Open Air Theatre Review: Maria Stuart

After months of social distancing and lockdowns, the irrepressible Berlin awakens from its ‘Sleeping Beauty’ cultural  slumber. Some museums have opened their doors for reduced numbers of visitors –  you can actually see the exhibits because of fewer people. The first open-air movie theatres started with their programs. Although these shows are shown as ‘sold out’, the audience feels scarce, all seats spaced out to abide by the 1.5 metre rule and masks needed to be worn when not seated. Seemed strange, still, it was good to get back to some kind of normality.

Theatres have also come back to life this week. Compared to other countries, the German government supports the arts quite extensively, although not enough – never enough! But these funds go a long way to make sure that arts lovers during the time of Corona hibernation can now venture out of their refuges.

Summer is about to start, so the first arts providers opted to put up plays “al fresco”. The Theater an der Parkaue, known to be aimed at younger audiences, showed Friedrich Schiller’s “Maria Stuart”. Edited into a brisk 90 minutes without an interval, the production moves along nicely and condensed the Tudor conflict between Mary Stuart and Elizabeth to the bare bones. Schiller’s prose is mixed with some modernisms which gives it a current feel.

As does the accompanying live-drum, jazzy score and the colourful, exaggerated costumes.

Drummer in Maria

Actors were all in fine form, Caroline Erdmann as the conflicted Queen Elizabeth a tragic, confused and comic standout. 

Queen Elizabeth in Maria Stuart by Friedrich Schiller


Did I notice the “new normal”? Of course, with the distanced seats for the audience and even on stage you could see a difference. The set was spaced out on a larger than necessary square and the actors tried to stay as far away from each other as was reasonable. But on a fun note, the cast incorporated the need for distance into their play – handing over letters and other props in an increasingly elaborate, remote and farsical manner. That was actually a brilliant way of emphasising the artificiality and intricacies of 16th century Royal court politics, that bind the two protagonists. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this comeback of live theatre and I will look forward to other productions ( – hopefully soon on one of the two in-house stages.