Hidden sides of the dramas that occur within “the four walls”, 2003

Selecting the programme for the Tenth International Small Scene Theatre Festival held in Rijeka is by all means an exceptionally honourable and pleasant task, yet none the less difficult and demanding. The road this festival traversed during the first decade of its life, under the artistic direction of Nenad Šegvić and thanks to the selective criteria of the late Dalibor Foretić and his successor Jasen Boko, is in many ways a highly committing one. At the same time, my presence at and with the Festival all these ten years, in one way or another, was a privilege that brought me not only moments of joy but a feeling of belonging to a phenomenon in Croatian theatre that has during the past decade strenuously fought for its reputation and recognition. It is a concomitance to a theatre community that gets together every year not only for the sake of attending performances, but also to discuss them after the curtain goes down, which is an act through which the audience of Rijeka has proven to be not only a loyal but also a demanding and active participant of the Festival.

From its modest yet ambitious beginnings, the programme has very quickly justified its international orientation, somewhat departing from its original idea of strictly adhering to the concept of presenting exclusively “small scene” shows. At the same time, the Festival has brought up, analysed, and discussed a large number of essential themes and questions pertinent to contemporary theatre, scrutinising and comparing theatrical achievements in Croatia as well as those of Croatian theatre with the rest of the world, be it in regard to contemporary drama, to the theatre axiom, to theatre classics, to heritage, social themes and challenges, or to opening towards others and towards those who are different. The Festival has, all the more, emphasised the necessity of representing contemporary Croatian drama in the context it has occupied for centuries, a context that not only binds but also defines Croatian culture in the broadest sense. The boundaries of that culture run along the Mediterranean and extend over Middle and Southeastern Europe, thus embracing Croatian culture and its theatre, both of which have for centuries participated in a broad “exchange of dreams”.

Those geographical, cultural, and theatrical co-ordinates that had been converging in Rijeka long before the founding of our festival, continued to meet and touch on this manifestation, having thus, after ten years of its existence, defined the scope of an imaginary and cultural map. In the process, a number of themes marking the Festival’s first decade have arisen

For example, Schilling’s contemporary view of Buchner’s “Woyczek”, as well as Prohić’s interpretation of Wedekind’s “Spring Awakening”, are shows that the renowned artists from Lublin define as “Scenes from the Life of Middle Europe” in their interpretation of Musil’s novel “The Confusions of Young Törless”. Those are introspections into the centre of the world that has generated people such as Freud, creating an insatiable need for the illumination of man’s frustrations viewed through a curtain of cold mist and defined by a decent whispering out of terrifying truths. It is a world of the European middle-class, the birthplace of the Philistine ideology, which rather strangles and poisons, even if be it its own self, than protests and challenges, and when it does gather the strength to raise its voice, it most often provokes world wars and bloodshed. Such is its intolerance towards everything that does not fit into the nearby city café where decent people drink their hot chocolate in decent hours, and in chosen words decently and softly discuss morality and religion, half an hour after they have, in their offices, callously brought their partners or associates to bankruptcy and immediately before going home to violate their children. On the other hand, from the sunny shores of the Mediterranean, Dante Alighieri and Marin Držić call to each other here in Rijeka, on Držić’s side of the coast, aware of their reflections in the theatre mirrors of Florence and Blegrade, echoing voices of ancient times, a distant glamour, questioning a past reluctant in abandoning these lands. From Ljubljana there comes a frightening echo of the contemporary world, a story about terrorism and violence happening on “distant shores” that suddenly seem so near. Already for a long time Freud has proven to be unnecessary here; the human psyche has become distorted and deformed to such an extent that psychology can no longer understand it. “The Queens” and “Ay Carmela”, a recent post-war view of the long-past Spanish Civil War, testify to the consequences of such disorders of human nature. “Gloria” and “Christmas at the Ivanovs” confirm that manipulation of individuals and their freedom, coercion and violence are always similar, no matter when and where they occur, regardless of the ideology momentarily in power, showing that the price of freedom is just as high as are dreams of achieving it. “Collected Stories” and “Carried by the River” take us into a world of intimate human relationships burdened with simple yet dramatic events that basically lie in the foundations of life. From such small everyday human misunderstandings, there arise huge communication rifts that the above mentioned plays talk about. They demonstrate the hidden sides of the dramas that occur within “the four walls” where seemingly unimportant events take place, yet events almost always mirroring a whole universe of global dramatic happenings. Thus, it seems, all these shows communicate both among themselves and with us. Yet, bringing us together at the Festival, they have no dangerous intention of offering definite and indisputable answers. Their only task is to ask the real questions.

Darko Lukić