He who says – YES!, 2009

While selecting the plays for this year’s 16th International Small Scene Theatre Festival, Nenad Šegvićand I did not burden ourselves with any conceptions; originality and quality were our only key idea. But when we sorted out the plays that will this year be shown in Rijeka, it turned out that they all had a common thread which is, in fact, a prolongation of the last year’s selection of Hrvoje Ivanković, namely, these productions do not accept the concept of theatre as an escape from reality. Furthermore, the relationship between the festival performances and the reality is this year even more exacerbated. We are mostly talking about the engaged theatre which is in open conflict with the society or criticises it vehemently, striving to change the world in the spirit of Brecht.

Although they were not made at the moment when crisis became the key word of the contemporary momentum, through their engagement they speak about the causes of the crisis in the world of mad capitalism where profit is the only criteria of success, a world bereaved of any moral or values, apart those which are the result of a frenzied chase after the profit itself.

Superficiality, turning everything into showbiz, lack of criticism, hypocrisy, manipulation of the collective consciousness, imposed fake morals… these are all the basic determinants on which the contemporary consumer society lays.

However, there is a choice. If we decide to interpret Brecht’s He who says yes, he who says no as a metaphorical right of choice: although most of us say “yes” to all that is happening to us and to all that is being offered to us, and although we continue to race through ever bigger malls with ever bigger shopping carts, where people become ever smaller, there is always an alternative, to say NO.

Tartuffe, the father of hypocrisy, takes on a special meaning under new circumstances, Bakhe becomes a showdown with modern politics lies and the fact that we sweep under the carpet all the ugly things happening to us, Turbofolk expresses resentment toward silence about trash music that has conquered us, and German production of Brecht spits into the face of the media’s picture of a perfect world of consumer happiness. Sexual neuroses of our parents, as well as the Zeal, critically speak out about the society of manipulation and fake morals, Hamlet is the topos of the political theatre, even when it takes place, as it does in Koršunovas’ play, in a dressing-room and when it asks who or what a man is , and answers: an individual in a society which offers so many distorted mirrors. Pinter’s Young Girl, like Bakhe, but through humour, throws into the face of the nation and the society a different historical truth, one that the historical winners tendentiously kept quiet about; even the deeply intimate dramas like Taibele and Her Demon and The Blackbird are imbibed with the demons of well-hidden sexuality, today used for marketing purposes only. Female breasts sell everything these days, from yoghurt to cars, whereas the hypocritical society remains tongue-tied about women’s demons and the suppression of sexuality. On the one hand, this year festival’s performances will strike the fake picture of reality manipulated and orchestrated by the media, subversively denouncing it to make us ask ourselves what kind of lives we lead. On the other hand, which is, let’s conveniently call it, an aesthetic hand, these productions, woven around the most important representatives of a generation of European directors, too old to be called young, but still too strong to be caught into the mainstream of the middle – Koršunovas, Castorf and Pinter – show that the criticism of the society does not have to be bereft of artistic power. This theatre, regardless of its political and societal engagement, did not kneel in front of the call of simplistic propaganda so imminent to the contemporary society, but preserved a strong and uncompromised artistic expression.

Apart from Oliver Frljić, the Festival will be dominated by directors belonging to the middle generation that has experienced the consequences of two exciting decades when big leaders from the communist times led us over transition into capitalism, taking us, as it is crystal clear today , nowhere.

Through these ten performances International Small Scene Festival has no intention to answer where we go next. Although, after all, we might have a clearer idea where we are right now.

Jasen Boko