Theatre in North Rhine-Westphalia
A journey through a unique theatre landscape
Some people might think it’s absurd for the theatre landscape in Germany to be included in a bid for recognition as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, but if you look at the varied nature of the theatres in North Rhine-Westphalia, it’s quickly obvious that there is a really unique cultural treasure here waiting to be discovered.
Many different houses, from the elegant Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus theatre to the small Schlosstheater Moers, from the highly modern Theater Paderborn to the neo-Baroque Grillo-Theater in Essen, invite their audiences to enjoy great theatre experiences. The programmes of the 22 publicly funded theatres alone vary as widely as the architecture. The Dortmunder Schauspiel is the place to go for celebrated experimental theatre, while major productions can be seen in Cologne, whereas probably the most international stage is the Schauspiel Bochum under Johan Simons. If it wasn't so beautiful outside, you could spend every day in North Rhine-Westphalia being moved, whisked away, or disturbed at the highest artistic level.
Alongside the larger theatres, there is also space for individual signatures, such as from Roberto Ciulli, who has dominated the Theater an der Ruhr in Mülheim since 1980 with his magical notions of depth and absurdity. Whether the destination is Münster, Bielefeld, Bonn or Aachen, the level of the several dozen performances being given on any night across North Rhine-Westphalia is high throughout. The theatres also share the common feature that they are taken seriously by their home cities. Here, topics are taken up that move the audience or are of importance in the region, with audiowalks through pedestrian zones, theatre at alternative sites, sometimes through necessity, or productions of new plays from the Herbert-Grönemeyer-revue in Bochum through to a perspective on the NSU murders in Cologne.
The major theatre landscape is supplemented by festivals, from the avant-garde Ruhrtriennale and traditional Ruhrfestspiele to the Shakespeare Festival Neuss, from the independent Impulse Festival to the plays in Mülheim where the best new material is given its full due on stage. Then there are the high-profile production sites of the independent theatre scene, such as the Theater im Bauturm (“Theatre in the building tower") in Cologne, the Theater im Pumpenhaus (“Theatre in the pump house”) in Münster, and the Theater Rottstr. in Münster. 5 or the FFT in Düsseldorf
Overwhelmed by too much variety? A particularly good introduction to theatre in North Rhine-Westphalia for visitors - even for this evening - is offered by the Kulturkenner forum and extensive programme on the NRW Bühnen platform.