Anja and Peter Scollin founded Platypus Theater in 1985 in Berlin and are the administrative and artistic directors. Platypus Theater is one of the most outstanding and productive independent theater groups in Berlin. Since 1992, the concept has been to present plays in English to young German audiences. Platypus is THE English language-theater for children’s and youth-theater in Berlin. Having no theater of its own, Platypus co-operates with numerous Berlin theaters but most of the performances are in the BKA Theater in Kreuzberg. Approximately 110 performances take place in Berlin annually. On top of this, Platypus tours its productions throughout Germany. More than 24,000 young people see our shows each year.
The actors, authors and musicians working for Platypus Theater are from numerous English-speaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, India, South Africa or the U.S.A. Because of our multi- national ensemble the “foreignness” that is a central theme in our plays is not only played out, it is real: with the foreign faces, mentalities and experiences of the participants.
How is it possible to produce plays in English for an audience which has only been learning English for a couple of years?
In plays which are viewed in one’s own native language, most audiences have no trouble following a monologue and a number of simultaneously occurring plots and sub plots on the stage. As a rule, audiences focus on visually interesting stage activity but can simultaneously absorb what’s being said or they can switch back and forth. Our long experience shows us that what happens in foreign language theater is different. In our case, it’s a matter of deliberately placing the focus on the most important elements of the plot. We try to avoid introducing distracting parallel plots. Good scripts, with clarity of language, have to be written. Room must be allowed for the comprehension of the words. For a director, it is a major challenge to practice the art of reduction and at the same time develop an interesting artistic concept. There are very few plays which are suitable for this special challenge. Many plays are too verbal for our purposes and are written for their own language area and culture. Nearly all of the 35 Platypus plays have been produced as the result of an intense artistic work process involving the actors, the director, the dramaturg and the authors. The utilization of a foreign language is a conscious stylistic device for us. It goes way further than merely replacing a word in German through a word in another language.
The audience should leave the theater with a sense of achievement, “I understood everything, my worries were unfounded.” A visit to Platypus Theater is both an exciting experience and a motivational booster.
The artistic team repeatedly takes on new content, new artistic challenges and goes into new territory, with regards to the themes, the production styles and the aesthetics. The major goal remains, producing good and intelligent theater for young audiences who come from all social classes.