Fuzzy rtt1
Brooklyn | 2h 0m | Already closed

Returning to Reims

From 23 critic and 23 member reviews
Members say: Relevant, Intelligent, Ambitious, Great acting, Absorbing

About the show

St. Ann's Warehouse presents Schaubühne Berlin's new production based on the memoir by Didier Eribon, which asks: as populism marches around the globe, does political activism still have a role to play?


A sound studio. An actress records a voiceover for a documentary.  Philosopher Didier Eribon, returning to his childhood home, discovers that the left-wing and liberal middle class have abandoned the working class, and workers are running into the arms of the right-wing National Front. How is this possible? How have things come to this? Featuring 'Homeland’s' Nina Hoss.

2h 0m | Already closed | St Ann's Warehouse (Brooklyn)

Lighting & Sound America

"The most stimulating play to be seen in New York in months...'Returning to Reims' exerts a grip all its own, in no small part because it speaks volumes about how we ended up in the current rancid political climate...This is extraordinarily rich material, a banquet of ideas and emotions, and if Hoss initially seems an unusual choice to be voicing the words of a middle-aged gay Frenchman, her astonishingly deft handling of the text effectively tables all such questions." Full Review

The Theatre Times

"By relating 'Returning To Reims' back to a very particular reality, the production obliquely calls on all of us in the audience to consider our own places in the complex networks of domination that prop up global capitalism...With actual political discourse in our own country suffering from such unprecedented erosion, a piece of political theater as eloquent and elegant as 'Returning To Reims' is a great gift and a rare, welcome appeal to what is best in us." Full Review


"Eribon's trenchant memoir has become an exhilarating stage play...The most politically incisive play yet to come out of the Trump era...Ostermeier mostly allows Eribon's words to tell the story...We watch Paul's documentary on a large screen above the stage...It powerfully illustrates an already evocative text...'Returning to Reims' will keep you thinking long after you leave the theater...It will be frightening, enraging, and absolutely necessary." Full Review

Village Voice

"There's insight - and enjoyment in director Ostermeier's 'Returning to Reims'...An elegant study in the subtleties of labor and power...Embodying theatrical adaptation at its best. It's true to its source, yet revelatory in its translation to the stage...Stunningly detailed performances make this exploration more riveting than you might think political theory could be...The director's ending hints at the generative possibilities that simply listening to others might offer." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Most of 'Returning to Reims' doesn’t seem much like theater...You can sometimes sense the audience growing restless at the absence of front-and-center drama. But director Thomas Ostermeier gradually adjusts the style toward an explicit awareness of theatricality...Even as 'Returning to Reims' asks of its audience a certain empathy and patience, it also suggests the importance of those qualities in addressing those whom the left has left behind." Full Review

This Week in New York Blog

"Hoss is magnetic as Katy, the rhythm of her delivery floating in the air and reaching deep into your body...Occasionally veers off track, but Ostermeier always steers it back with the help of Hoss...It’s multilayered with extra helpings of meta; in fact, it works better the more poetic license and theatrical leeway you give it as Ostermeier lifts Eribon’s words to a global level in an age where identity politics and neoliberalism are failing and populists have seized the day around the world." Full Review

New York Theatre Wire

"A hybrid of performance strategies...The video, interspersed with selective personal and archival footage, presents a parallel drama, a kind of augmented perspective to the written/read text. The live performance of Nina Hoss's delicate reading is balanced by Eribon's silent presence in the video...The sound design and music help to meld the dichotomous performance strands together...The text and the non-theatrical performance touched a chord in our time of hyped sensations." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"Ostermeier’s staging of this memoir pulls us in deep...We watch with utter amazement as we see the process of image, idea, and the spoken word melting into one another before our eyes...It’s almost shocking how this creative team has found a way to present a reading of such intense and high minded philosophy within a theatrical framework and find a way to keep us personally invested…‘Returning to Reims’ falters a bit in the end, losing its connection to Eribon’s writing." Full Review

