19 June, 2021

The Players of Polemics

The Brecht-founded Berliner Ensemble doesn't move with the times. It dissects the times.

The Players of Polemics
Courage and the artiste rarely go together these days. In a changed world, where the vacuous hum of neon-lit supermarkets has drowned out all other forms of language and expression, the Berliner Ensemble dares to be different. It's decided to brave the adverse storm clouds of the culture industry and get wet rather than be burnt alive by the slow fire of inaction. It wears politics on its sleeve. Even now.

This repertory of committed theatre is thriving—it has 170-odd full-time professionals working with it and stages 100 shows in a year. Playwright-poet-novelist and Marxist theoretician Bertolt Brecht may have become history, but it's his political chutzpah and artistic commitment which holds the repertory—founded by him in 1949 in former East Berlin—together. Stephan Suschke, assistant director of Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Aui—staged in Mumbai, Calcutta and Delhi as part of the ongoing German Festival—says: "We still uphold our partisan political character, but in the present situation it's very difficult to sharpen our teeth. Ever since the collapse...

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