Despite all clichés, Luxembourg has more to offer than banks, cheap cigarettes and low petrol prices: a flourishing (multi-) cultural life!
During the past few decades, Luxembourgish theatre has seen a development second to none. Within a few years, it has gained high international recognition. The expertise and dedication of private as well as public theatre directors, the professionalisation of the sector and the willingness of public decision-makers have greatly enriched the Luxembourgish theatre scene.
What follows is a brief overview of theatre in Luxembourg. Detailed information on the history of theatre in Luxembourg as well as on individual theatres can be found in the publication “What about... Theatre in Luxembourg” (published by the Information and Press Service of the Luxembourg Government, 2007).
The conventional languages on Luxembourgish theatre stages are German and French. In addition, Luxembourgish has been conquering the stage over the last few years. Despite its standardised orthography (since 1974) and its status as a national language (since 1948) and an administrative language (with German and French), Luxembourgish remains a spoken more than a written language in everyday life. As some of the Luxembourgish directors, especially those of the younger generation, have completed their studies in English-speaking countries, the number of English productions is increasing both in the theatres of the larger towns (Luxembourg City, Esch-sur-Alzette) and in the regional cultural centres. The multiculturalism of the Luxembourgish society (about 44,5% foreigners) means that — to a certain extent — plays in Dutch, Italian, Spanish and other languages add to the program of the country.
The theatre audience in Luxembourg can choose from a plethora of interesting performances every day. Although the country is very small, the theatre programme is extremely varied and diverse. Many Luxembourgish theatres and cultural centres offer several art forms: theatre, dance, musical, opera, operetta, as well as pieces for young audiences. Some theatres are specialised in a particular art form, such as German or French theatre, theatre for young audiences, or dance. In addition, Luxembourg is home to independent theatre groups, which often organise interdisciplinary projects and choose unusual locations for their performances. Some theatres also include literary projects in their programme, for example author meetings, thematic readings and festivals. In the cultural centres, the programme often includes concerts, exhibitions and lectures.
Being a country of 537,000 inhabitants with an area of 2586 km2, the Grand Duchy has a unique concentration of cultural institutions. Despite — or because of — the small size of the country, the network between its different cultural institutions is well-developed. The result is an impressive number of theatre productions, mainly own productions and co-productions, followed by guest performances from abroad.
The regional cultural centres, which are spread across the country, are important partners for the national productions. A play will often open in Luxembourg City before touring the cultural centres in the province. In the major theatres in Luxembourg City and Esch-sur-Alzette, the main focus lies on international co-productions and guest performances. However, the borders are blurry, as the larger theatres also set up their own productions and remain essential partners for national productions. This is also the case for the mostly small private theatres in the capital, which mainly set up their own productions and co-produce plays by independent Luxembourgish groups.
A special characteristic of theatre in Luxembourg is the non-existence of in-house companies. Neither within dance, nor within theatre will you find permanently employed artists. Theatre professionals have the so-called "intermittent" status, meaning that for example an artist, a director or a set designer always has a contract only for the duration of their ongoing production.
This allows the artist a lot of freedom, but also represents a risk, because he continuously needs to find new engagements and contracts. The professional status of artists is regulated in Luxembourg by the so-called "Loi concernant a) le statut de l'artiste professionnel indépendant et l'intermittent du spectacle b) la promotion de la création artistique".