Looking back on a very successful festival

After eleven days, during which seventeen plays from twelve countries were shown in Braunschweig, the Theaterformen Festival came successfully to an end on the 17th of June. Overall, the reception of the fourth edition of the festival curated by Martine Dennewald was very positive: almost 90 percent of tickets were sold, around 10,000 people visited the festival. The plays invited came from Australia, Belgium, Germany, France, Japan, Canada, Mozambique, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa and the United Kingdom; there were also four world premieres and nine German premieres to be seen at the festival. The wide-ranging events programme of concerts in the Theaterpark, podium discussions, play introductions, after-show talks and educational programmes was also very positively received this year. The festival attracted an interested regional and national audience as well as international visitors from the theatre scene.

This year’s edition of the festival was dedicated to different perspectives on the consequences of colonialism and its effects on collective as well as individual fates today. The opening play Saigon was exemplary of this – a melodrama that interwove two different time lines in order to tell the story of biographies torn between France and its former colony, Indochina. This play for the main stage was contrasted with pieces that asked similar questions beyond the auditorium: in Collisions by Lynette Wallworth, the audience was transported to the Australian desert with VR-glasses, where they witnessed a nuclear test. In £¥€$, people gambled with the global economy and the fates of countries with bad credit at casino tables, while Julian Hetzel’s Schuldfabrik in the Burgpassage led the audience behind the scenes of a soap shop and into the trade with feelings of guilt and atonement. So once again there was a great diversity of theatre forms to be seen at the festival – from classical theatre to the most cutting-edge VR technology, from dramas for the stage to interactive performances around the city. 

Martine Dennewald sums it up:
“The critical examination of global power relations and their effects on individual biographies were the main focus of the 2018 Theaterformen Festival. Theatre and dance, performances, installations and a virtual reality film explored history and the present; through diverse artistic forms, we were able to experience how people’s lives all over the world are interdependent and how clearly it is Europe’s responsibility to think about and deal with its colonial heritage.”  

Series of talks
In order to provide a solid theoretical framework for the questions thrown up in the theatre pieces, a series of talks took place. Four podium discussions addressed colonial continuities in Germany, white guilt (or lack of it), artistic alliances for indigenous land rights and the artistic processing of colonial genocide. The closing round-table discussions on the last day of the festival offered the opportunity for the festival to reflect about itself as the organising institution.    

Watch & Write
The programme Watch & Write brought twelve culture journalists from ten African countries to Braunschweig as guests to accompany the festival in writing and have an exchange with each other about their work. The result of the time spent together at the festival is the founding of an online platform that will enable them to continue discussions and cooperation beyond the festival. The project was organised by Mounia Meiborg (Süddeutsche Zeitung) and Parfait Tabapsi (Mosaiques).

Festival Centre in the Theaterpark
After the shows, the Festival Centre all around the Haeckel Gartenhaus was the meeting place for the audience and the artists. Especially the concerts by Ace Tee, Schrottgrenze and Fehlfarben drew a large audience to the Theaterpark. Fehlfarben’s performance even broke the previous record of visitors. Around 6000 visitors took part in the accompanying programme – consisting of cinema, concerts, podium discussions, exhibitions in Kunstverein Braunschweig and educational programmes.

The next edition of the festival will take place from the 20th to 30th of June in Hannover.