In mid October, Timisoara’s German State Theatre played host to the seventh edition of the Eurothalia Festival, an event considered to be one of the most daring and professional manifestations of its kind in Romania. Andreea Andrei is one of the people who selects works for the festival, and, under the theme “Limits”, she gathered together some of the most challenging shows, with major names in European theatre. She told us why she picked the theme Limits for this year’s edition:
“The Eurothalia Festival has shows that are not necessarily theatre. There are shows with very different aesthetics, and I believe it is important for all of us to ask ourselves the same question – if, aesthetically speaking, there are limits within theatre, if we can overcome these limits, if we can conceive them, accept, or expand them. On the one hand, we live in a context in which around us more and more walls and barriers are being put up. We live in a rather conservative context, in which we refuse to accept differences. And I think it is very important to question these mental limits with our shows. I think that this theme can be found in the 2017 edition in several forms. Throughout this week we talked about physical limits, the limits of the body, about borders, about the limits of verbal communication, about the barrier between the audience and the actors, and about the limits of ethics and morality in theatre.”
This year, the German State Theatre of Timisoara managed to make the Eurothalia festival a must see for any theatre lover. It is enough to mention that at the festival's closing, Belgian artist Wim Vandekeybus presented with his company, Ultima Vez, the performance “In Spite of Wishing and Wanting”. Created in 1999, this is a very important moment in his life's work. In January 2016, he resumed staging the show with a completely new cast, men only. The show became an international hit. The well-known symbols of dreams and wishes are stripped of their psychoanalytical clichés, and turned into spectacular dance and poetic language by the Ultima Vez company. Limits are interesting, and can be seen in a negative or positive light, Vandekeybus believes. We asked him about the limits of his show in relation to the audience:
“I think we tried to express that humans are animals who have a big desire and want to explain everything, and that’s why theatre exists and that’s why it steals, theatre steals from life, and here on the scene we steal from each other. There is one who says something, the other steals the same thing, and then it’s like yeah, but it’s my wish, it’s my desire, it’s my words, you know, who you stole from, nothing its original, that’s a bit of the show about it. It’s a bit of the story of Julio Cortazar, where there is a seller of last words, where normally before you die you speak your last words, your really authentic last words. He sells things that are normally very personal, and I think the time spirit is a bit like this: you need something, you buy it. Now, you can buy love, you can even buy life.”
This year's programme of the Eurothalia European Theatre Festival also included the event series called Eurothalia Xtension, organised with the Timisoara 2021 European Capital of Culture Association. Here is Chris Torch, artistic director of the association:
“During the start-up phase in Timisoara 2021 we have identified part of our programme which we called X-tensions, X-large and then the word tension and we have turned to events and/or institutions, organizations in Timisoara and asked if we could attach ourselves to their program with something that we felt was important but which was missing in Timisoara, With Eurothalia it was very easy, it was a wonderful relationship, first of all it’s a wonderful festival, and what we could offer them was to bring the Odin Theatre which had not been in Timisoara - they’d been in Romania before. But the reason we brought them was just to show their work, we are not interested in whether we are the first to have shown the Odin Theatre, we are exclusive or something, we were interested in their experiences of learning and also in their experiences in working in Holstebro with the Holstebro Fest Week, which is something they have done 25 years now, but they engaged the entire community in a large-scale week of co-creation with police, with the military, with boy scouts, with all people, with immigrants, with each other. The Odin Theatre manages it and coordinates it artistically, very, very much as a kind of part of their community engagement"
Odin Theatre, the company that changed the direction of theatre in the second half of the 20th century, and led by director Eugenio Barba, set up shop in the Danish province of Hostelbro, where they started the festival that became a model in terms of community involvement for artists. Andreea Andrei, who selected the works presented at the festival, told us that the Eurothalia Festival has a very open-minded audience, eager to see surprising and aesthetically challenging shows:
“We had long applause at the end of most shows, the audience has the patience and the curiosity necessary to be open to current topics, social topics that touch all of us right now. I was pleasantly surprised to see that, even though the Eurothalia Festival is orientated towards very different theatre and performing arts genres, the audience was eager to see the shows. I believe this runs contrary to the opinion of many theatre directors and festival directors in Romania, who believe that our audience is very conservative.” (Translated by C. Cotoiu)