Celebrating contemporary expressions in all their diverse forms, the Chamäleon introduces “Play,” a guest performance series in 2024 that explores acrobatics, poetry, wit, and the profound questions of life.
There had to be a sequel, and now it’s finally here: Following the celebrated first installment in January and February 2023, the Chamäleon invites you to discover the universe of contemporary circus once more with the second edition of the guest performance series Play, starting January 10, 2024. Over the course of four weeks, eight companies from different parts of the world will present their interpretations of their art form and their messages to the world.
And they have lots to share. Whether through amazing acrobatics, brilliant slapstick, or quiet poetry, they celebrate entertainment and search for answers to the big questions.
A silent film homage is followed by the reflections of a juggling duo; then a reckoning with the service industry; a dance about the magic of differences; two men in the labyrinth of their joint past; a search for inclusion and identity; a feminist debate turned into a circus; and finally a joyful scream in the face of patriarchy. The emphasis this year lies on intergenerational contemporary circus, bringing together young companies like Raum 305 from Germany with legends like Gandini Juggling from the UK – in the Australian company A Good Catch, the youngest and oldest acrobats on stage are almost 30 years apart.
“After the overwhelming success of our first Play season, we were determined to carry the pro- gramme forward as a driver for new work, innovation, and audience development,” says the Chamäleon’s Artistic Director Anke Politz. Play is not only an exciting opportunity to bring audiences into contact with the work of new artists, but also a way to open the theatre and the art form to a wide segment of society and connect it with a diverse audience.
Chamäleon dramaturge Geordie Brookman looks forward to many new impulses, for guests, and artists alike, as well as for the theatre itself. “Over the course of Play, we invite our audiences to explore the familiar and the abstract, the dark and the light, deception and truth through acrobat- ics, juggling, clowning, and physical theatre,” he says. “We want to illuminate very different facets of contemporary circus – and gently explore how the audience relates to the piece itself, the artists to the art form, and the body to objects and space.”
Because contemporary circus constantly evolves and Play aims to highlight the directions in which the journey is heading. In addition to four companies from Germany, artists from Australia, Finland, Great Britain, Italy, and Switzerland will present their artistic positions on stage at the Chamäleon. Some are performed without words, others in English with German subtitles, in the case of The Receptionists by the Finnish Kallo Collective even in several languages – which no one except the two protagonists understands. For selected performances, such as A Good Catch and the German company still hungry, there will be simultaneous translations into German sign language; an audio description will be offered for a performance by Raum 305.
“Next year we will celebrate 20 years of contemporary circus at the Chamäleon, and with it our constant efforts to provide space for this art form to flourish and connect with audiences,” says Politz. “We are giving ourselves and our audience the greatest gift by presenting Play again for this anniversary – thanks to the support of the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie.”
And so these four weeks will be a big celebration. Genres will blend, the boundaries between art and entertainment will blur. Just as they always have in contemporary circus. And yet again completely different than ever before.
Pss Pss by Compagnia Baccalà (CH/IT)
January 10-14, 2024
Poetic, surreal, ironic, and acrobatic: In Pss Pss, two modern clowns enter the empty stage and perform a unique and hilarious pas de deux in the universal language of gestures and looks, with all the seriousness, innocence, and unkindness of humanity. Inspired by the silent film era, by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, without a single spoken word, these two characters sweep the audience away in a timeless performance of captivating physicality and subtle humour. As dreamily silent as it is unceasingly funny, Pss Pss has been performed over 700 times in more than 50 countries and on 5 continents since 2010, winning 15 international awards along the way. An hour of joy.
Length 65 min (no intermission) Recommended for ages 8+ Language: non-verbal
Camilla Pessi and Simone Fassari from Compagnia Baccalà met during their circus training at the Scuola Teatro Dimitri in Ticino – only to go their separate ways immediately afterwards. For years they performed separately in circuses and variety theatres in faraway countries without meeting again. Until 2004, when Simone’s acrobatics partner defected and he asked Camilla for help. They recognised their artistic and human affinity, refined the characters and techniques of their clown personas together and left the circus where they were engaged to travel the world – but this time together. In 2008, theatre maker Valerio Fassari joined them as artistic advisor; with director Louis Spagna, the first full-length play Pss Pss was created in 2010.
