Berlin Theater Scraps Play in Istanbul over Security Fears

Story Highlights

  • Schaubuehne Berlin cites post-coup crackdown for cancellation of the play
  • Turkey is not seen as safe for foreign nationals

One of Germany’s best-known theater companies has scrapped at the last minute an eagerly-awaited visit to the Istanbul Theater Festival this month due to “security” fears for the company, it said on Tuesday.

The Schaubuehne Berlin was due to stage two performances of Shakespeare’s great historical play “Richard III” on November 17 and 18 at the festival.

The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), which organizes the festival, said on Monday that the performances had “unfortunately been canceled upon the company’s last-minute decision.” Their statement did not give further details.

But the Schaubuehne said on Tuesday that the performances were canceled due to “concerns over our employees” amid the crackdown in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of the July 15, 2016 failed coup bid.

It said that the arrest of several rights activists and journalists, including German nationals over the course of past months had led to “great uncertainty” among its staff about the trip. “As it was impossible to give those involved a guarantee for their security in the current situation, we have been obliged not to travel to Turkey,” it said in a statement to AFP.

The theater, which has been a regular performer at the festival over the years, said it was “very sorry to disappoint our fans.”

“We are sorry that our partners and audience have to suffer due to a situation that they have not caused. We hope for more relaxed times when we can travel to Turkey again.”

Nine Germans Behind Bars

Several Germans have been caught up in the crackdown, causing a major crisis in relations between Berlin and Ankara. German activist Peter Steudtner was released last month following his arrest along with members of Amnesty International in July on disputed terror charges.

But nine Germans still remain behind bars in Turkey including most prominently Die Welt daily correspondent Deniz Yucel, who was arrested in February, and German journalist Mesale Tolu.

The Schaubuehne has taken its production of “Richard III” — Shakespeare’s play about the authoritarian hunchback 15th century English monarch who is ultimately deposed — to theaters across the world.

Directed by the theater’s artistic director Thomas Ostermeier, it stars celebrity German actor Lars Eidinger who also plays future Tsar Nicholas II in the upcoming controversial Russian film “Matilda.”

Reports have said Eidinger did not travel to Russia over security fears for the premiere of the film, which conservatives have accused of insulting the memory of the Tsar by depicting his love affair with a ballet dancer.

The Istanbul Theater Festival kicks off on November 13 and will include productions by Greece’s Theodoros Terzopoulos and French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj.

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