Like many of Milo Rau’s works, his most recent production, “The 120 Days of Sodom” (premiere 10 Feb. 2017 at Schauspielhaus Zürich), was preceded by tremendous media excitement. “The vigilant press sounded the alarm bells” (Deutschlandradio Kultur), but “what the media had cooked up as a scandalous piece turned out to be theatre of tenderness and compassion” (WOZ – Die Wochenzeitung). The Badische Zeitung reported an “incomparable evening,” adding that Rau “goes far beyond the established limits of the theatre world, as only Christoph Schlingensief previously dared to.” 3Sat Kulturzeit described the production as “hard to digest,” while ORF Kulturmontag saw in it no less than “the theatre of tomorrow.”
“With great complexity, one question is devoured by the next,” wrote the Stuttgarter Zeitung. The FAZ observed that “the contrasts are glaring, at times with an impact of subtle brutality,” but criticised the “wicked cunning” of the piece. “All levity notwithstanding, one is overtaken by shock in the end,” said Berlin’s TAZ, although the “oppressive images of the power of control elude all expectations of scandal.” The Swiss author Adolf Muschg summed up the work as “splendid and difficult to bear” in a video interview with the Tages-Anzeiger, “just as the ancient Greeks meant theatre to be.”
Only the local Zurich press, contradicting its own forecast of scandal, saw matters differently. The Tages-Anzeiger heard the audience “breathing uneasily” and saw “whole theatre roofs being torn off,” yet was ultimately bored by the “tedious” acts of cruelty and directorial ambiguities in the production. The NZZ, which in an interview with Milo Rau prior to the premiere sarcastically characterised the actors of the Theater HORA ensemble in the terms “showpiece disabled” and “socially acceptable”, was particularly disappointed: “Was it what I had expected? (…) ‘The 120 Days of Sodom’ is 120 scandal-free minutes, with not a single perversion to be seen.” After twelve sold-out performances, the “moving and intimate” piece, “which repeatedly blunts the pointed search for arousal” (TAZ) is now going on tour (next stop: Théâtre Vidy Lausanne). In the autumn, it returns for a second round of dates at the Schauspielhaus Zürich.
We are also thrilled about the invitation to stage “Five Easy Pieces” at Berlin’s 2017 Theatertreffen and about the 3sat-Preis for Milo Rau. From the jury statement issued on 13 March: “Rau’s ‘Five Easy Pieces’ celebrates what the Dutrouxs of this world want to destroy: children’s wisdom, children’s will, children’s pride.” Previous award winners include Herbert Fritsch, Sandra Hüller and Christoph Schlingensief. The piece was selected as one of the “most important productions of 2016” by the platform nachtkritik.de and has received the Belgian theatre critics’ special award, among other honours.
This year, “Empire” – praised by audiences and press last week on the occasion of its staging in Paris as “deeply moving” (Le Monde) – has been invited to the Schweizer Theatertreffen, the Heidelberger Stückemarkt and the 42nd Mülheimer Theatertage. The latter is the first invitation in the history of the Mülheim Forum deutschsprachiger Gegenwartsdramatik to go to a work which doesn’t contain a single German word – a historic sign of the acceptance of the interculturality of theatre in the German-speaking world, and a very gratifying one both for us and for our partners and co-producers!