A hundred faces of solitude, 2007

The Fourteenth Small Scene Theatre Festival will host ten shows coming from seven European countries. All those plays have been directed by people disinclined towards conventional scenic contemplation; by people whose names in a way guarantee the creation of provocative theatre, one focusing on methods of scenic research and problem solving. Among them we shall find a number of directors who have become great stars of the European stage; for example, the prima donna of Italian theatre – Emma Dante, the recent winner of the European Theatre Prize for New Theatrical Realities – Alvis Hermanis, the heir of the Latvian theatre miracle, Cezaris Graušinis, or Viktor Bodo, whose show Rattledanddisappeared has achieved rapid and breathtaking success on numerous European stages. It is interesting that, with the exception of two, all the directors whose plays will be performed on this year’s Festival, were born after 1965, which might lead us to the conclusion that we’ll be attending a kind of generational festival. Yet, the common denominator of the shows invited does not lie in their similar aesthetic or programmatic postulates, but above all in their tendency to compress a large range of artistic and existential experiences that form original and powerful works of art.

If, on the other hand, we tend to look for conceptual similarities among the plays selected, we may say that the Fourteenth Small-Scene Theatre Festival continues to promote ideas presented in the years before, primarily questioning the psychology and pathology of closed and isolated micro-worlds. Yet, most of the shows we shall see have lowered their probes even deeper, into man’s inner space, into his mental and spiritual landscapes where everything begins and, most frequently, ends as well. Therefore, this year’s Festival mainly deals with problems of loneliness, alienation, and rejection. Such problems arise in different countries, in different social contexts, and appear in a variety of forms: for example as pure, condensed solitude surrounded by a state of high social tension (Sonya), as a metaphysical feeling of fear and loneliness in the inspirational reinterpretations of Kafka’s works (No Return, Rattledanddisappeared), as destructive but invisible loneliness hidden behind one’s neighbour’s door, or as desolation lurking from the banalities of family life (Vita Mia, On the Other Side, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof). All those plays reflect desolation and vacuity in the souls of those who try to escape from their native environment (Extinction, Fragile), their unexpected loneliness being caused by repudiation and social hypocrisy (Mr. Ladder’s Sense of Life). And above those hundred faces of solitude, there lurks the merciless mechanism of history, its one branch embodied in the show Circus History, resembling a huge umbrella, guarding  the world of the „small“ (anti)heroes of our shows, the ones forgotten by history and time.

Psychology teaches us that when overwhelmed by loneliness, anxiety, and a loss of faith in life, man tends to view reality as a sequence of alien and unusual events. Most of the shows invited to the Fourteenth International Small-Scene Theatre Festival balance along the thin line between feelings and intent; between reality and fiction. The mental condition of their protagonists has initiated a search for appropriate, atypical scenic language which will convey such „receptive luxation“ as well as possible. Therefore at least one half of the plays that we’ll see are a product of diligent experimentation and research which have led both to the presented mise-en-scene and the final version of the text. We will also see plays that differ in style and poetics, from those inclining towards realistic minimalism, ritual theatre, and exuberant scenic eclecticism, to those of sophisticated multi-medial expression. In most of those plays the techniques applied, as well as experimenting with different models of style and genre, become themselves a metaphor or a comment of the theme discussed and analysed. Yet, it would be wrong to conclude that during the Fourteenth Festival we’ll be sailing only through the dark waters of the human soul. A few plays will demonstrate the power of theatre to portray an apocalyptic world in colourful tones and endow a tragic vision of the world with optimism even if it be one shaded by utopianism. Although such shades of utopianism do not help Sonya, Joseph K., or Mr. Ladder to escape their fate, they might offer the world around them, including us, a speck of deceptive hope.

Hrvoje Ivanković