The New York Times

"Definitely worth seeing, but you may not think so until after it’s over...In the viewing, this production is rarely exciting in the terms of conventional drama. Nor is its portrayal of the creation of a film entirely credible. But it’s smart in expressly theatrical ways, and its effectiveness is subliminal. Even the seeming somnolence of Hoss’s voice-over narration has its purpose. Ideas have been planted in your head without your even being aware of it, as if while you were sleeping. " Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“The…low-key focus on Didier's identity issues…is not as gripping as one could wish...We're hearing his thoughts through the medium of a woman's voice…, creating a Brechtian effect that distances us emotionally. Moreover, the emphasis on the class-related preoccupations of European politics…seem more appropriate for a TED lecture than a dramatic presentation... Hoss, an exceptional artist, reads the narrative in a naturalistic, barely accented, deceptively objective tone; its mood is perfect.” Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"An intellectually ambitious, uneven but fascinating, often anti-theatrical piece of theater...For at least the first half Ostermeier actually uses the lack of conventional drama to craft an enthralling, prodigiously smart piece of live performance that’s part theater, part audiobook, part film...If only these sections of personal conflict were as compelling as the stretches in which we’re left alone with Katy and Eribon. The writing in these conversational interludes often sounds clunky." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"'While it often proves thought-provoking and incisive in its socio-political arguments, the piece is too scattershot to make a real impact...Ostermeier lets his theatrical conceits get the better of him, squandering the play's thematic ideas...There's plenty to admire, not the least of which is Hoss' quietly commanding, sensitive turn...The film-within-the-play is substantial enough to stand on its own. It's too bad, then, that 'Returning' ultimately adds up to less than the sum of its parts." Full Review

Off Off Online

"Examining the political migration from left to right should appeal to anyone following current events, but the static execution of Ostermeier's densely worded production hampers the dramatic resonance of the subject...The piece, which has no writer credited, can’t comfortably synthesize its disparate elements. 'Returning to Reims' is too much a collage of visually arresting pictures, personal history, and often deadening didacticism. It doesn’t escape the feeling of a lecture hall." Full Review

What's On Stage (UK)

for a previous production "It's rare to find a piece of theatre as acutely topical, deeply intelligent, and emotionally charged as 'Returning to Reims'...A naturalistic style so real, so embracing, that it feels like a conversation over the breakfast table not from a stage...Because it directly tackles the most pressing issues of our day, with a sense of rich discovery and revelation, it feels like essential viewing, a vindication of experiment and thoughtfulness, a celebration of the skills of performers." Full Review

Voice Mag

for a previous production "'Returning to Reims' combined film and live performance to create a simple narrative full of current, topical themes around tolerance and togetherness in our interconnected world...Ostermeier did not overload the audience with information about politics; using comedy and poetic language to really allow the audience to understand the class divide as well as the theories behind capitalism...It was, altogether, a deeply emotive story." Full Review

Manchester Evening News

for a previous production "The production is slick and more pertinent than ever...Ostermeier has found the perfect leading lady in Hoss...Accompanied by two other actors, a filmmaker and recording studio hand, her mellifluous voiceover had the audience transfixed...An intelligent piece of theatre that manages to explore complex themes whilst still having the self-awareness to keep the audience on board...A great piece of theatre and plenty of fodder for thought." Full Review

Upstaged Manchester

for a previous production "The production itself is not weighed down with heavy political jargon and knowledge. 'Returning to Reims' successfully tackles the resurgence of populist nationalism in Europe and class struggle through live action performance, video, sound, and narration...A highly watchable, lucid, and intriguing play which pitched the past and present day against each other and in turn, highlighted that the stage can still be a venue for political and living debate." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Adventurously staged and compellingly acted...Vibrant as the show’s arguments are, I feel they have been overshadowed by recent events...But, even if the times are rapidly changing, the show combines a poignant human story with a fascinating discussion about how change can best be achieved. Hoss is also a magnetic figure...Ostermeier extends the boundaries of political theatre by showing that, in adapting a book, you can turn the stage into a source of living debate." Full Review

