The Chamäleon Theatre
Arriving in Berlin for the third time to the see the latest show at Chamäleon Theatre was almost more exciting than my previous visits as I knew I was in store for a real treat. I had been invited to Berlin by the Chamäleon Theatre team to see their new circus show called PARADE, which is the result of a collaboration with battleROYAL, a company from Berlin and the Chamäleon Theatre and in which eight performers embark on a colourful journey of discovery.
The Chamäleon Theatre’s home is in a 1920’s ballroom in the heart of East Berlin, situated in a beautiful Art Deco courtyard in the Hackesche Höfe. The surrounding area is a maze of independent shops, bars and small passages and courtyards, some with wonderful street art, which makes it the perfect place explore before you settle down to an evening of mind-blowing acrobatics, music, dance, comedy and drama.
Before the show, I was invited along with a group of bloggers from all over Europe to meet with the Chamäleon team at the TV Tower at Alexanderplatz, close to Berlin-Mitte. This dramatic building, which towers above the city was constructed by the government of the German Democratic Republic, between 1965 and 1969 and modelled on the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik. It is 368 metres high, making it the tallest building in Germany and one of the tallest structures in Europe. It is known for its unique architecture and extraordinary views high up above the city.
We took a 40-second ride in the elevator arriving 203m above ground level at the observation deck. Drinks awaited us in the glitzy bar which has a distinctly 70’a feel to it. It had been raining heavily all day so we didn’t get the best possible view of the city as it was quite cloudy, however, it is a truly magnificent sight even on a grey, wet day so I would imagine it must be all the more wonderful when there are clear skies.
We also checked out the restaurant, which is on the top floor; the tables revolve a full 360 degrees over the period of an hour so the guests are able to take in the whole of the city during their meal. Quite a treat I imagine, as long as you don’t get too dizzy!
During my weekend stay it happened to be the Light Festival in Berlin so the TV Tower gave a great view of some of the light installations that were happening around the city both on buildings and in the streets, all presented in theatrical and inventive ways.
I came across some eerily lit figures in the courtyard in the Hackesche Höfe area next to the theatre and the Amnesty display near to my hotel was quite spectacular once darkness fell.
After drinks in the heady heights of the TV Tower, we made our way to the theatre.
PARADE at the Chamäleon Theatre
The Chamäleon Theatre is the master of new circus, an art form I have come to love and admire. Each show they produce is wholly different and explores the medium in new and daring ways, bringing with it warmth, humour and some amazing talent. The result is a combination of highly accomplished acrobats, dancers, performers and musicians coming together to create new circus in its most exciting and purest form. Their new show PARADE that will be playing until February 2018 is no exception.
PARADE was first conceived when a group of 8 performers from all around the world met for the first time in an empty rehearsal room in July 2017 venturing into a new voyage of creativity and invention.
PARADE is the vision of director Brendan Shelper, who has worked on many huge scale productions including the opening ceremony for Aarhus, the European City of Culture 2017. Brendan wanted to create his vision in a more intimate way; he calls PARADE his ‘passion project’.
The result is an extraordinary conceptual piece of theatre and new circus, full of artistry, physical daring and strength of mind and body that is quite awesome. It creates a narrative, which follows the performers on a colourful journey full of grace and beauty, using a soundtrack that mixes electro music with pop songs and expressive live percussion numbers along with interactive video installations to clever appeal.
One can almost feel the awkwardness of the actors at the beginning of the show, the trepidation in which the company slowly take tender steps and greater risks. By the second half, unmasked, they have formed a seamless authentic unit, which takes your breath away. Teamed with talented musician/ percussionist Takumi Motokawa who accompanies them on their journey with wit and a growing tenderness.
This is a very urban, modern show; it brings together a mesmerizing mix of acrobatics, dance, humour and narrative that works in so many ways.
The hand balancing acts were quite spectacular, they reminded me of the Human Towers I recently saw in Catalonia, where they build people towers of several high at their annual Festa Majors. The aerial numbers on the dancing trapeze, set to Billy Joel’s Vienna, were executed with such perfect elegance, all this intertwined with breaking dancing and dynamic hoop diving.
The extraordinary Beata Surmiak, who we first meet as a masked woman and who has won the acrobatic gymnastics seven times, has such remarkable control, with a body so strong, lean and flexible, that seemed to test every limit, watching her, in particular, had me on the very edge of my seat. Each of the talented performers brings a very different skill and depth to the show, it is interesting to watch a company that have not grown up together but met and blended so seamlessly in this way. They ended on a wonderful ensemble piece performed to Johnny Cash’s’ ‘The Beast in Me’.
After the performance of PARADE we met with the fabulous Chamäleon Team and enjoyed a few drinks in the bar, we were joined by several of the talented artists; it was fascinating to hear about their journeys into the circus world and the extraordinary physical demands of their work which must take such determination and endurance.
This is a remarkably colourful, energetic show full of joy and exploration. I wouldn’t hesitate to put it on your to-do -list if you’re visiting Berlin!
Palace Hotel Berlin
During my visit, I stayed at the privately run very centrally located Palace Hotel Berlin which is in Zoologischer Garden, just a few stations away from Brandenburg Gate and just a short bus ride away from Tegal airport.
The hotel has 278 rooms, free wifi and a cosy lounge area and concept bar, plus there is also a fitness pool and spa. Suited to business guests or travellers, but not ideal for the family market. My Club Room up on the 8th floor had a view over the city Zoo, which was directly opposite the hotel. It was spacious and comfortable, boasting a simple, modern design, with clean lines and had everything I needed. After a late night out at the Chamäleon Theatre, I was delighted to fall into my ample bed.
On Sunday morning I made my way to the 2nd floor, where I discovered that breakfast offered something for everyone; I sat at a window table with a view of the street below. There was an amazing attention to detail with a huge array of exceptionally high-quality food. I was quite overwhelmed with the choice and ate far too much as it all looked so delicious and tempting. I particularly enjoyed the soft fluffy pancakes, which were cooked to perfection.
The Palace hotel is very close to Zoologischer subway which makes it very easy to get almost anywhere in Berlin, it is perfectly located for a visit to the zoo, and it is in the heart of a substantial shopping area, plus there is also a relatively small shopping centre called the Berlin Bikini which is rather cooler than its name suggests. Inside is an airy modern interior with a great selection of interesting independent design shops and healthy food outlets and a couple of galleries. I ate a delicious salad at ‘Funk You’ and browsed in the shops. Well worth checking out if you’re in the area.
Hotel Palace Berlin, Budapester Str. 45, 10787 Berlin, Germany
Mauerpark Flea Market
After a late night at the Chamäleon Theatre and a good breakfast inside me, I decided to visit a flea market before heading home. I’m a bit of a market fan and enjoy discovering them in different cities. I had been recommended a popular one at Mauerpark, which was a subway ride away across town. Mauerpark is a public linear park in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district. The name translates to “Wall Park” referring to its status as a former part of the Berlin Wall, which is now covered in some great street art and graffiti.
Exiting the subway I followed the streams of people who were all headed in the same direction to what turned out to be the most enormous market full of a variety of stalls selling a mixture crafts, vintage clothes and goods, plus a selection of food outlets, which I noted were mainly vegan and vegetarian. Although the Germans do love their meat, I have noticed that Berlin has really embraced the vegetarian scene.
After a lovely morning browsing through the market I took a stroll along the wall and headed back to my hotel to pick up my bags for before embarking on my journey home.
Goodbye Berlin, thank you to you all at the Chamäleon theatre………until next time.