Berlin is famed the world over for its eclectic and slightly hedonistic nature, the diversity of its nightlife, never-ending club scene, and an anything-goes attitude. It boasts a fantastic spread of establishments, from old-school corner pubs and smart wine bars to grungy indie bars and live gig venues. But more than anything, the image of Berlin is one of the sumptuous theatres filled with elegant people watching edgy and left-field performances. It is an image that is as well-deserved today as it was back in the city’s golden age in the nineteenth century.
And so, I thought, what better place to head for to catch a couple of the star attractions of theatre-land and the chance to give my mouth some respite from the usual round of food and drink that is and instead, treat the eyes and ears for a change.
Berlin’s Friedrichstadt-Palast is a taste of both the old world and the new, a modern building that seems to reflect its past as a circus, theatre, and vaudeville house, with a facade including stained glass church windows. Once inside, the foyer and bar are stunning, and the main room itself, home of the largest theatre stage in the world, is nothing short of breathtaking.
The One Grand Show is a strange and varied production, part acrobatic, part song and dance cabaret, part Gaultier fashion retrospective all brought together in a vibrant Las Vegas-style experience. It is loose in structure, depicting an underground party that awakens the ghosts of an old Berlin theatre through the lavish visions of one partygoer. The show takes in many of the themes one would associate with Jean Paul Gaultier’s style including tattoos, graffiti, body modification, androgyny, fetish wear and punk; Studio 54 meets futuristic steam-punk revue, occasionally a bit lost but always surprising.
More rewarding was The Blue Man Group. The Berlin performance by Stage Entertainment is the only one in Europe and distinct from any of the other BMG shows running in other parts of the world. Unless you have seen the show, you may have an image of three bald, blue-skinned guys making music via bits of plumbing, and although that is certainly in there, it is the tip of their blue-tinted iceberg. So what has the show got? Well, everything. Comedy, music that ranges from dramatic rock to clubland frenzies, art, drumming, a blurring of lines between act and audience – the first three rows are supplied with ponchos to protect them from flying food and paint – dance, circus, and plenty of audience interaction. The hype is real, catch this show as soon as you can.
The bottom line is if you are going to immerse yourself in high-end theatre, do it in Berlin. Flights are cheap, tickets are reasonably priced, and it goes without saying that Berlin’s liberal attitudes mean that there is a thriving gay scene to explore between shows.
Paris may have glamour, London culture, and New York edge … Berlin has all three!
Written By: Ray Si – Proud Member of IGLTA