Romanian voices in Avignon 2009
When I arrived in Avignon I only knew about one Romanian production, which was programmed daily in one of the most well-known theatres of the city of Papes. It was Naitre a jamais" written by Visky Andras and directed by Tompa Gabor, a production of Hungarian theatre in Cluj, programmed in Theatres des Halles. The production has battled many fights to get here, as the too much invoked crises has affected a lot the cultural field in Romania. I was informed about the story of Tompa Gabor, director and manager of this company who was trying for months to find the necesary money, so easy to obtain until this year for such an important project, meant to promote the country's image via culture, but so hard to gather now, when the state budget for cultural events was drastically cut down and the Promocult project especially designed for promoting Romanian cultural values abroad has disappeared without a trace (and without any explanation from the minister of culture in charge). His story is the story of any cultural manager who tries to build something coherent in the cultural field in Romania, a neverending story of battle after battle which seems to have no happy end. I must say I have nothing but admiration for Tompa Gabor who has somehow managed to win so many of these battles, working in the middle of this complicated and absurd state system. (maybe it's not without meaning the fact he loves, as director, the theatre of absurd:)
As I said, when I arrived in Avignon I discovered there where much more Romanian presences that I knew about and they came in different shapes: a couple of plays of Matei Visniec were staged by French independent companies (I saw the posters for The comunism history told for mental patients and The Panda bear story told by a saxofon player who had a girlfriend in Frankfurt - God, these titles are so difficult to translat in English!), the Youth Theatre in Targoviste was playing a production directed by Radu Dinulescu and in the lobby of a fancy hotel called Mirande - in a luxurious set-design remembering the old Indies - a photo exhibition was displayed whose autour was Romanian photographer Mihaela Marin. It is here, in Mirande hotel that I found out there was another Romanian production played in Avignon, signed by Dragos Galgotiu - Medea Material by Heiner Muller, of which nothing was heard, to my knowledge, on the Romanian stage.
Of course, besides this, I was glad to meet again George Banu, the influential theater critic of Romanian origins who was as usual involved in the festival as moderator of theoretical debates, as well as the perfect guide for anybody who wants to know what is a must of the festival. I also met the actress and poet Ioana Craciunescu and director Alexandra Badea - and they all made the festival seem much more like home, though I still think that Romanians should do more efforts to be present here and to find inspiration in this complex event.
Coming back to the Tompa Gabor's production, this was the only Romanian one that I could actually see, as it was programmed long before. It's really difficult to make changes once you have booked tickets for the shows in In, as it's not easy to see the productions signed by the most famous directors - like, this year, Warlikowski, Jan Fabre, Jan Lauwers - so if you have them you don't want to change them.
At Theatres des Halles which is placed right in the middle of the Papes' town, near the town market, the Hungarian theatre production, Naitre a jamais, was placed at the end of each night, being programmed at 21.00. It is a good hour for Avignon, as when the evening comes the hot air disappears and you can breathe easily. The spectators find new energies, as the pasionated theatrical turists here are amazing for their resistance, not broked by the hot weather, the bad production (there are a lot of them, inevitably) or by the cues they have to support before entering any show.
In the case of this production the specialised spectators in Avignon were not to be dissapointed in any way, as the parable like-text of Visky Andras, the stage direction full of great images designed by Tompa Gabor and the extreme dedication of all the actors in this team - the best acting team in Romania as this moment - where meant to create a memorable night. As I was under the powerfull impression of Ariane Mnouchkine's Les Ephemeres" that I have seen a couple of days before in New York, I found in Naitre a jamais a similar reflection about the history's lessons, with the amendament that in Mnouchkine's production ordinary people affected by history events were seen as ephemeres", while seen from the Visky/Tompa view they were merely anonimous larves". Mnouchkine sees these destinies warmly while in Naitre a jamais only the dark side of their lives is shown, here being inforced the souffrance and the lack of hope, except for the religion, even if this is also questioned.
Speaking of ephemeres, the entire town of Avignon is placed these days under the sign of ephemeral which is, after all, the essence of theater. Not only every building is full of theater here, but even every wall, as hundreds of posters are hanging all over. The brightness of these summer days when people from every part of the world find themselves shoulder to shoulder to watch a piece of theatre, indoor or outdoor, has the power to enlight your life, as sometimes does a good theater production.
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