Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen, © Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen

Ruhr­fest­spiele theatre fest­iv­al in Reck­ling­hausen

The old­est theatre fest­iv­al in Europe is set to im­press with its in­ter­na­tion­al pro­gramme

Stars from film and tele­vi­sion and an in­ter­na­tion­al pro­gramme that ranges from the tra­di­tion­al to the pro­voc­at­ive: Europe’s old­est theatre fest­iv­al is a real mag­net for the pub­lic in the Ruhr Area.

Reck­ling­hausen proudly calls it­self the ?City of the Ruhr­fest­spiele?. In fact, with its Ruhr­fest­spiele theatre fest­iv­al, the dis­trict seat on the edge of the Ruhr Area  has a lot to be proud of ? it is one of the most im­port­ant and tra­di­tion­al theatre fest­ivals in the coun­try and is even the old­est in Europe.

Dur­ing the fest­iv­al sea­son from early May to mid-June of each year, Reck­ling­hausen be­comes a mag­net for artists and theatre en­thu­si­asts from around the world. Every year on 1 May, north­ern Ruhr Area loc­als and vis­it­ors come to­geth­er at the Fest­spiel­haus (Fest­iv­al Hall) in the park to cel­eb­rate the start of the fest­iv­al with a grand cul­tur­al cel­eb­ra­tion. There the stage is set for great clas­sics of dra­mat­ic lit­er­at­ure, ex­per­i­ment­al theatre at the Fringe Fest­iv­al, but above all for the mas­ter­ful theatre of stars. Away from the film busi­ness, fam­ous celebrit­ies from Hol­ly­wood and Ba­bels­berg come to­geth­er on the stage in Reck­ling­hausen.

Fest­iv­al vis­it­ors come to ex­per­i­ence the ex­traordin­ary: in­ter­na­tion­al stars such as Cate Blanchett, Kev­in Spacey, John Malkovich and Ju­li­ette Binoche, as well as Ger­man film and tele­vi­sion celebrit­ies such as Iris Ber­ben, Har­ald Schmidt, Heike Makatsch and Nina Hoss, dare to tread these hal­lowed mar­quees.

Un­pre­ten­tious yet pas­sion­ate

The Ruhr­fest­spiele?s audi­ence is un­pre­ten­tious yet soph­ist­ic­ated. En­thu­si­asm for theatre pro­duc­tions and pas­sion for the arts are pri­or­it­ised more highly than chic even­ing dresses and fancy head­wear. Some­times dis­par­agingly dubbed the ?Bayreuth Uni­on?, it is pre­cisely this concept of open­ness and sense of pur­pose without any loss of artist­ic qual­ity that make the Ruhr­fest­spiele so suc­cess­ful. Spoken-word theatre of an ex­cep­tion­al stand­ard is the flag­ship of the fest­iv­al, with some 80,000 vis­it­ors a year, but the lit­er­at­ure series and cab­aret pro­gramme in par­tic­u­lar have also es­tab­lished them­selves.

Every year the fest­iv­al has a dif­fer­ent theme, such as a spe­cif­ic play­wright ? Shakespeare, Goethe and Kleist, for ex­ample, have all been the fo­cus of the fest­iv­al. Al­tern­at­ively, the Ruhr­fest­spiele may de­vote it­self to a them­at­ic is­sue or the theatre scene in a spe­cif­ic coun­try. There are few ma­jor dir­ect­ors who have not staged a per­form­ance at the Fest­spiel­haus in Reck­ling­hausen: in co-pro­duc­tion with the most im­port­ant play­houses in the coun­try, the fest­iv­al sees par­ti­cipants such as the Deutsches Schaus­piel­haus (Ham­burg), the Thalia Theatre, the Ber­lin En­semble and the Deutsches Theat­er.

Con­tem­por­ary play­wrights also premiere their works in the un­usu­al theatre tents scattered across the park. The European-ori­ented fest­iv­al also reg­u­larly at­tracts in­ter­na­tion­al groups. In par­tic­u­lar, as a young and ex­per­i­ment­al off­shoot of the Ruhr­fest­spiele, the Fringe Fest­iv­al has be­come an im­press­ive plat­form for the in­ter­na­tion­al fringe scene: its pro­duc­tions are ima­gin­at­ive, pro­voc­at­ive, off-beat and fast-paced.

A story like something out of a film

The roots of the Ruhr­fest­spiele theatre fest­iv­al are closely linked to the his­tory of the Ruhr Area. Its ori­gins lie in an un­pre­ced­en­ted act of solid­ar­ity: in the cold winter of 1946/47 fol­low­ing the war, a short­age of coal to heat the re­hears­al rooms and stages meant the Ham­burg stages faced clos­ure. With the cour­age of des­pair, a del­eg­a­tion of lor­ries made its way to the Ruhr Area and ex­plained their situ­ation to the miners of Reck­ling­hausen. To­geth­er the theatre folk and their new friends il­leg­ally smuggled sev­er­al cart­loads of coal past the mil­it­ary po­lice to Ham­burg, thus en­sur­ing the show would go on. The fol­low­ing sum­mer, 150 act­ors vis­ited Reck­ling­hausen, giv­ing a guest per­form­ance titled ?Art for Coal? in the city hall by way of thanks.

Though this theme may no longer quite fit with the trans­form­at­ive, for­ward-fa­cing Ruhr Area of today, the ba­sic ten­ets re­main the same. The ideal found­a­tion for the re­gion?s new cul­tur­al self-con­fid­ence was laid here in the north­ern part of the Ruhr, while at the same time es­tab­lish­ing a fest­iv­al of European sig­ni­fic­ance.

Dates 2020:

1 May - June


Images and videos

Be inspired: images of your NRW

Wasserkunst bei den Ruhrfestspiele, © German Antón
Mensch mit Flügeln, © German Antón
Ansicht auf das Spielhaus, © Ferdinand Ullrich
zwei Akteure auf der Bühne, © Andreas Pohlmann
Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen, © Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen
Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen, © Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen
Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen, © Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen
Aufführung auf der Bühne, © Andreas Pohlmann