The Stage (UK)

for a previous production "Astonishingly prescient...The resulting show has both sharpness of political thought and the rawness of an evolving argument. Ostermeier does not so much adapt Eribon’s book as grapple with it on stage...The discussion sharpens our reception as watchers and listeners. This is a knotty and confronting piece...What could be a detached, cerebral affair has moments of playful theatricality that reconnect audience and stage." Full Review

The Telegraph (UK)

for a previous production "In this wittily deadpan production, Ostermeier’s real target is liberal hypocrisies, the politicians who proclaim solidarity with progressive ideologies but resist any meaningful engagement...It’s all very self consciously un-theatrical: the first third consists simply of Hoss narrating–although thanks to the hypnotic clarity of Eribon’s prose and the cool susurrations of Hoss’s voice, that brings its own pleasures. It is at its best when it disrupts itself." Full Review

The Times (UK)

for a previous production "This stage adaptation...delivers chunks of Eribon’s questing discourse, while tethering its ideas to the particulars of personal history...It’s a demanding watch; knowingly undramatic, meta-theatrical, and allusive...Ostermeier’s multimedia staging is slick and clever...It’s a narrative full of guilt and ghosts...There’s plenty of meat to chew on, yet the piece feels bloodless. It’s rather too detached, too didactic. Still, it’s probing and intelligent, and you’ll rarely be lectured more ele... Full Review

British Theatre Guide

for a previous production "Hoss begins to debate some of the cuts made by her director and the impact these have. This breaks away from the words on the page and the time it was set and puts it into a modern context without spelling it out. These discussions are largely light-hearted but do elaborate on and enhance the ideas in the book very effectively...This is a shamelessly political piece of theatre that argues its case thoroughly...I was gripped by the ideas, but it certainly isn't for everyone." Full Review

The Reviews Hub

for a previous production "It is hard to work out the audience that 'Returning to Reims' might have been intended to satisfy...It may be considered radical to offer a theatrical production that seems better suited for a radio monologue or a TV documentary but it is hardly satisfying...There is a lack of passion in the reading almost as if the company are completing an obligation to feature the extracts rather than trying to convey the author’s bewilderment at the political direction taken by the working class." Full Review

Ambitious, Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Slow

See it if you are interested in Europe's history, politics, social change movements, human rights activities.

Don't see it if you don't like political shows. also if you can't sit through 3 hours show

Absorbing, Epic, Intelligent, Masterful, Excruciating

See it if you want your entertainment thoughtful, quiet and intelligent

Don't see it if you'd rather laugh through a musical

Great acting, Masterful, Profound, Relevant, Great directing

See it if you like to think when you go to the theatre

Don't see it if you think that political activism is useless

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Profound, Relevant

See it if you like theater with a strong political message. It takes time to grow on you but it is worth sitting through a, at times, slow production

Don't see it if Politics and theater are not a good mix for you. This is a very intense production and if you look for “ light “ entertainment keep looking

Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Slow

See it if you want to see a very clever play that is consciously anti-theatrical, but that puts on the table a lot of interesting political stuff.

Don't see it if you get bored easily with plays with a lot of text and not a lot of action.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing

See it if you are interested in political drama and historical events, although the play shifts from a personal coming of age to universal politics.

Don't see it if you are not interested in political discourse, rap music or a non-linear personal history narrative.

Political, Philosophical, Multimedia

See it if you are interested in juxtaposition of film and text. Want a backstage pass on how voice recording narration for documentary works.

Don't see it if You are expecting linear play with action and conflict. This is dialogue and philosophical based. Spoken word performances put you to sleep.

