölnischer Kunstverein. The author and stage director has successfully opened up doors to contemporary theatre not just for international artists such as Nan Goldin, Valerie Jouve or Daniel Buren but also for the diverse neighborhood of the suburb north from Paris, by inviting them to workshops and public rehearsals.
Questions of participation, trends in production, the connections of the local and the global were some of the central discussions during the one-week festival Heimspiel in Cologne, which was the final event of a German fund that lasted for five years. An inspiring program for those who love theatre and those, like me, who had thought that city theatres were somehow stuck with Shakespeare & Co. Workshops, talks, discussions and productions opened new perspectives on what can be staged and how theatre can be a place for pressing social-political subjects.
Argentinean director Mariano Pensotti for example transformed a Cologne subway station into a living stage. Unnoticed by passengers, who were waiting for their trains, four authors spontaneously typed on their laptops what they were inspired by – conversations, clothes, screaming kids around them. Simultaneously their texts were projected onto screens in the station.
The Schauspielhaus was taken over by teenagers: in Fuck my life director Pol Heyvaert brings fifteen young actors on stage to talk about their life plans and dreams. The fast-paste-play, which introduced very individual characters with lots of music, YouTube videos and Skype sessions, suddenly tilts to touchingly draw our attention to the subject of the rising suicidal rate among teenagers.
Typical for projects initiated by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, such as Ersatzstadt or Project Migration, the festival was interdisciplinary and invited not only theatre professionals but also architects, artists, philosophers and media theorist such as Diedrich Diederichsen, Mark Terkessidis, Geert Lovink, Markus Miessen or Boris Sieverts. The dialogue of the arts was essential to exchange, to learn, to conclude.
In his lecture ‘Make me stop smoking’ Lebanese artist Rabih Mroué reconstructs images, videos and newspaper cut outs from his personal archive to create a complex narration system of his future projects. For him the archive is at the same time a protection against national amnesia, a catalyst and a burden: ‘It is an invented memory that is exhausting me, and which I cannot liberate myself from.’ In the discussion afterwards someone in the audience doubts that this material is really his own. 'You are right, not to trust me,' Mroué replied.
While contemporary art has often proved to respond more flexible to the audience and the subjects of the cities than repertory theatres, Heimspiel revealed a surprising openness and creativity to tear down its fourth wall. Theatre on the verge of intervention, performance and political activism – these developments in contemporary production give hope for new collaborations and widely opened doors.
March 29th - April 3rd