We participated in the Festival of the Biennale du Theatre Jeunes Publicduring June 8 – 15, 2001. During this period we viewed 18 performances, handed over publicity material of the Theatre Institute to the Art Director of the Festival, Mr. Michel Dieuaide, established contacts with the representatives of companies which had the most interesting productions, as well as with organisers of the Festival and other delegates.
LA CLE DU CHAPITEAU – Quelli di Grock, Milano, Italy
One of the top performance of the Festival, not only in our opinion . The topic of the circus as a world within a world was conceived by the authors as a look behind the scenes as well as into the soul of a circus artist. The production which was, at the same time, meant to honour all “invisibles” in the background, consciously resembles Fellini’s poetry. The technical precision of the dance and circus numbers is combined with excellent acting performances.The comedy-lyrical style of the whole addressed the audience of all ages. We have photos of the performance as well as contacts with the company.
FILI – Circus Ronaldo, Gand, Belgium
A circus in theatrical form, drawing from the poetry of the comedia del’arte and old fairground performances. It contains, among others, outstanding clown actions, marionette theatre, parodies of opera, pyrotechnical effects and unexpected humourous turns. A rewarding, for the audience, well staged, comedy style production taking place in a specially construed circus tent. The language barrier is of no importance, the staging presents here a very rewarding family entertainment giving a great emotive experience, particularly to the children.
(The atmosphere remotely recalls the “Bouda” (the shack) by the Forman brothers.- however it is more spirited)
MOI, FIFI, PERDU DANS LA FORET – Theatre du Tilleul, Linkebeek, Belgium
A marked didactic performance for the smallest children, the topic of which is “how I got lost in the forest and whom I met there”. The staging uses effective means (play of shadows, slides) but the educational story rather resembles television shows for schools.
BING & BANG – Theatre du Verseau, Oullins, France
Buffoonery along the lines of comedians Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton used a sort of forced pseudo-bean like humour which did not engross the adult or children audience.
RAVEL – Theatre Sans Fil, Montreal, Canada
A well-staged black theatre, basically only illustrating Ravel’s compositions Bolero and the Child and Magic Tricks. Externally effective, but particularly in the second part somewhat outdated. Moreover, the spectator’s illusion is damaged by purely technical shortcomings in the manipulating of puppets and a lack of sensitiveness (black figures pass in front of the led object or even carelessly carry off puppets whose action is completed as if it were a television shooting). We have seen quite a similar production twenty years aago, at Skupa’s Pilsen.
LETTRE A UN HERISSON – Theatre de Jeunes Annees/CDN, Lyon, France
A static performance (rather a theatre of poetry) was based on the interpretation of texts by a cult author, and the language barrier thus functioned greatly. We can only note, that the local children audience seemed rather politely bored than interested.
FLY BUTTERFLY – Teatre del Buratto, Milano, Italy
A marionette production using the principles of black theatre. Externally effective, however, unfortunately incomprehensible and uncommunicative. It was the only performance where even the model and quiet French children stopped watching the show, whispered and looked at their watches.
LE SILENCE DES SABLES – Coeur d’Artichaut Theatre, Villeurganne, France
A somewhat static staging about the relationship of two people in an isolated oasis, based on the dialogue of two protagonists. Extremely restrained setting. We did not succeed in unveiling whether it symbolizes a sort of movement of something living, a story of an uninvolved musician around a circular stage.
EN ATTENDANT LE PETIT POUCET – Compaganie Pour Ainsi Dire, Charenton, France
A delicate playful performance resembling the direction style of Pavel Polak in his “Materinky”. Two actors meet accidentally in one place without knowing about each other, finding traces, meeting each other, getting acquainted, playing together, being spiteful, drawing close together. All this on a bare, darkened stage with a minimum of props (stones, a wooden horse on wheels) While in the case of Polak, this rapprochement serves as a starting point for the development of the performance, here the staging ends. The stereotype series of endlessly repeated etudes did not hold the attention of the child’s (or adult’) attention.
L’ARCHE DE NOE – Le Petit Theatre, Pontault-Combault, France
An exquisitely staged production taking place inside the realistically furnished Noah’s Arc. After a promising beginning, where the performers lead the spectators inside and check off the various animals on the list, nothing interesting happens from the theatrical point of view. Despite the fact that the strongly made-up and masked actors move among the crowded spectators, they play a realistic spy-glass theatre (including the scraping of potatoes) which consists of long-winded dialoques (the fights of Mr. and Mrs. Noah). The beautiful design of the arc remains practically without use. The discrepancy between the scenographic element and the unimaginative concept of the text is extreme. A discussion with the protagonists indicated that they are determined to enter it in the Festival of European Regions at Hradec Kralove.