Also There is spoken word rapping performance midway that neither contribut... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Great staging

See it if you enjoy German theater and its quirky storytelling method

Don't see it if you like to see actions and drama on stage -this show has none

Absorbing, Clever, Relevant, Great writing

See it if YOU are interested on seen something very unique and interesting

Don't see it if you don't like surprises

Absorbing, Ambitious, Clever, Thought-provoking, Refreshing

See it if you like combinations of film, narration & drama, curious how the right gains influence & how fathers impact children, fan of Nina Hoff

Don't see it if you don't like shows that mix film in with plot, that don't signal where they are going, have a strong political POV, appear to lack plot

Also This is an extraordinary show that 140 spaces cannot possibly do justi... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Great acting, Refreshing, Relevant, Mesmerizing

See it if you enjoy alternative, new types of theater that focus on ideas rather than plot or character development.

Don't see it if you prefer action and a real story. This show is very wordy

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Banal, Slow

See it if you want an untraditional theatre experience, you enjoy listening to Hoss's soothing voice.

Don't see it if you're looking for a play with conflict, exciting character interaction, or an obvious message.

Also This play is obviously intended to provoke thought, but I didn't find ... Read more Read less

Pointless, Absorbing, Indulgent, Disappointing, Slow

See it if You’re a fan of documentary FILMS or curious about how voiceover is done. This is a very absorbing story read to you while you watch a film.

Don't see it if You’re expecting any sort of theatre. I don’t know why we had to go to Brooklyn to see what was little more than a documentary film.

Ambitious, Confusing, Disappointing, Overrated, Slow

See it if You have great hearing. The sound design is very casual and Frau Hoss mumbles in accented English. I was on last row and understood about ha

Don't see it if You have hearing or backside problems. Two hours, no interval makes for difficult sit. Not for the hearing or the orthopedically challenged.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant, Riveting

See it if You like thoughtful, non-traditional, political pieces. Nina Hoss was enchanting.

Don't see it if You are not interested in leftist politics, you prefer plot-driven plays with a lot of action, you don't like semi-autobiographical works.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if You like a thought provoking performance that isn't actually a play

Don't see it if you want fast pacing!

Also For me this was all about watching Nina Hoss. Her voice, her expressiv... Read more Read less

During previews
Exquisite, Great acting, Intense, Relevant, Great writing

See it if If you want to be transform in the theatre. If you want to think about themes that are important. If you want to connect!

Don't see it if You don’t want to be transformed or if you don’t want to participate I’d a theatrical experience.

During previews
Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You're interested in political drama that doesn't shy away from creating a conversation with historical events and modern themes.

Don't see it if You are closed minded in how you believe theatre is structured. See it if you're a closed or open minded liberal or conservative however.

During previews
Thought-provoking, Demanding, Deliberately non-theatrical, Politically astute but not always engaging

See it if you're interested in the Left's failure of the working class and subsequent rise of far-Right politicians; French socio-political theorists

Don't see it if experiments in form alienate you: format is a live voiceover of documentary with Eribon's text juxtaposed with Hoss' memories of her father

Also It's ironic that Eribon's mining of his personal history as a key to h... Read more Read less

During previews
Ambitious, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if want to think about the issues of social class and the political process interested in the journey of an individual who defied expectations

Don't see it if Have trouble hearing the unamplified discussions from stage outside of the main narration not interested in the topic

During previews
Ambitious, Intelligent, Forced, Untheatrical

See it if You want to see a noble attempt to bring a undramatic text to the stage with gratuitous personal conflict -- and rapping!

Don't see it if You want a successful realized theatrical experience.

During previews
Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Overrated, Slow

See it if you are interested in the European working classes, or the European left, & how both have shifted over the past 50 years.

Don't see it if you want to see a drama: much of the action here is a prose reading & an accompanying film.

Also I’m disappointed in this piece, given my exposure to the Schaubuhne Be... Read more Read less

During previews
Intelligent, Relevant, Confusing, Slow, Disjointed

See it if you prefer intellectual political lectures to plays. This show is innovative and expands beyond genres. Love Nina Hoss’s voice!

Don't see it if You want to see a play with a cohesive plot. This is more like disjointed performance art with some innovative and interesting moments.

Cast & Creatives (10)