Performers Camilla Pessi and Simone Fassari Direction Louis Spagna
Artistic Consultant Valerio Fassari
Light Design Christoph Siegenthaler
Technical Direction Valerio Fassari
Production Compagnia Baccalà
Photos Sylvie Bosc, fotopipo.com and Otto Moretti
The Games We Play – A Lecture-Performance by Gandini Juggling (UK)
January 16-18, 2024
With this special production, the contemporary circus company Gandini Juggling celebrates its 30th anniversary: The two co-founders Sean Gandini and Kati Ylä-Hokkala invite the audience into their joyful, complex world of juggling and choreography, with a living self-portrait that hovers somewhere between performance and lecture. What is juggling and what can it be? And what is art and what can art be? In The Games We Play, the two provide the answers to these questions with their inimitable style, in which gravity seems to have no meaning.
Dauer 50 min (no intermission)
Recommended for ages 12+
Language In English language with German surtitles Content The piece includes scenes with nudity
Gandini Juggling was founded in 1992 by Sean Gandini and Kati Ylä-Hokkala and has been re- inventing juggling for contemporary circus ever since. The ensemble consists of a core group of virtuoso jugglers who regularly expand to up to 20 artists for their productions and performanc- es. Their repertoire ranges from radical art-and-juggling fusions to more accessible theatrical performances, from experimental choreographic studies to commercial commissions.
Since inception, the Gandinis have performed over 6,000 shows in 50 countries, appearing at some of the most prestigious venues in the world – be it contemporary art museums in France, German opera houses, theatres in Lebanon or tents in Argentina. In the UK, the Gandinis tour the major outdoor festivals and have appeared at London’s Royal Opera House, English National Opera, the Royal National Theatre and Sadler’s Wells Theatre, among others.
Direction & Performance Sean Gandini & Kati Ylä-Hokkala Light Design Guy Hoare
Sound Design Sakari Männistö
Dramaturgy Emma Lister
Production Gandini Juggling
Photos Camilla Greenwell
The piece quotes previous work by Gandini Juggling:
1993 nEither Either botH, choreographed by Gill Clarke
2002 Stop Breaking my Balls, choreographed and directed by JP Zaccarini and Gill Clarke
A commission by the London International Mime Festivals With support from Watermans Arts Centre
The Receptionists by Kallo Collective (FIN)
January 19-21, 2024
In The Receptionists, customer service becomes a physical comedy show. The two receptionists are two Finnish clowns who move smoothly through the hospitality industry. They speak fast and in several languages that no one understands. Incredibly silly and uniquely charismatic, Inga and Kristiina turn this whole affair into a delightfully absurd experience with hilarious chemistry, skilful smiles, and clever acrobatics.
Length 55 min (no intermission) Recommended for ages 8+ Language non-verbal
The Kallo Collective is an award-winning company that focuses on very funny non-verbal productions and since 2010 has delighted audiences on 5 continents. The company aims to pro- mote the art of physical humour through a wide range of in-house productions, workshops, and the NouNous Festival, the group’s annual international physical comedy festival in Helsinki. The ensemble was founded by Finnish artists Jenni Kallo, Sampo Kurppa and New Zealander Thom Monckton, all of whom studied at the famous school of Jacques Lecoq in Paris. The Kallo Col- lective has 16 productions in its repertoire and performs all over the world. In 2020, the company was awarded the State Prize for Circus in Finland.
Direction & Performance Inga Björn and Kristiina Tammisalo Outside Eye Thom Monckton
Light Design Kauri Klemelä
Sound Design Esko Mattila
Costume and Set Design Gemma Tweedie
Photos Bambü/Esko Mattila
A co-production with Kallo Collective.
Support from: Alfred Kordelin Foundation, Helsinki City, Arts Promotion Centre, Cirko – center for new circus. In Collaboration with: Dance Theatre Hurjaruuth
Gap of 42 by Chris & Iris (DE)
January 23-35, 2024
Two dissimilar bodies meet in acrobatics: 42 centimetres separate them in height, 42 kilograms in weight – differences that connect and create possibilities instead of being obstacles. Chris & Iris amaze the audience with extraordinary acrobatics and make them smile with subtle humour. In their own likeable and inspiring way, they show how relationships shift and how, despite their dif- ferences, they meet at eye level. Philosophical questions and absurd moments alternate, a touch of magic lies over everything. Gap of 42 combines contemporary circus with physical theatre, dance, and puppetry; it combines acrobatics with precision and lightness. Touching, poetic, and original.
