'Be Yourself, Inasmuch as it Suits the Job': "Authenticity" in Practice at Berlin's Maxim Gorki and London's Royal Court


This collaborative, comparative article explores a new understanding and valorization of ‘authenticity’ at Berlin’s Maxim Gorki Theatre and London’s Royal Court Theatre. Evaluating institutional language, marketing, and productions, we interrogate the increasing centrality of a pragmatically oriented staging of authenticity at these two theatres. Situating our discussion against ongoing theoretical debates in the British and Germanophone contexts, we argue that the Gorki and Royal Court, while by no means ignoring these debates, ultimately move beyond them to situate a practical or working understanding of authenticity at the heart of their institutional messaging and artistic programming. In contrast to existing scholarship that has sought to analyze authenticity in specific genres or individual productions, we examine the role the institution plays in “casting” its performers and writers as authentic even before they step on stage. Our two case studies—the Maxim Gorki’s collaboratively created Roma Armee (2017) and Nicôle Lecky’s Superhoe (2019) at the Royal Court—examine authenticity’s staging, ironically (at the Gorki) or transitively (at the Royal Court), as it creates a platform for “unheard” voices and makes political demands on audiences. In conclusion, we probe the potentially ambiguous implications of this understanding of authenticity on the labor of theatre makers.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.