Europe Theatre Prize, April 2011, in St Petersburg, Russia.

Ludmila Patlanjoglu[1]

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“The Oscar for Drama” brought together in Saint Petersburg the elite of the theatre world: actors, directors, playwrights, scenographers, choreographers, musicians, critics who performed in shows, took part in workshops, exhibitions and symposia. The organizer and host of the event was Alessandro Martinez, secretary general of the European Awards for Drama.

The choice of venue, St Petersburg, to host this extraordinary event was a sign of respect towards this museum city, a citadel of culture. It also paid homage to the great tradition of the Russian school of drama.

The event is under the patronage of the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and the city of Saint Petersburg in co-operation with Baltic International Festival Center Foundation and Baltic House Theatre Festival. It has illustrious partners, namely The Union of European Theatres, The International Association of Theatre Critics, The International Institute of Mediterranean Theatre, The UNESCO International Institute of Theatre, The Association of European Festivals. There have been 13 ceremonies so far and the prizes have gone to Ariane Mnouchkine, Peter Brook, Giorgio Strehler, Heiner Müller, Robert Wilson, Luca Ronconi, Pina Bausch, Lev Dodin, Michel Piccoli, Harold Pinter, Robert Lepage and Peter Zadek (ex aequo), Patrice Chéreau and Krystian Lupa.

This year the jury (which comprised outstanding representatives of the theatre world) awarded the prize to Peter Stein. Aged 75, Peter Stein’s resume is impressive. Founder of the Schaubühne Company in Berlin, the famous director has staged intriguing performances which serve as models for the art of acting and exude fanatical respect towards the text and the time it was written in. Peter Stein has directed masterpieces such as Oresteia (which runs for 9 hours), Faustus (which runs for 21 hours), Peer Gynt, Titus Andronicus, Uncle Vanya, The Demons or Oedipus in Colonos with his fetish actor Klaus Maria Brandauer.

Peter Stein lived up to his legend by presenting two shows, The Broken Pitcher by Kleist with Klaus Maria Brandauer in the lead role and Faustus Fantasia, a soliloquy for voice and piano in which the director appears as actor and lends ineffability to Goethe’s characters and words.

The Latest Trend: The Complete Actor

The winners of The New Theatrical Reality awards were Kristian Smeds (from Finland), Katie Mitchell (from the UK), Andrey Moduchiy (from Russia), Villiam Docolomansky (from Slovakia/the Czech Republic), The Meridional Theatre (from Portugal) and Vesturport Theatre (from Iceland).

Their shows demonstrate that the dialogue between the arts and cutting edge technology opens up new ways towards creation and knowledge. Computer generated images, pantomime, dancing, circus and music expand the frontiers of the theatre and make it more dramatic. Shows such as Faustus based on Goethe’s play, Metamorphosis by Kafka, Mr Vertigo by Paul Auster, Cabo Verde by Natalia Luiza and Miguel Seabra, and Happiness by Maurice Maeternlick are overwhelming both in their use of technique and the emotions they exude.

Yuri Lubimov was awarded a special prize for his lifetime achievements.
Yuri Lubimov was awarded a special prize for his lifetime achievements.

They invite the spectators to reflect on the profile of future artists. They show what it means to play in a world dominated by computers and multimedia, a world in which the boundaries between arts, between reality and virtual worlds have been dissolved. The latest trend is that of the complete actor who is an acrobat, a dancer and a singer all in one and who can switch from intense emotions to a trance-like state, from psychology to psychoanalysis and psychiatry. Brilliant actors play on stage, on walls, in the air, in the house and on nets suspended above the audience. There is nothing eccentric or superficial in their art. The creators use scalpels to cut out minuscule details with precision and energy. The bad and the ugly are not beautified. Their productions are about the ills of our times which are disclosed with violence and lack of sacredness. The actors and spectators create a baffling balance between the grotesque and the graceful, between torture and tenderness.

Nonagenarian Yuri Lubimov was awarded a special prize. The great Russian artist has known both glory and the tragedy of exile. He has directed memorable performances such as Hamlet with poet actor Vladimir Vysotski. Lubimov’s theatre, Taganka, was a haven of freedom and a stronghold of artistic and political resistance during the years of dictatorship in Russia. Another great Russian director, Lev Dodin appeared in the Return category of the European Awards with a production of Three Sisters by Chekhov. The performance was a brilliant stage requiem of the cross of lovelessness.

The Spirit of Love

It was a remarkable ceremony with lovely nights. The gala was filled with excitement. In the imperial Alexandrinski Theatre the winners were seated in places once filled by famous spectators such as Chekhov, Gogol, Dostoevsky and Pushkin. The curtain was the one used in Meyerhold’s production of The Masquerade by Lermontov. In a troika pulled by a horse, young girls and boys dressed as ballerinas and sailors brought the prizes to the winners.

Both in the end speech of the critic George Banu (member in the advisory board and of the jury) and in the words of thanks uttered by the happy winners, the spirit of love and beauty was invoked. In his message, one of the laureates, the seductive Icelandic actor Gisli Orn Gardasson quoted Dostoevsky’s words: “Beauty will save the world”. This prophecy electrified the audience who stood up and cheered for minutes on end. In order to survive hard times, the theatre has to be an oasis of spirituality, salvation and hope.

Karla Galvao and Fernando Mota in the Portuguese Teatro Meridional's performance Cabo Verde.
Karla Galvao and Fernando Mota in the Portuguese Teatro Meridional’s performance
Cabo Verde.
Nina Dogg Filippusdottir as Lilith in the Iceland Vestuport Theatre's performance of Faust.
Nina Dogg Filippusdottir as Lilith in the Iceland Vestuport Theatre’s performance of Faust.
Andrey Moguchy of Russia was awarded a New Theatrical Realities Prize.
Andrey Moguchy of Russia was awarded a New Theatrical Realities Prize.
Kristian Smeds of Finland was awarded a New Theatrical Realities Prize.
Kristian Smeds of Finland was awarded a New Theatrical Realities Prize.
Katie Mitchell of the UK was awarded a New Theatrical Realities Prize.
Katie Mitchell of the UK was awarded a New Theatrical Realities Prize.

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[1] Ludmila Patlanjoglu is theatre critic and historian, as well as University Professor (with PhD) and Head of the Theatre Science Department at the “I. L. Caragiale” National University of Drama and Film Arts in Bucharest, Romania. She was former President of IATC- 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 – 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 the IATC’s THALIA Prize (designer Dragos Buhagiar) and is a Member of Editorial Board of the Critical Stages, a web journal edited by IATC.

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