Ludmila Patlanjoglu[1]

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MITEM—Madách International Theatre Meeting in Budapest, Hungary, March 26th—April 6th 2014.

MITEM—Madách International Theatre Meeting, the festival launched by the National Theatre of Budapest, met with the approval of both specialists and audiences. The superb architectural environment of the institution was a welcoming home for famous national companies and productions from Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, Georgia, Latvia, Iraq, Turkey, Norway, Sweden, France and Romania.

"Masquarade," by Mihail Lermontov, directed by Rimas Tuminas, Vilnius Small Theatre, Lithuania.
“Masquarade,” by Mihail Lermontov, directed by Rimas Tuminas, Vilnius Small Theatre, Lithuania.

In the inspired selection of the critic Nina Király, the classics in modern clothes were the stars. Shakespeare, Molière, Chekhov, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Lermontov, Caragiale, Claudel, Lewis Carroll, Daniil Harms—all proved their current validity in a variety of challenging productions. Zero Liturgy(director Valery Fokin), Masquarade (director Rimas Tuminas), Two Lottery (director Alexandru Dabija),Alice—Running around in two acts (director Andrey Moguchy), Don Juan (director Alexandre Morfov), The Seagull (director Tomi Janežič), GogolRevizor (director Viktor Rizsakov): these were the peak moments of the festival. The National Theatre in Budapest presented itself as a strong theatre citadel through three productions, overwhelming with their plastic hypnosis and drama.

"As You Like It," by William Shakespeare, directed by Silviu Purcărete, National Theatre Budapest, Hungary.
“As You Like It,” by William Shakespeare, directed by Silviu Purcărete, National Theatre Budapest, Hungary.

The production of As You Like It, imagined as a Theatrum Mundi, created by a golden Romanian quartet (Silviu Purcărete director, Helmut Stürmer set-designer, Dragoş Buhagiar costumes, Vasile Șirli composer), implemented an entirely male cast, with only one exception, the philosophical character of the melancholy Jacques, played by an actress. The theatre and festival director, Attila Vidnyánszky, a manager with vision, also proved to be a great stage director, with two monumental, luxuriant productions, pervaded by sacred emotion: Fabulous Men With Wings and Joan of Arc at the Stake.

"Joan of Arc on the Stake," by Paul Claudel and Arthur Honegger, directed by Attila Vidnyánszky, National Theatre Budapest, Hungary.
“Joan of Arc on the Stake,” by Paul Claudel and Arthur Honegger, directed by Attila Vidnyánszky, National Theatre Budapest, Hungary.

In reading the classics, the phenomenon of freedom dominates. The creators bring to the stage the show of the world today, with their inventive and poetic use of props that animate the theatre, from the syncretism of the arts, the video equipment and sophisticated technologies, live orchestras on the stage to violent, everyday language. A postmodern, sometimes even delirious mix is currently in vogue. In these apotheoses of theatricality, actors do not feel suffocated, but adhere to this kind of extreme experiences. The histrion—seen as a physical instrument, as well as a spiritual exponent of the production—is fascinating. A theatre without frontiers is promoted, which paradoxically, however, advocates for identity, for personal mythology, for roots. Productions are mere reflections of our dreams, of our everyday wishes and nightmares. The degradation of the family, the destruction of traditions, the contempt for men through the marketing of human beings are under scrutiny: a Godless universe in which ´´hope is cancer.´´ Beyond the cruelty, obscenities and filth, positive tensions are felt. The slips into despair and despondency melt away. In this sense, the production which closed the festival, Joan of Arc at the Stake, by Paul Claudel and Arthur Honegger, was a sublime drawing of the curtain, advocating for the mysterious power of theatre and of the world.

"Zero Liturgy," adapted from Feodor Dostoyevsky's "The Gambler," directed by Valery Fokin, Alexandrinsky Theatre St. Petersburg, Russia.
“Zero Liturgy,” adapted from Feodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Gambler,” directed by Valery Fokin, Alexandrinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia.

The new dramaturgy was also present through productions and debates. Matei Vișniec, Jon Fosse and Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold were featured on the poster. Related events—workshops, conferences, movie screenings, colloquia—beneficially completed the festival atmosphere. Once again we met the universe of modern stage directing masters, Giorgio Strehler and Luca Ronconi, we were invited to meditate on the confrontation between memory and oblivion, identity-sacredness-theatricality in contemporary theatre. Seductive were also the confessions of two patriarchs, the Russian director Anatoly Vassiliev and the Hungarian actress Mari Töröcsik, about life and theatre after more than half a century on stage. We understood how friendship and artistic affinity inspire and stimulate creativity.

"Two Lottery" after Ion Luca Caragiale, directed by Alexandru Dabija, National Theatre Bucharest, Romania.
“Two Lottery” after Ion Luca Caragiale, directed by Alexandru Dabija, National Theatre Bucharest, Romania.

I realized the importance of this elite event also in my capacity as a critic from Romania. The National Theatre of Bucharest production of Two Lottery after Ion Luca Caragiale, the tutelary spirit of Romanian theatre, reaped tumultuous applause and received laudatory reviews from Hungarian and foreign theatre critics, guests of the festival. In this international context, the modern reading of director Alexandru Dabija took on a special meaning. We all recognized ourselves in the violent and visceral study of expressionist inspiration, in the absurd story of the ´´good luck and bad luck´´ of Caragiale’s heroes.

Attila Vidnyánszky, the manager of the festival, congratulating Alexandru Dabija, Romanian director.
Attila Vidnyánszky, the manager of the festival, congratulating Alexandru Dabija, Romanian director.

In a globalized and divided world, in a world in crisis, MITEM marked the importance of National Theatres as spaces of the recovery of tradition, in innovative forms, in forms of unity and in the affirmation of the cultural identity of communities. The festival began sumptuously, honored its spiritual patron, the great Hungarian classic Imre Madách (1823-64), providing arguments that entitle us to bet on its artistic future.


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[1] Ludmila Patlanjoglu is theatre critic and historian, as well as University Professor and Head of the Theatre Science Department at the “I. L. Caragiale” National University of Drama and Film Arts in Bucharest, Romania. She was President of IATC’s Romanian Section (1999-2008) and Member of IATC’s Executive Committee (2001-2007). She is currently honorary member of the IATC Romanian Section board (2008 to present) and a member of the Romanian Theatre Artists’ Association (UNITER). She directed the 2002 and 2003 editions of the “I. L. Caragiale” National Theatre Festival in Romania and the 21st Congress of IATC organized in Bucharest (November, 2003). She launched IATC’s THALIA Prize (whose trophy was designed by Dragos Buhagiar) and is a member of the Editorial Board of Critical Stages, a web journal edited by IATC.

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An Elite Festival: National Companies Play their Classics