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December 17, 2017

Berlin theatre scraps Istanbul 'Richard III' over security fears

Berlin theatre scraps Istanbul 'Richard III' over security fears
'German activist Peter Steudtner was released last month but nine Germans remain behind bars in Turkey' - By: AFP YASIN AKGUL


Istanbul (AFP) - One of Germany's best known theatre companies has scrapped at the last minute an eagerly-awaited visit to the Istanbul Theatre Festival this month due to "security" fears for the company, it said Tuesday.

The Schaubuehne Berlin was due to stage two performances of Shakespeare's great historical play "Richard III" on November 17 and 18 at the festival.

The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), which organises the festival, said on Monday that the performances had "unfortunately been cancelled upon the company's last minute decision."

Their statement did not give further details.

But the Schaubuehne said Tuesday that the performances were cancelled due to "concerns over our employees" amid the crackdown in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of the July 15, 2016 failed coup bid.

It said that the arrest of several rights activists and journalists, who have included German nationals, in the last months had led to "great uncertainty" among its staff about the trip.

"As it was impossible to give those involved a guarantee for their personal security in the current situation, we have been obliged not to travel to Turkey," it said in a statement to AFP.

The theatre, which has been a regular performer at the festival over the years, said it was "very sorry to disappoint our fans".

"We are sorry that our partners and audience have to suffer due to a situation that they have not caused. We hope for more relaxed times when we can travel to Turkey again."

Nine Germans behind bars

Several Germans have been caught up in the crackdown, causing a major crisis in relations between Berlin and Ankara.

German activist Peter Steudtner was released last month following his arrest along with members of Amnesty International in July on disputed terror charges.

But nine Germans still remain behind bars in Turkey including most prominently Die Welt daily correspondent Deniz Yucel, who was arrested in February, and German journalist Mesale Tolu.

The Schaubuehne has taken its production of "Richard III" -- Shakespeare's play about the authoritarian hunchback 15th century English monarch who is ultimately deposed -- to theatres across the world.

Directed by the theatre's artistic director Thomas Ostermeier, it stars celebrity German actor Lars Eidinger who also plays future tsar Nicholas II in the upcoming controversial Russian film "Matilda".

Reports have said Eidinger did not travel to Russia over security fears for the premiere of the film, which conservatives have accused of insulting the memory of the tsar by depicting his love affair with a ballet dancer.

The Istanbul Theatre Festival kicks off on November 13 and will include productions by Greece's Theodoros Terzopoulos and French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj.

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