october 1st 2016

   Monica Andronescu

How has SITF reached perfection through imperfection?

Twenty three years… Stars on the Walk of Fame… Major events… Important figures… Thousands of participants from dozens of countries...

One of the top three festivals in Europe alongside Edinburgh and Avignon... Great names… An audience of over 65 thousand people… Encomiums poured one after the other during the ten days of the Sibiu International Theatre Festival 2016 edition. These praises have been rightfully passed down, since the 23rd edition was one of the most successful editions of the festival, with an excellent selection of foreign shows and a selection of Romanian performances that are still perfectible. It's true that too much praise might even crush the spirit of wonder that can be felt at SITF, a unique festival on the cultural map of Romania where no city has succeeded to create a similar event in spite of the multitude of festivals. They are lacking in vision, in spirit and the atmosphere is disappointing. It all began 23 years ago when the first foreign guests arrived with garlic in their pockets to defend themselves against vampires and Count Dracula… Today, after 23 years, I have to say that FITS has reached perfection through its imperfections.

No. Not all performances are extraordinary. No. Not all productions are highlight events. However, the Sibiu Festival tries to hold up a mirror to the Romanian and foreign theatre realities reflecting them as accurately as it can with their good and bad sides, with their doubtful directions and tendencies, with trials and errors. The thing about the Sibiu Festival is that it offers you the luxury and the incredible opportunity of not liking, let's say, the most recent production of Meno Fortas Company, "A Hunger Artist", adapted from Kafka and directed by Nekrosius. The festival offers the chance of attending the performance of "Shuskin's Stories" by Alvis Hermanis only to follow it with Tim Robbins' "A Midsummer Night's Dream", or to jump into Christoph Marthaler's "King Size" followed by "The Marriage of Maria Braun" by Thomas Ostermeier. During the festival you can witness theatre in bulk over a period of ten days. It represents a cause for introspection over a theatre performance, it opens discussions about shows, it allows you to agree or disagree with people, to discover unforgettable theatre imagery. SITF is the perfect barometer of the world and the society we live in, of our hypocrisies and sincerity, of our revolts and subjectivities, of our ever so different ways of relating to value and non-value, of the courage to maintain our opinions: most of the time, the opinions that we hold true with a cup of coffee in our hands but also our public opinions tainted by society.

The 2016 edition of the Festival, "Building Trust", ended in Sibiu on June 19 under the mark of trust. It ended with fireworks in a very warm evening after a week that balanced between two seasons with many cold showers of rain and a few warm ones, after an intense week of high quality theatre. It ended in a sea of people that gathered in the Big Square and on the pedestrian streets, which were filled for the last time this year with intoxicating drum rhythms, fire dances in the Small Square and jazz notes at Atrium cafe. Faust made the last deal with the devil at the new venue, Fabrica de Cultură - a venue erected overnight, in the Big Square there were aerial dances and lights, followed by a final concert and an amazing fireworks show in the Theatre Square… If we were to draw a short balance of the Festival, we are left with ten extraordinary productions, with at least the same amount of major productions that outline a dialogue, the meetings and the conversations with some of the most important artists of the time, who have come to Sibiu and were conjured by George Banu at Habitus Bookstore, which was often overcrowded: Thomas Ostermeier, Eugenio Barba, Evgheni Mironov, Luk Perceval. We are left with the conversation with Tim Robbins. The superb 30 year reunion of the cast of "Moromeții": Victor Rebengiuc, Constantin Chiriac, Stere Gulea in dialogue with Octavian Saiu was also a highlight of the festival.

Sibiu is the only place in Romania where you can meet all these people once a year, where drama students can drink and talk all night long during the festival club at the same table with actors from the companies of Nekrosius or Schaubuhne. SITF is a state of mind and it is absolutely necessary at this point in the history of Romanian theatre. The Sibiu Festival offers the luxury of enjoying or rejecting a performance, of revolting against the idea that theatre can take different shapes, that it is alive and that it keeps up with our shallowness.

If I were to pick several moments that stood out at the end of these ten days, the image of Viktorija Kuodyte from the play directed by Eimuntas Nekrosius still haunts me looming in the absurd and sombre universe of Franz Kafka, the picture of Evgheni Mironov dancing to the point of exhaustion in a tragicomic scene from "Shushkin's Stories" by Alvis Hermanis, the cold poetry of Thomas Ostermeier in "The Marriage of Maria Braun", the image of Eugenio Barba at the end of "The Chronic Life" walking slowly and gloomy into the light towards the doors that had opened wide at Fabrica de Cultură, carrying a sadness that we might comprehend someday… Also, there's the picture of the empty set of "Metamorphoses" before the performance, a large pool of water in which the sunset glimmered waiting for the actors to begin, the same as the set of Chekov's "Seagull", and the picture of a woman in a white ethereal dress floating on a rope and declaring her love to a man much older than her in "Love. Trilogy of my Family I" by Luk Perceval, the violent and poetic imagery of "Armine, Sister" by Teatr ZAR combined with psaltic music. The picture of a woman in a white dress walking through a lightbulb forest flashing on and off in "Bianco su Bianco" by Daniele Finzi Pasca is still fresh in my mind, as is the image of a venue so hot, literally and figuratively, that vibrated during the "Flamenco Suite" when all the rows trembled from the audience tapping their feet. The picture of the empty set of Faust during a thrilling discussion with Ofelia Popii before the performance - it still stands out, as well as the image of a man walking down the street and bowing to Victor Rebengiuc, the sound of crickets and the moon seen through the tree branches at the citadel of Cisnădioara after a Eugenio Barba theatre play...

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