What the Schaubühne is about

Yesterday night I went to see Maß für Maß (Measure for Measure by Shakespeare) at die Schaubühne here in Berlin and it marked the first occasion where I saw a play directed by the intendant of that theater Thomas Ostermeier himself (see this Guardian piece for a bit of background).

Picture by Arno Declair

Up until that moment I had seen lots of pieces by other directors at the same house which were —I’m afraid to say— quite boring, almost all except for this one: Die Macht der Finsternis by Michael Thalheimer. The dance pieces that Falk Richter makes together with Anouk van Dijk are also very much worth watching, but not theater really.

Maß für Maß has its issues of course but as said it is astonishingly better than the other plays at the same venue. It is one of Shakespeare’s predictable problem plays. So predictable in fact, that you could remove the final half hour and you would not want for closure in the story. At times this performance is too much aimed at the aged and distinguished Schaubühne audience whose tastes and sense of humor diverge somewhat from ours, but that is to be expected. What was most refreshing was the uncompromising physical brutality of several scenes. A welcome breath of fresh air, not to mention the splashes of water, in a local theater climate that prides itself on stuffiness.

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