Der Palast

Der Palast, 2019, is a commission by Dorky Park dance company and the Volksbühne Theatre Berlin.


Portraits by the English photographer Tom Hunter serve as the starting point for a theatre production ‘Der Palast’ about gentrification and the transformation of Berlin’s centre since the fall of the wall.

Der Palast, translates to ‘The Palace’ in English, and in this context refers to the socialist ideal of the People’s Palace. Under the German Democratic Republic (GDR), East Berlin became a showcase for the socialist aspirations and a communist utopia, this vision manifested itself in the housing projects that were built for the workers of the GDR. These developments are now the battlegrounds between residents and property developers. Der Palast sets out to challenge this by giving the communities of these housing projects a voice. Der Palast is a dance performance commissioned for Berlin’s leading theatre – VolksBühne Theatre (opened 1914). This project was a work in collaboration between Hunter and the dance company Dorky Park in Berlin, Germany. The theatre piece investigates the impact of gentrification and social upheaval, by focusing the work on the architecture, and by revealing both the city’s and its residents’ history, present and ideas for the future. Hunter’s photographic work is the starting point in the construction of the narrative of Der Palast. Hunter set up photographic tableaus in 12 different urban settings around Berlin using old master paintings from the Gemäldegalerie Museum (Berlin’s classical painting gallery) as templates to construct new visions of a rapidly changing contemporary city. In these photographic tableaus Hunter worked with local residents from different housing projects which were facing eviction and urban redevelopment and social cleansing. The conversations and dialogues which were shared with the theatre writer and Hunter were then used as dialogue within the theatre piece. Likewise, the photographic images were integrated into the theatre piece by projecting them as 40 by 50 foot backdrops on to the stage. These projected images gave the effect of bringing the outside urban Berlin environment into the theatre and were the focal point for the dancing and dialogue, engaging in the cities compelling tales of urban transformation. Each photograph set the scene and mood for the theatre piece as it developed its narrative and themes of social cleansing, urban flight and regeneration. By referencing the old master classics from the Gemäldegalerie Museum, Berlin and reframing them through a contemporary context of social housing and gentrification it gave the Berlin audience a way to reflect on not only the past but the present situation and future possibilities regarding the planning of the city environment.

DER PALAST: Berlin Mitte after the fall of the Wall: dilapidated buildings are occupied, the city develops into a melting pot for creative and celebrating people. However, this is accompanied by a cultural flattening that revolves only around the taste of a global, well-off middle class while neighborhoods change, shops close and people are evicted. Der Palast gives visibility back to the city and its inhabitants. Through an overflowing stage design architecture, mirrored by the worldwide format of reality TV shows and the images of photographer Tom Hunter, who stages social themes in the style of the Old Masters, new narratives evolve between fiction and reality. The soundtrack is by Robert Lippok and a live band.

Concept, Direction and Choreography: Constanza Macras
Dramaturgy: Carmen Mehnert
By and with: Adaya Berkovich, Emil Bordás, Chia-Ying Chiang, Fernanda Farah, Yuya Fujinami, Luc Guiol, Ronni Maciel, Thulani Lord Mgidi, Anne Ratte-Polle, Miki Shoji
Live music by and with: Santiago Blaum, Kristina Lösche-Löwensen, Jacob Thein
Visual artist: Tom Hunter
Music composition: Robert Lippok
Stage design: Alissa Kolbusch
Costumes: Roman Handt
Lighting design: Sergio de Carvalho Pessanha
Sound: Stephan Wöhrmann
Assistant Director: Helena Casas
Production management: Alisa Golomzina, Xiao Yu, Keiko Tominaga
Distribution and International Relations: Plan B – Creative Agency for Performing Arts