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Every year for the last 49 years, a committee of critics has watched hundreds of theatre productions from Germany, Austria and Switzerland – then voted on the best 10 to show at Berlin’s Theatertreffen (Theatre Meet).

This year’s 50th anniversary is a double celebration, not only of the vitality and diversity of German-language theatre, but of the festival itself, which also functions as a trade fair for theatre professionals and a platform for new talent.

The 2013 selection of plays illustrates “a return to substantial material and stories” (think classics and modern classics) as well as new texts, and several of the productions are shown with English subtitles. The opening performance, for example, is a version of Euripides’ Greek classic Medea, slickly updated by German director Michael Thalheime. Jeder stirbt für sich allein, a terse panorama of Nazi resistance and persecution, is based on the Hans Fallada novel Everyone Dies Alone.

Krieg und Frieden, directed by Sebastian Hartmann and based on Tolstoy’s novel War And Peace, tackles life’s big questions; and Die Straße. Die Stadt. Der Überfall (The Road. The City. The Raid) by Elfriede Jelinek, directed by Johan Simons, is about fashion and wealth on Maximilianstrasse, the most exclusive shopping area in Munich.

The programme also offers award ceremonies, talks and audience discussions.

Theatertreffen takes place from 3 to 20 May, mainly at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele (Schaperstrasse 24, Berlin-Wilmersdorf), with other productions at the Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, HAU 2 and Radialsystem V. Tickets range from 10 to 55 euros and can be purchased in advance online.  

Paul Sullivan is the Berlin Localite for BBC Travel. He also runs/writes slowtravelberlin.com

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