Social context as a political stand, 2013

The twentieth anniversary of the Festival is a praiseworthy jubilee and an occasion to remember the beginnings. To start a festival is never an easy task, but if the festival endures and lasts for years – as it happened with the Small Scenes Festival in Rijeka – it becomes an important event that you cannot afford to miss. In 1994. not such a long time ago, although the war-torn country had other priorities, Nenad Segvic, stubborn and determined as he has always been, with the artistic help from the first selector of the Festival, Dalibor Foretid, started the Croatian Small Scenes Festival that would six years after become a relevant international festival bringing performances from the region and the whole Europe.
During those twenty years, the Festival presented attractive productions, innovative theatre, renowned directors and various poetics, which enriched, changed, inspired and provoked the theatrical reality in Rijeka. And not only Rijeka…

Therefore, for this anniversary-edition, we didn’t try to find a common denominator for the selected performances; our selection was guided by our wish to offer all theatregoers the best there is in theatre. In spite of different genres and different directors’ poetics, there is however a common topic in this year’s Festival’s selection: political theatre. In other words, we will see performances that are firmly connected with time and social context, and therefore related to the political stand of the playwright or the director. We could say that it’s only logical, because good theatre cannot remain insensitive to turbulent times.

You will see performances based on texts that are not overtly political, but bear strong link with their time due to the director’s poetics. [Miranda, directed by 0. Korsunovas, Unterstadt, directed by Z. Sviben or Othello, directed by M. Lolic). We approached this year’s Festival edition having in mind the words of P. Pavis who said that the very term politics makes theatre political by situating the protagonists within the context of place and time in which it is created.

The performance UNTERSTADT, after the novel by Ivana Sojat Kuci, produced by the Croatian National Theatre Osijek, is an example of a strong director’s intervention: in this family saga about Germans from Slavonia the plot is linked with the theatre tradition, political reality and cultural milieu of Osijek of that time.

The performance FINE DEAD GIRLS, produced by Drama Theatre Gavella from Zagreb, was created after a film script of the same name by Matisic and Matanic. Even before the opening night, the poster for the performance became an excellent and loud publicity for the play. It was censored, while the censurers didn’t even see the performance before getting hold of their scissors. The play, which deals with conservative surroundings, the rejection of the other and the otherness, is an example of how politics/church enters theatre by the back door and turns it into political theatre.

The performance A BARREN WOMAN by the author and director Magdalena Lupi Alvir, coproduced by KUD Borza from Maribor and Trafik from Rijeka, deals with a similar problem of politics and its conservative laws. At the Festival, we will see the third part of this performance/documentary triptych that was created as a direct reaction to the disputable – now former – law on medically assisted reproduction in Croatia. The play deals with the larger social and political context that interferes with the individual destinies of people who want to become parents.

The performance CHRISTMAS AT IVANOVS is an emblematic work by the avant-garde writer A. Vvedensky, directed by O. Frljić and produced by the Ljubljana National Dramma Theatre. The director’s poetics in the performance is focused on the absurdity of the system and revolutions that eat their children. The times we live in are unfortunately the times of economic crisis with plunging production and soaring unemployment, when the differences between rich and poor become frightening. Brecht and his critique of capitalism became of topical interest as shown by the performance BRECHT CABARET – the Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, directed by L. Udovički and produced by Theatre Ulysses.

The performance THE FRUIT OF HER WOMB, coproduced by the HKD Theatre -the host of the Festival – and the Croatian National Theatre Ivan Zajc, is based on the dramatization of the novel of the same name by Vedrana Rudan, a writer from Rijeka, directed by T. Mandić Rigonat. The performance focuses on the problematic relationship between mother and daughter, family violence and traumatic life frustrations which cannot be healed by angels. The deconstruction of the sacred mother myth is put into the social context of a petit-bourgeois milieu where violence is cloaked in silence.

The performance YELLOW LINE by the playwrights Zeh and Roos, is directed by I. Buljan and coproduced by ZeKaeM Theatre and the state Theatre Braunschweig. A true story, when a cow fell from a plane onto the head of an Arab fisherman who accidentally sailed into European seawaters, was the initial motif for the authors of the play for a symbolic presentation of the globalized society and its illnesses. Yellow line – literally and metaphorically meaning restriction or ban – criticizes the hypocrisy of the capitalist society.

Theatre Atelje 212 from Belgrade will present itself with the performance FIFTY BLOWS by the playwright Tamara Baračkov, directed by Ana Grigorović. It’s a play about hypocrisy of the church that uses its influence to brutally abuse its followers in a petty-bourgeois and backward environment. The performance examines the relationship between the church and young people, and tries to offer some theatrical answers.

For many, Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a fairytale that can be interpreted in a number of genres. The director Korsunovas, well known to the audience in Rijeka, uses Jan Kott’s thesis which says that The Tempest is a social drama about endless and absurd fight for power. People have always been deported to deserted islands if they were not ideologically and politically correct in the eyes of the authorities. Korsunovas’ MIRANDA is interpreted in that code after The Tempest by W. Shakespeare. The only characters in the play are Miranda and Prospero, while Miranda is – in the Korsunovas’ reading – Prospero’s soul.

The performance THE LIFE OF MOLIERE by M. Bulgakov, directed by A. Popovski and produced by the Macedonian National Theatre from Skoplje, deals with the life of the artist during Louis XIV, which was the destiny of the great playwright Molière and, in the same time, a metaphor for Bulgakov’s life during Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union.

The performance OTHELLO, produced by Jugoslav dramma theatre from Belgrade and directed by M. Lolic (his performance Big White Conspiracy was a part of the Festival’s programming ten years ago). Lolic is today an established director with international career. His Othello is interpreted as a drama full of passion and betrayal, while topics that he focuses on are the problems of otherness, trust betrayed, doubt, jealousy and manipulation – so actual nowadays.

All of the performances of this year’s Festival are set in a strong social context which can be seen as a result of the influence of politics on life and the world we live in today. I hope that the audience in Rijeka will not be disappointed and that the Small Scenes Festival will continue to live as a must-see event in the city.
Željka Turiinović