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Acclaimed theatre boss sacked

Marthaler's artistic style has been blamed for turning the public off Zurich's playhouse - despite critical acclaim Keystone

The artistic director of Zurich's playhouse theatre, Christoph Marthaler, has been sacked - just days after the institution was crowned the German-speaking world's "theatre of the year".

This content was published on September 1, 2002 - 18:24

Marthaler, who has spent two seasons at the prominent "Schauspielhaus" venue, has been blamed for collapsing ticket sales.

News of the sacking was greeted with widespread criticism, with Marthaler supporters describing it as unfair, embarrassing and badly timed.

A statement by the theatre released on Saturday warned of potential bankruptcy, amid a decline in audience numbers from a yearly average of 170,000 to 120,000 during the 2001-2 season.

Cash rescue not enough to save Marthaler

The theatre's collapsing popularity came despite an increase in annual government subsidies, which were boosted in June by SFr3.9 million to SFr33.7 million ($22.56 million).

"The board of directors recognises the artistic work of Marthaler and is pleased at the attention the theatre has received in Europe," the theatre's statement said.

"But we have come to the decision that we cannot go on with the current artistic concept given the development of audience numbers."

Marthaler will leave the theatre following the 2002-3 season. His successor has not yet been named but a commission has been set up to search for candidates.

On Thursday, the Zurich theatre was voted the best German language theatre by the magazine "Theater Heute" for the second consecutive year.

The theatre has been in financial turmoil since the recent construction of a new playhouse went over budget by around SFr11 million.

Sacking "a mistake"

Marthaler's dismissal was front-page news in most of Switzerland's Sunday newspapers, with many saying the theatre's financial troubles were not the artist's fault.

Critics and editorial writers, by-and-large, condemned the sacking as ill timed, unfair and a loss for theatre.

swissinfo with agencies

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