“That’s what a stage, what theater is for” – that was 2017, that will be 2018


Awards and nominations


On the heels of his Saarbrücker Poetikdozentur für Dramatik (Saarbrucken Poetry Lectureship for Drama) in spring 2017 – to be published next year in book form by Alexander Verlag – Milo Rau, who DIE ZEIT recently called the “most influential director on the Continent”, was chosen “Theatre Director of the Year” in the Deutsche Bühne critics’ poll in late summer and also received the Peter Weiss Award from the city of Bochum. Indeed, in her laudatory speech, Carolin Emcke, 2016 winner of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, placed Milo Rau’s theatre and film works in the poet’s humanistic tradition of the “aesthetics of resistance”: “Milo Rau’s productions fight back against the impossible, the unchangeable, the rigidity of a violence or repression that is purported to be without an alternative. Rau searches for the truth of the possible and its conditions.

This past weekend, the children’s play “Five Easy Pieces”, created in collaboration with CAMPO Gent, received the Premio Ubu, the most prestigious performing arts award in Italy, for “Best Foreign Play 2017”. Among other distinctions, the critically acclaimed production received the 3-Sat Award at the Berliner Theatertreffen 2017 and was selected “Production of the Year” and took first place in the category “Best Dramaturgy” in the critics’ poll of the journal Theater Heute, while also being invited to the respective national theatre festivals in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Also in December, the “trailblazing” (TAZ) documentary film “The Congo Tribunal” made the preselection for the German Film Award LOLA 2018 of the German Film Academy. The film, which won the renowned Zurich Film Award – “the filmmaker ennobles cinema and does what reality cannot,” according to the jury – and premiered at the Locarno film festival and the DOK Leipzig, has been running successfully in German and Swiss cinemas since November. After the Congo tour last July, the film’s tour of the non-German-speaking world continues: at countless festivals worldwide – from Rotterdam to Paris – and of course also on the occasion of numerous special screenings in Germany, for example in early 2018 at the Berlin Akademie der Künste (9 March) or as part of the LOLA series at the Berlin Film Festival (February) and in Brussels at BOZAR, in cooperation with the EU Parliament (29 January). In 2018, large-scale multimedia exhibitions on the project will take place in, among other locations, Leuven and The Hague.  


Many new productions and countless guest performances: theatre and touring


Milo Rau developed and staged two new plays in 2017. Created at the Schauspielhaus Zürich in collaboration with Theater HORA, “The 120 Days of Sodom” (world premiere 10 February 2017), about Pasolini’s scandal-inciting film made with mentally disabled actors, was the subject of heated debate among audiences and critics: “The strongest stuff ever shown on a Swiss stage,” complained the Berner Zeitung.  Similar reactions were elicited by “LENIN” at the Berliner Schaubühne (world premiere 19 October 2017), a farewell to the Russian Revolution and form experiment about the meaning of naturalism and materialism, and about how people become – or are made into – icons. While some critics saw in it a “mass murderer bearing a halo” (Süddeutsche Zeitung), for others it was theatre of “the highest artistic order” (Deutschlandradio).

Along with the new productions, the older productions of IIPM and its cooperation partners continue touring: in 2017, “Empire” was invited to three “best” theatre festivals – the Heidelberger Stückemarkt, the Mülheimer Theatertage and the Schweizer Theatertreffen – in addition to numerous other international festivals and venues. “The best play of the year” was the verdict of the newspaper De Tijd on the play’s guest appearance in Brussels. “Compassion. The History of the Machine Gun” has been staged from Madrid to Belfast and will celebrate its 100th performance in January. The great demand for “Five Easy Pieces”, seen in 2017 from Buenos Aires to Warsaw, necessitated the casting of a second team, and two versions are now simultaneously touring the world. Internationally, too, the shower of awards shows no sign of letting up. The “best production of the last ten or fifteen years” (RTBF), accompanied by public debate and prohibitions in 2016 and 2017 in cities such as Manchester, Paris and Frankfurt, has now been staged in over fifteen countries, including its appearance in September at the MESS-Festival in Sarajevo, where it was selected as the best stage production and captured the critics’ and audience awards.


The World Parliament: symbolic concept for the future


In November, in keeping with his approach in “The Congo Tribunal” – to give a voice to those who don’t have a lobby – Milo Rau and IIPM brought together in “General Assembly” (Schaubühne Berlin) 60 activists and people from all over the world who are impacted by, yet have no say or representatives in  German policy. The piece was called “a megalomaniacal but encouraging experiment” by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, while the Berliner Zeitung wrote: “That is what a stage, that is what theatre, is there for.” This “first world parliament in human history” culminated in the performance “Storming of the Reichstag” on 7 November, in which 500 participants – including members of the Bundestag – joined together to create a peaceful image for international solidarity. In the week following the “World Parliament”, a “Charter for the 21st Century” was drafted which will be presented at the start of 2018. Additionally, HMKV Dortmund is hosting the exhibition “Storming of the Winter Palace”, running until April, in which the World Parliament and its “charming finale” (BR), the “Storming of the Reichstag”, is comprehensively documented in film (film direction by Patricia Corniciuc).


Five new books


With five new publications, 2017 was also a rich year of reflection. In February, the Zurich premiere was the occasion for a book bringing together in printed form “Five Easy Pieces” and “The 120 Days of Sodom” and illuminating the connections between these two productions. Likewise, to accompany the Berlin premiere of “Lenin” in October, Verbrecher Verlag published the book of the same title, which includes original contributions and academic annotations (both books edited by Stefan Bläske). The volume “The Congo Tribunal”, released in parallel with the eponymous film’s cinema debut, makes an engaging complement to the theatre and film project, with the statements of witnesses and the international jury, speeches, interviews, the final speeches of the judges, as well as the most important analyses and press reports.

Milo Rau’s world parliament, the “General Assembly”, was accompanied by a bilingual edition published by Merve-Verlag, with contributions from Rolf Bossart, Can Dündar, Ulrike Guérot, Hannah Hurtzig, Wolfgang Kaleck, Robert Misik, Abou Bakar Sidibé and Harald Welzer, among others. The volume “Wiederholung und Ekstase” (Repetition and Ecstasy) by Milo Rau and Rolf Bossart discusses concepts that describe and reflect on the aesthetic theory and practice of IIPM, and place these in a general context. This comprehensive collection of manifestos, essays and discussions, published by Diaphnes-Verlag, constitutes the most essential resume of the work of Milo Rau and IIPM to date.


Outlook for 2018: Ghent directorship – and new plays and projects


Milo Rau’s next theatre production , “L’Histoire du Théâtre”, will debut on 4 May 2018 at the Kunstenfestival in Brussels (Théâtre National/Kunstenfestival). It will then embark on an international tour, first to the houses of numerous co-producers – such as the Berliner Schaubühne, the Théâtre Vidy Lausanne, the Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers Paris, the Münchner Kammerspiele, and many other festivals – and subsequently, like all of the previous productions by Milo Rau and IIPM, as part of the repertoire of the NTGent.

The weekend of the premiere in May will also see the announcement of the programme for NTGent’s  2018/2019 season, Rau’s first in his new position as the company’s director. The opening of the three performance venues of NTGent is to take place on 24 September 2018, with a city and film project focused on Gent’s landmark, the “Ghent Altar”, as well as further plays, concerts and a large-scale social sculpture that can’t be contained by the theatre building – as the kick-off to a season consisting of numerous in-house productions in addition to invitations and co-productions. The “General Assembly”, too, will be continued, as a multi-city event series devoted to global realism culminates in the second session of the World Parliament in the EU capital of Brussels on the occasion of the 2019 European elections.