Length 65 min (no intermission) Recommended for ages 8+ Language nonverbal
Iris Pelz and Christopher Schlunk met at the Academy for Circus and Performance Art in Tilburg in the Netherlands, where they graduated in 2011. As Chris & Iris, they perform all over the world with well-known companies such as Cirque Éloize from Canada and Cirkus Monti from Switzer- land, and have performed in venues such as the Sydney Opera House and the Roundhouse in London. They have won numerous awards with their innovative act The Microphone. Chris and Iris are co-founders of the collective Common Ground, with whom they perform at contemporary circus festivals. They have been showing the piece Gap of 42 since 2021, and so far it has been shown over 100 times in seven countries.
Direction & Performance Iris Pelz and Christopher Schlunk Outside Eye Stefan Schönfeld
Music Schroeder (with Jan Fitschen, Felix Borel & Bella Nugent) Light Design
Puppetry Coach Anne-Kathrin Klatt
Dance Coach Laura Börtlein
Support from: Fonds Darstellende Künste aus Mitteln der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien; Hessische Kulturstiftung; Kulturzentrum Tollhaus Karlsruhe; Bürgerstiftung Tübingen; Kulturamt Stadt Tübingen; KreativTransfer
ODER DOCH? by Raum 305 (DE)
January 26-18, 2024
In Oder Doch? the two protagonists open doors to imaginary spaces in fading memories of a shared past and provide insights into the inner conflict of human beings. The stage changes
like a labyrinth, the claustrophobic cabinet mutates into the skyline of a city and ends up as the wreckage of history. Whether on the trapeze or dancing on the floor, not only the puppets are manipulated in this dizzying fever dream. Amazing parallels emerge between the human bodies of the performers and the seemingly lifeless bodies of the two figures made of cloth and wood. An intimate ride between flight and fall, slapstick and thriller. As the follow-up to the production WIR WOLLEN NIE NIE – presented in the previous edition of Play at Chamäleon – OR DOCH? joins a trilogy of three loosely linked plays about interpersonal relationships.
Length 65 min (no intermission) Recommended for ages 12+ Language non-verbal
Founded by director Philipp Boë, puppeteer JARNOTH, and trapeze artist Moritz Haase, the young company Raum 305 aims to develop an interdisciplinary, innovative stage language. The fusion of aerial acrobatics, puppetry, physical theatre, and dance serves as the foundation for pieces that touch the audience with authenticity and virtuosity.
Performance JARNOTH, Moritz Haase Direction Philipp Boë
Music Thimo Pommerening
Choreography Rudolf Giglberger
Set Design Jakob Vonau, Daniele Drobny Light Design Julia Lochmann, Werner Wallner Costume Design Stefanie Krimmel
Cello Lih Qun Wong, Anne Müller
A co-production with IMAGINALE
Special thanks to: Fonds Darstellende Künste, CircArtive, UFA Fabrik
Journey to Mimoto by Circus Sonnenstich (DE)
January 31 – February 1, 2024
Circus Sonnenstich embarks on a great journey – and takes everybody along: Who are we and what defines us? As guides, the artists answer these questions themselves: “We don’t have strength. We are strength. Bodily control is a matter of the mind. Memory is a part of the body. Our heart says: Wild! Experience adventure! Above all, let it out. Breathe in and out again and again. As artists we transform into ourselves. We can fly.” A Journey to Mimoto is a search for identity that leads inwards and outwards. The piece brings new forms of self-discovery to the stage: enigmatic, interdisciplinary, and full of magic.
Length 90 min (with intermission) Recommended for ages 8+
Circus Sonnenstich is organised by the Zentrum für bewegte Kunst e.V. (ZBK). The ZBK is an internationally oriented artistic project, a training and further education institution with inclusive didactics (In.Zirque), an employer for people with disabilities, and a research platform for innova- tive projects.
Circus Sonnenstich has existed since 1997 and is a pioneer for inclusive contemporary circus. Sonnenstich performs on stages at home and abroad, including Cirko Helsinki, Jatka78 in Prague, the Admiralspalast, the Berlin Circus Festival and, of course, Chamäleon Berlin. Most recently, they also performed at the opening show of the Special Olympics in Berlin in 2022.
