On dysfunctional families, explicitly and metaphorically

When it comes to the selection of the performances, The high standards set from the very beginnings of this festival the festival’s format of chamber performances, performances belonging to an innovative, explorative and problem theatre – these were my guiding criteria. Eight performances selected for this year’s programme imposed the overall theme of the Festival, which is the dysfunctional family under the pressure of societal, political and social imperatives. The Festival opens with the much-appraised performance by the theatre Atelje 212 from Belgrade When Father Was Away on Business adapted for stage after the film scenario by Abdu-lah Sidran. When Father Was Away on Business problematizes the totalitarianism of the socialist ideology during Stalin’s time in Yugoslavia, which broke and destroyed ordinary and innocent people. Through destiny of one family, the ingenious Oliver Frljić depicts moral and political decay of a society that transforms itself

into a totalitarian state where it is dangerous to have a different opinion. The performance exposes an ideology in service of a political system that destroyed families with consequences that can be felt even today.

Frljić presents himself in another minimalist and documentaristic performance, I Hate the Truth!, produced by Teatar ITD from Zagreb. Instead of a family from a book by Ibsen or Strindberg, the director and author Frljić puts on stage his own family, living in Travnik, in the former state, during socialist times. His parents’mixed marriage is just a model of many other families that, surrounded by the “puritanical” ideology of the times, were not allowed to be different. While we know that in the real world we cannot all belong to the same nationality and religion, the ideology doesn’t– that is why Frljić’s family falls apart. Its traumas anticipate tragic events of many families in this area at the beginning of the nineties.

The performance Elijah’s Chair, produced by Jugoslovensko dramsko pozorište and directed by the brilliant Boris Liješević, is based on the dramatization of the novel with the same title by Igor Stiks. It is about a journalist from Vienna in search of his father who was supposedly killed as a German soldier during WWII. The real truth and the source of all trouble for his family is the fact that his father was of Jewish origin-and the fascist ideology cannot tolerate national and religious differences. Again, the victim is the family. On a symbolic level, as the director Liješević says,, the search for father in this play is the search for the identity of all of us who during and after different wars found ourselves on a barren land devoid of sense, values and beauty”.

The Zagrebačko kazalište mladih production brings on stage the most recent text by the young and talented drama writer Ivor Martinić – My Son Just Walks a bit Slower, in a unpretentious and discrete mis-en-scene by Janusz Kica. The plot evolves around a handicapped son and three generations of his petty-bourgeois family who all live under the same roof. The performance is a critique of the society that loves to claim openness and social tolerance, while in reality it is a petty-bourgeois society with conservative stands that does not acknowledge the right to be different.

As part of the international selection we will for the first time present the enfant terrible of the Polish theatre, one of the most talented Polish directors, Jan Klata (1973), who can due to his boldness and uncompromising confrontation with taboos be compared to our Oliver Frljić. The fact that an entire festival in Poland was dedicated to his best performances speaks enough about him being appreciated and interesting (2011). His teachers were Jerzy Jarocki and Krystian Lupa, and to Rijeka we bring his play A Piece about the Mother and the Homeland, produced by Poljski teatar from Wroclaw. The play is based on the dramatization of a text by the well-known and awarded Polish writer Božena Keff who problematizes the time of holocaust in Poland. It’s a play about victims and the survival of a few lucky ones. Again, the focus is on a traumatised family who searches for its identity in a patriarchal society forcing it to be a passive witness. Stylistically, it’s a tragedy with elements of opera and oratorio, a morality play about the victim of its kind.

Scenes with an Apple by the author and director Ivana Sajko is the second part of the Trilogy about Disobedience (the first one being Rose is a Rose, is a Rose), an unconventional and post-dramatic project. The play deals with the motif of paradise lost (could it be the origin of the dysfunctional family?). While deconstructing the myth about the apple, the garden becomes a place where freedom, home and homeland are protected, and the warmongers’ politics of setting the world right rejected. Guest of the Festival for the second time, Oskaras Korsunovas (Hamlet, 2009), the great wizard of the Lithuanian theatre, will again perform in Rijeka with another world classic, which he deconstructs in his specific way and with a strong author’s signature. (…)