If we don't understand European theatre, we have only ourselves to blame, says German director
PETER STEIN. Words: Andrew Burnet Photographs: Ruth Walz Peter Stein is in Edinburgh, but not to promote his work This Festival, we'll see his production of Die Ahn/ichen by Botho Strauss, and Stein himself wrll narrate Egmont to the accompaniment of Beethoven's score But today he‘s here for another reason Edinburgh University is awarding firm an honorary doctorate
It’s not entirely surprising. Stein’s rigorously detailed and vrsually breathtaking productions of Aeschylus, Shakespeare and Chekhov have won huge accolades for the Festrval and, by extension, the city. And Stein is no stranger to academia. In his youth, he spent eight years pursuing a doctorate. His thesis, on ETA. Hoffmann, ran to 330 pages, and his tutors rubbished it
It’s an ill wrnd. Stein left university and established the Schaubuhne theatre companyof West Berlin, which he led for fifteen years, acquiring legendary status. Today, hers a dapper 61-year-old, wearing black shirt, black trousers, black shoes. Intense grey eyes are set deep in hrs face, above pronounced, Slavic cheekbones. Polite but crisp, he doesn't smile much, but he laughs, a hearty, ironic chuckle,
'l'm not a festival man,’ Stein declares, ’The festival is only for one month in the year. I like continuity' He attributes hrs frequent visits to Festival Director Brran McMaster. ’On the one hand apparently — he likes what I’rn domg, and on the other hand, he is a frrend, and a very true one. This doesn't exrst in our business. Infidelity is normal behavrour.’
Stein spent six years (is-theatre director at the
THE DEVIL AND DR STEIN
‘British theatre is a totally closed shop. They imagine that they are the only theatre; that there is nothing else existing outside.’ Peter Stein
Salzburg Festival. It was a bid to carve a slice from a music-dormnated cake, and it ended wrth hrs dismissal ‘So now I am a freelance drrector once more,’ he shrugs, 'but it's very good, I must admit '
If nothing else, rt allows hrm to renew his long- standing collaboration wrth Strauss, whose work was last seen in Scotland in 1996, when Time And The Room was performed at the Festival. A leading dram- atist in Germany, Strauss is virtually unknown here. 'It is very difficult to translate hrm,' admits Stern 'This is one side. The other side rs that the British theatre is a totally closed shop They imagine that they are the only theatre; that there is nothing else exrsting outside.’
Harsh words, but largely true British theatre has
Not a festival man but a scholar: Peter Stein
tended to eschew enriching influences from Europe, to its eternal detriment.
Subtitled Moral Inter/tides, Die Ahn/ichen is modelled on an English dramatic form. Described by Stein as ’an interesting dramaturgrcal experiment', it centres on three women whose identities and Situation are unclear, though the appearance of Lucifer in their midst begins to provrde a few clues.
The play may wrn few converts to 'obscure' foreign theatre, but Stein thinks the open-minded erI appreCiate it. 'Perhaps it is easier for you who do not understand German to understand the play. It is difficult to understand every word, but what is going on is very clear.’
It is, after all, based on something British.
Die ilhnlichen, Theater In Der Josefstadt, King's Theatre, Mon 24-Wed 26 Aug, 7.30pm, £S-£22. Egmont, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Usher Hall, Thu 3 Sep, 7pm, £5-£29.
Worth queuing for
Opera: Don Carlos Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 17, 20, 25 8- 28 Aug, 6pm, ES—ESO.
Bernard Hartink conducts The Royal Opera in Verdi's version of Schiller's classic. Stirring, but at nearly five hours, not for the faint-hearted.
Edinburgh Playhouse, 17 & 18 Aug, 7.30pm, £5-£22.
Innovative and eclectic dance, JOInIIy conceived by choreographer Cesc Gelabert and deSigner Frederic Ainat, British debut for Spain’s Companyia De Dansa Gelabert-Azzopardi.
Theatre: Caligula Edinburgh Playhouse, 2 8r 3 Sep,
Dutch company Het ZUIdElljk Toneel
Smetana and Mahler While parts of Mahler's Symphony No I are very well know, this is performance is rare in that it includes every movement in the symphony.
Schiller thriller: The Royal Opera’s Don Carlos
present a radical reworking of Albert Camus’ existentialist take on the bloodthirsty Roman Emperor's story. Dutch drrector lvo van Hove also guests With New York Theatre Workshop, directing their production of Eugene O’Neill’s More State/y Mansions (Royal Lyceum, 31 Aug—
Music: Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Usher Hall, 4 Sep, 8pm, £5—£29.
Sir Charles Mackerras is the man
with the baton for this unusual programme of featured composer
Theatre: Life Is A
Royal Lyceum Theatre, 17-29 Aug (not Sun), 7.30pm; Thu 8: Sat mats 2.30pm, £6—£22.
Spanish director Calrxto Breito — the man behind last year’s flamenco musical La Verbena De La Paloma — returns to direct the Royal Lyceum's resident company in this classic from the Spanish Golden Age, translated by Edinburgh-based playwright John CliffordBased on the legend ofs a king and his family, it should be a spectacular and moving treat.
18 THE usr 23 Jul—6 Aug 1998