Director Katie Mitchell is at war with Britain’s parochial theatre cultureby James Woodall / March 20, 2013 / Leave a comment
Published in April 2013 issue of Prospect Magazine
Katie Mitchell’s new adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie makes inventive use of live video © Stephen Cummiskey
On a cold Berlin morning I’m in the café of one of Europe’s great theatres, the Schaubühne, to meet the director Katie Mitchell. Given her reputation as a fierce iconoclast, encountering Mitchell in person is a surprise. The first things you notice about her are a winning friendliness—she smiles openly—and intense pale blue eyes. In a high laugh she apologises for being late. She’s been waiting in the wrong café: her favourite, next to the Schaubühne.
She’s in Berlin for The Yellow Wallpaper, a production based on a short story by the late 19th-century American writer and feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Mitchell is a ferociously hard worker—for the Schaubühne she’s devised a technologically complex staging, set in modern Germany, which uses gauzes, water and five live cameras. In the play a post-natal depressive hallucinates about another woman behind yellow wallpaper and tears it all off. It’s in the mould of Roman Polanski’s film Repulsion, Mitchell explains.