Authors and Performers
Circus Sonnenstich Ensemble
Idea Michael Pigl
Concept Kaleen McKeeman, Michael Pigl, Sandra Schuck
Artistic Direction and Direction
Choreography Felix Häckell and Michael Pigl
Trainers Alaa Abu Alrob, Daniel Baum, Paula Kniesel, Estrella Urban
Guests Mika, Toke Reimann, Lena Wulf Dramaturgy and Light Frank Weiß Costume and Set Design Sandra Schuck Musical Direction Doreen Kutzke Production Felix Häckell, Anja Rosenkranz Press Tom Müller-Heuser
Photos Sandra Schuck
Casting Off by A Good Catch (AUS)
February 2-4, 2024
Casting Off is circus conversation that breaks conventions and exceeds expectations with raw beauty. Three generations of spirited women talk, jump, fly, and balance on the precipice – throw- ing all stereotypes overboard. Personal becomes apolitical, angry becomes funny and the acro- batics are downright dangerous. Casting Off has won multiple awards, including the Total Theatre & Jacksons Lane Award for Circus at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe, the Best Circus Award at the 2018 Melbourne Fringe and the Best Circus Overall Award at the 2019 Adelaide Fringe.
Length 55 min (no intermission)
Recommended for ages 12+
Language in English language with German surtitles
A Good Catch was founded in 2017 with the aim of experimenting with circus. The three founders, Debra Batton (61), Sharon Gruenert (44) and Spenser Inwood (33), all began performing acrobatics as children and have gone on to diverse careers in circus and physical theatre. Indi- vidually, they have performed on stage with a variety of renowned companies including Cirque du Soleil, Flying Fruit Fly Circus, Legs on the Wall and Circus Oz, to name a few. With A Good Catch, they cultivate creativity through a feminist practice based on three principles: disagree, seek understanding, and be willing to change with new knowledge. In doing so, the company specifically questions what is missing in circus arts and firmly believes in creative risk-taking.
All work is based on the principle that authenticity is a more useful goal than originality.
Dramaturgy Alexander Harrison
Cast Debra Batton, Sharon Gruenert & Spenser Inwood Lighting Design Eddie James
Costumes Spenser Inwood
Rigging Design Beau Dudding
Photos Claudia Sangiorgi-Dalimore
Co-produced by: A Good Catch Circus and Cluster Arts since 2019
Show Pony by still hungry and Bryony Kimmings (DE/UK)
February 8-10, 2024
What actually happens to female acrobats when they reach middle age? still hungry seeks answers and turns every trick in the book to find them. As Lena, Anke, and Romy approach
the age when circus jobs mysteriously disappear, each of them crashes into their personal and professional mid-life crises. Why didn’t anyone tell them about it? About ageing, about losing one’s skills, about what happens next. Hold on. What happens next? Show Pony is a frank look at life on stage and the painful moment when the stage no longer wants you. Past, present, and future intersect in moments when the three women try to decide how to move on or if they should move on at all. Full of love, laughter, and a dash of madness, Show Pony is another joyous shout in the face of patriarchy.
Length 60 min (no intermission)
Recommended for ages 12+
Language in English language with German surtitles
still hungry is a contemporary circus collective from Berlin and consists of the three artists and mothers Romy, Lena, and Anke. Powerful images and a good sense of humour make their work deeply touching and greatly amusing. Her pieces are feminist, strong, and do not shy away from highly personal themes. With her first piece Raven, still hungry has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the International Circus Festival in Canada and the Chamäleon, among others. Bryony Kimmings is a performance artist based in London. She is an Associate Artist at Soho Theatre and was commissioned in 2016 to write the musical The Pacifists Guide to the War on Cancer. Bryony creates multi-platform art to provoke change and has performed on countless stages around the world, including in Finland, Portugal, the USA, and Australia.
Performance Lena Ries, Anke van Engelshoven and Romy Seibt Created by still hungry and Bryony Kimmings
Funded by: Fonds Darstellende Künste aus Mitteln der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien im Rahmen von NEUSTART KULTUR.
Play – A Guest Performance Series
Jan. 10 – Feb. 11, 2024
Tickets online: chamaeleonberlin.com/de
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