Thursday, 25 April 2013 20:59

ETC Spring Tour, day 6: Mephisto, I mean, manifesto

Written by Ioana Burtea

Day six of the ETC Spring Tour found us working very hard on the way to Bratislava, Slovakia. After a fiery Monday, the members of our group made a commitment to each other to think about ways to work together and create an artistic product that is relevant to the issues we've been confronted with on the tour. Therefore, we gathered in the front of the bus and, for several hours, we thought and wrote down ideas and issues up for debate.

Despite our continuous exhaustion and being aware of the vagueness of our plans, we realised we needed to clarify the concept of "crisis in theatre" that we've been hearing so much about and pinpoint its symptoms – this way, we'd know what we're trying to solve. Secondly, we wanted to think about what issues are important to us individually – whether it's the transition from school to work, the outdated themes theatre addresses or the unequal representation of gender and ethnicity on European stages. We knew we wouldn't find the answers to every question we had on the tour, but we thought that we should take advantage of the time we had left on the bus to talk about the future. The matter on everyone's mind was "how do we go on?"

Photo: Ioana Burtea
Working on the manifesto

Jan, a journalist from Slovakia, came up with a strategy to clarify at least some of the ambiguity around this issue. We were divided into groups of three or four and worked for a few minutes to decide which issues are most important to us. Each group wrote three main ideas on a piece of paper and then all the writings were passed to our friend and chief researcher, Ivor. He studied them overnight and found three common threads among the groups. This became our "manifesto", a list of issues we want to address as a group, a set of principles we all believe in and the foundation on which we intend to build an artistic project. Here is the first, rough draft of why we decided to work together and what we want to achieve.

We need rich theatre, not rich theatres!

We must build wide public awareness of the real, emotive and inspirational experience that theatre, at its best, offers us (and demand that theatre itself lives up to this). Great theatres serve as an important and distinctive public laboratory for real, shared stories and scenarios that can have the power to live political, psychological and emotional experience, but in a safe and removed place. We must be this theatre!

We want dialogue and reach!

We must find more successful and dynamic ways to represent the full diversity of people, opinions and backgrounds that surrounds each of us. This demands more openness, and building diverse relationships and partnerships and a shared space with voices other than our own. We recognise and welcome different, and even contradictory, perspectives, as these enrich both us and our work, and give us legitimacy in a wider social and political sphere.

Our publics are our lifeblood!

We can only achieve real legitimacy for our theatre if we establish and maintain the deepest relationships at all levels in the areas that we serve. This extends well beyond our connection with local/regional/national government to the crucial dialogue we have with our publics. And we are locally focused but not parochial: we both seek out and welcome influences and ideas from elsewhere, as these further enrich and inform our work.

While this is still not a clear direction for our group, we only had a few hours to come up with an ethos. Most of all, we really wanted to find a common set of beliefs as we are all from different countries, backgrounds and professions. Having established the above, we can now work towards more concrete steps so that we end up building a space where we feel enabled to create something that represents us and what we stand for. The more pragmatic ideas actually followed on our last day in Zagreb.

Photo: Ioana Burtea
View from the Slovak National Theatre

Other than working hard on our manifesto, we did enjoy our short trip to Bratislava. It was probably the first time since the beginning of our journey that we could afford to walk around the city and enjoy the sights. The group visited several theatres – including the state one hosted in a modern building – and strolled along the banks of the Danube, praising the gods of theatre for the lovely weather.

At night, we went to see Oresteia, directed by Rastislav Ballek, staged for the first time in a Slovakian theatre. The production, a melange of experimental theatre and new media, was surely one of the most interesting on the ETC Spring Tour. While some people enjoyed certain aspects of the play deeply – the deconstruction of the ancient story, the new aesthetics and the challenge to find hidden symbols –, others found the message behind the reinterpretation of Oresteia as judgemental and erroneously formulated. It seemed like the director had taken a moral high ground with regard to the characters of the play, confusing ethics with morality – and one cannot judge the ways of an ancient civilisation by the standards of modern society.

After the play, we were invited to a quiet reception at the Slovak National Theatre. The highlight turned out to be when our favourite poetess, Deborah Stevenson, teamed up with a young lady commissioned to play the harp for us and performed a poem with musical background. It was an emotional moment for everyone and a great way to end the day.

With weary bones and big plans, we headed to our final destination – Zagreb. Keep posted tomorrow for the last diary entry of this exciting and eventful tour!

Last modified on Thursday, 25 April 2013 21:16

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