From splendour to despair, 2015

The International Small Scenes Theatre Festival in Rijeka never insisted on a strictly-defined theme or aesthetic concept, as it has always been primarily concerned with artistic quality and the up-to-dateness of the plays on the repertoire, it was only on occasion that it had the need for a guiding idea. However, it seems that the time has come for a new title for festival, as we live in a world that has, once again, put many of our efforts to the test. Today, our entire existence, spirituality and the purpose of culture, together with the survival of cultural events such as the International Small Scenes Theatre Festival in Rijeka (which has existed for more than twenty years) have all been put into question.

A slogan fitting to this modern reality and our fears and anxieties would be: “The theatre and modern times: from splendour to despair”. Already seven years ago, we knew that the then-nascent crisis was not solely economic in nature, and that it was not merely a transitory phenomenon of limited scope. Today, we know that the very foundations of our notions of civilised life have been disturbed, as an increasing number of people are desperate, hungry and have lost faith in political solutions, while life itself has become a dangerous affair. On the other hand, technological development has become a force of terrific proportions, while the human superstructure has dissolved through worldview clashes and technological pragmatism. In such a climate of dissatisfaction, digital alienation and economic selfishness, the human race is at risk for contracting new global neuroses, which have already started to appear from all ends, while our glorious civilisation today is, paradoxically, torn between splendour and despair. The plays that we have selected aim to describe the current state of the world – or at least to provide some food for thought. We believe that, among these plays, you will certainly be able to find traces of those problems that are preoccupying you: the arrogance of modern people who live for spending and entertainment while forgetting their own responsibilities in Bourgeoisie by the Theatre on the Balustrade (Divadlo na Zabradli) from Prague; crisis, love and despair in Kazimir and Karolina by “Atelje 212” from Belgrade; human irrationality, limited thinking and backwardness in The Broken Jug by Jugoslav Dramma Theatre; or perhaps war, violence and the destructive nature of humankind in Aleksandra Zec by the HKD Theatre in Rijeka. On offer will also be tales about modern demons i.e. A Short Story on the Antichrist by the Bitef theatre from Belgrade; on manipulation and one-upmanship in The Lesson by the national theatre “I. L. Caragiale” from Bucharest; on loneliness and terrorism in The Cellphone by the theatre “Moruzgva” from Zagreb; and on the eros of destruction in the play Hedda Gabler by the Slovenian National Theatre from Maribor.

In addition, each one of these shows will represent an aesthetic exploration of the possibilities of the stage, the responsibility of the audience, the importance of play topics and of the importance of theatre itself.

The crisis of modern times, as described by the curve from splendour to despair, tells us of the following , the faster we progress, the more we stumble backwards, and the more enraptured we become with the toys that we have created, the less interested we are in the fundamentals of our own existence. One of these fundamentals is culture and also, if you will, theatre, which represent the lifeblood of our eternally-inquisitive being. The dramatic dilemma is whether such a human dimension is even needed by anybody any longer. Like many other public institutions, the International Small Scenes Theatre Festival also feels the existential weight of neglecting culture in the name of progress, power and destruction. This festival was founded in 1994, regardless of the war and in spite of it. Twenty-two years later, the International Small Scenes Theatre Festival will again be organised during a dark age of sorts , as an island of purpose within a sea of human indifference. Our hope is that, with these eight plays, we will be able to bring this island to life with the repleteness of our excitement and joy, if only for a moment.
Bojan Munjin