Return to the theatre of intimacy, 2022

In its comeback season, the International Small Scene Theatre Festival is going back to its roots: the intimate, chamber drama that does not aspire to solve major problems and global issues, but digs deep, right to the core of the most fundamental of social forms – the family. Regardless of how much talk there is of returning to basic family values, this year’s Festival deals mainly with dysfunctional families; the people who should be close, but whose world is plagued by demons of adultery, deception, absent fathers, and the search for meaning … Taking the lead from Tolstoy’s: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way“, this year’s Festival presents a wide selection of unhappy families.

However, all these notions of deeply intimate, family dramas, of people suffering and perishing in the jaws of families in various ways, bear one common denominator – the art of acting. Because it is only when the rich, ornamental elements are removed, once the stage is stripped bare, that the theatre is reduced to its raison d’être – the actor / the actress and their art. This year’s festival edition is dedicated to the actor who created this Festival – Nenad Šegvić, the founder of ISSTF – so it only makes sense that this artistic choice is based on the art of acting.

The selected performances vary in their approaches of to the problem of family intimacy, this mysterious world hidden from prying eyes. Krleža’s Agony reveals the dark side of what was once marital bliss; Olja Lozica’s Breathing questions the relationship between two sisters in the context where chronological sequence is a entirely abstract concept; My Husband by the great Macedonian writer Bužarovska will shed some light on the intimacy of a lovers’ relationship, although in the absence of the male partner, whereas Schmitt’s Enigma Variations, a meticulous directorial study by Neva Rošić, omits the immediate presence of the female side.

Cock, a piece by another great playwright, Mike Bartlett, entwines three sides of a love affair in a complex, emotional sexual dilemma; Kelly’s Family, an acting and directorial bravura of one of the most talented local directors of the younger generation Ivan Plazibat tackles the issue of domestic violence and The Hotel Tito the question of a woman’s position in families without fathers.

64 by Tena Štivičić deals with the drama that a growing number of contemporary families face: the problem of conception, which becomes a dramatic device of questioning the quality of emotional relationships; and at the end of the festival – Do You Remember Dolly Bell, a theatrical adaptation of one of Yugoslavian favourite films, the play about coming of age in a time that, looking back, we tend to view as romantic.

One thing is certain: this year’s festival, with its selection and strong artistic presence, continues with the dramatic questioning of its surroundings and brings some new actors and directors to the Festival.

I am strongly convinced that we will once again present our loyal audience with an exciting and provocative week of theatre.

Jasen Boko