LA CHASSE AU SNARK – Theatre de Petites Fugues, Taverny France
A playful, imaginataive, clever and witty staging based on the motives of tales and non-sensical poems by Lewis Carrol which end by the “Birth of Little Alena”. The “collapsible” sets are not too rich but functional, the jazz music is highly functional, the acting and singing are excellent, the pleasure from the play overflows the ramp.
Paradoxically, the ensemble has problems with the acceptance of this production in France because, according to the director, the French are “too cartesian” they do not understand the symbol and play of “make believe”. They brought the text for an expert opinion.
LES MALHEURS DE SOPHIE – Compagnie Jose Manuel Cano Lopez, La Riche, France
A traditional work of French literature about the adventures of the cheeky little girl, was fashioned as a rococo picture come to life. The principle of figurines coming out of the picture and returning into the frame soon grew tedious. Even the intrusive comedy and grotesque acting was a stereotype. I believe that Czech children (contrary to the politely bored little Frenchmen) would break up this perforance after fifteen minutes.
BENTENKIK – Speelteater Gent, Gand, Belgium
A highly emotive staging with a socio-critical topic. The investigation of the death of one of the characters of the story leads to a mosaic of the break up of a family and mainly the lonesomness, defenselessness of deprived children. Although the cliche accompanying this topic appeared here too, the courage to present such a difficult text for the given age group (over 14) is praiseworthy. The acting ranks this performance among the unforgettable ones.
PIERROT OU LES SECRETS DE LA NUIT – Theater im Marienbad, Freiburg, Germany
The poetic text on the motives of Michel Tournier was worked out with precision and resourcefulness of the puppetry. The layered action, clever stage sets, acting performances, precision manipulation with puppets, staging resourcefulness were, in our opinion, greatly supported by the high-quality screenplay. Due to time pressures, we were not able to meet the creators in person, but we got into touch witht he literary agency where the text in German is available. In our opinion it would be a great asset to the somewhat stereotype repertory of some Czech puppet theatres.
Within the framework of the EUROPEAN SCHOOLYARD STORIES PROJECT we succeded to view another four performance outside of the scheduled programme.
Three of these (from the Theatre des Jeunes Annees from Lyon, Carrousel Theater, Berlin and Theater an der Sihl from Zurich) were minor studies or micro-stories dealing with the topic of first love, school chicanery, alienation, etc. These minute shapes as presented by young actors engrossed us primarily by its authenticity and humour. The Tomsky Dramatichesky Teatr brought a most valuable staging which was the highlight of the official as well as the additional programmes. The play Kuba – ljubov moja by Michail Bartenjev deals with the subject of guilt and absolution as well as growing up and maturity. To be an adult also means to acknowledge one’s guilt and take the consequences. Without that man remains mentally in childhood, i.e. in childishness. And guilt does not only mean to do something evil, it also means to do nothing. And it is these childish heroes who, after thtirty years, are being confronted with their guilt, i.e. directly with the victims of their inactivity. A very difficult, somewhat mystical text was presented with humour (also black) and an unbelievable lightness and delicacy of the acting. The small arena representing a schoolyard enabled the actors to play with the audience “eye to eye”, and employ fine mimicry and little gestures without giving up exaggerations and grotesqueness.
The experience from this performance is truly one of the most profound ones. The screenplay is at our disposal on diskette in Russian. Although the topic is most relevant, the play is unfortunately too concretely restricted to its location for it to be translated and introduced here. Any adaptation to “Czech conditions” could damage its structure and its purport.
This much about the performances. It should be mentioned that although this evaluation of the stagings is subjective we also spoke about our impressions with the other delegates and in most cases we agreed.
We viewed 18 performances. For the Theatre Institute we established connections with all ensembles that performed at the festival, we have photographs of the best stagings and promotion material. We established informal contacts with the representatives of the troupes and with the organisers of the festival. We have been approached by the delegates of Finland, who were preparing to leave for the International Theatre Festival of European Regions to Hradec Kralove and they asked us for our ideas on children performances suitable for presentation at the festival in Oulu. We complied with their wishes and also recommended a visit to the Materinky in Liberec taking place at this time. In turn we brought back one text suitable for puppets and two interesting theatre texts for children and young people.
We are preparing a more comprehensive contribution about the Biennale du Theatre Jeunnes Public for the internet pages of ASSSITEJ.
Prepared by Marketa Hoskovcova and Ludek Horky