Between 7-10 July 2011 the Street Art 24 Festival took place in Cracow. In this year the motif: ‘Wind from the East’ was the guiding theme of the Festival; for this reason we had the opportunity to see this time more groups coming from countries situated east of Poland as compared to the previous years. All in all 15 theater groups representing artists from nine countries: Ukraine, Russia, Israel, Poland, Croatia, Italy, Netherlands, France and Spain performed their art in the street on the stages located around the Main Market Square, Small Market Square and Galeria Krakowska (the most prestigious shopping mall in the heart of Krakow Old Town) within only four days. And what about their performances?
As the title itself suggested, the street show performed by the theatre group – Tuig concerned consumerism; it was about people being ‘bound’ to this giant machinery that they seem to speed up continuously without regard for consequences. What is going to be the final result?
The group Flonflonsky was created especially for this festival; the group - Le Flonflons from Lille in France, from which the new formation loaned its name and adapted it next to the Polish language was the ‘spine’ of Flonflonski. The group was doing its best in order to create the atmosphere of a French street under the sky of Cracow, where the people amused themselves while listening to the specific sounds of the accordion…
The performance entitled - ‘Blindness’ by the Teatr KTO (Theatre WHO) from Cracow was one of the strongest and, at the same time, heaviest points in the Festival’s programme. The show based on the book by José Saramago - ‘Blindness’ took place without words; however, the pictures created by the artists spoke for themselves distinctively. This is, in particular, worth emphasizing since it often happens that street performances created ‘in silence’, this is, without words might sometimes only hardly be comprehensible to the unaware audience. In this case the pictures as well as the sound were attractive enough to take the spectators to a completely different world.
Because of a mysterious epidemic the inhabitants of a certain city are going blind and the helpless authorities of the city make the decision to isolate the blind people from the rest of the population in a psychiatric hospital. In some sense, the patients isolated from the civilization are not only going blind but they also seem to be dehumanized or… maybe they show the true colors of humanity? Within only a few minutes the colorfully dressed people turn into animals fighting for their private little space, their bed, food and water. In the dusky world moments of fleeting happiness do rarely happen but the entire contrast, this being torn apart between two different worlds in which the protagonists live only emphasize their overwhelming sense of unhappiness, violence and brutality.
Leo Bassi - a white clown wearing a cap of his great-grandfather (the great-grandfather is said to have appeared on a stage with the same headdress in 1880) was speaking to his audience in English. This was, as it seems, not necessarily the right choice since the giant, as some people say, the biggest duck in the world mainly attracted the children’s attention. Besides, the performance although making the spectators laugh was rather meant to absorb the adults` attention due to the moments making them reflect on the sense of the world in the way the Polish most famous court jester - Stańczyk used to do while being in the court of the Polish kings - Sigismund the Old as well as Sigismund Augustus. During the performance lasting about one hour Leo Bassi hypnotized two persons, talked about his circus traditions in his family and showed how to turn into a clown. In addition, he made the audience truly feel that he was able to ‘deceive’ it by various tricks with ease. He was running on his duck as if he wanted to make the people believe that dreams just had to be made true regardless of how old you are. In the end the large yellow toy carried on the arms of the spectators was brought to the St Mary’s Basilica to meet God.
‘The Breath of the Orient’ performed by the Theatre of Fire – Mandragora was compilation of dance, flames, fire and… an easy plot. The main protagonists finds the Lamp of Aladdin (at least he seems to have done it) and the liberated Jinn is fulfilling wishes. This creates an excellent opportunity to throw flames and to initiate a performance with dancing girls in the main role. Unfortunately, the time of the fire show was probably not completely adequate to its type; as is commonly known, this kind of shows look much better at night. Too bad…
The performance entitled - ‘Masters of the Name’ by The Mystorin Theatre Group from Israel combined in an interesting way the shapes of Hebrew letters, singing, dance and Hasidic stories. The spectacle was accompanied by the theater workshops entitled ‘Exploring contemporary Sacred Theatre by Movement and Voice as well as by a seminar – ‘Mysterious dance of the Hebrew letters’. I truly regret not having the chance to participate in this seminar; I am sure that it could have been an interesting experience accompanying the entire performance.
At the end of the Second World War the Red Army robbed while plundering Szczecin (the Polish city in Pomerania) hundreds of pianos that were to be brought to the Soviet Union. It is said that a great number of the instruments were standing along the railway tracks. After being forgotten by the totalitarian administration they were slowly but consequently going to ‘rack and ruin’ after being left in trains until they completely broke into pieces becoming by this another symbol of the Barbarian epoch.
This very interesting event became an inspiration for the performance entitled -‘Salto Mortale v 2’ presented by the Teatr Strefa Ciszy (Theatre ‘Zone of Silence’) from Poznań. The grotesque circus performers seemed to be using their instruments in accordance with the intended purpose only for a little while. The pianos were next being pushed in different directions, trained like animals or even ridden like horses. This was, however, by far not the end. The performers were tearing them to pieces, and were dividing the poor pianos into segments; finally they changed the instruments` destiny turning the pianos in something looking like coffins that were put in layers to serve as stairs. And on the stairs the life was simply going on as if nothing had happened.
Dr. INAT is the best known alternative theater group in Croatia. In Kraków the group presented the performance entitled-‘She Shall Be Called Woman’ being a story of three women.
Was the title ‘Three’ supposed to refer to three figures that appeared in the show or maybe had it another sense? I do not really know. We were watching a puppeteer who was manipulating a puppet or, to be more precise, two puppets since the performer involved an accidental person from the audience into his performance for a moment and this spectator was doing what he was told by his master obediently. However, in contrast to the spectator transformed into a puppet the first marionette was not completely obedient and was making a stand to the puppeteer. Is it possible that it began to feel lonely after breaking loose?
This war undoubtedly one of the most amazing performances during the Festival. The actors and actresses from the group Mr Pejo’s Wandering Dolls encouraged the audience to join the fun on every occasion; they suggested taking advantage of seat pillows, were attempting to sell stolen galoshes, organized a regular pillow fight with the persons from the crowd and even kidnapped the female part of the audience and were kissing the girls by using ‘as if’ violence. (Admittedly, the Russians appeared to be quite tasteful in their choices; the Russian temper suits me much better than the political-asexual correctness in the West Europe Style).
A moving fairy tale about Mogote (steep-sided hills) made up the central part of the performance; but as far my person is concerned, I was more delighted by the epilogue in which the actors made efforts to make true their dreams of flying. Without result they tried to imitate a bird and to launch themselves from a catapult. Finally they built an airplane and by this they finished their story with the truly American happy end. Apart from the tale about ‘Mogote’ the Mr Pejo`s, the Wandering Dolls presented during the Festival another show entitled - ‘Mignone’. Unfortunately, I had not the opportunity to watch it.
‘Le Tournage Imaginaire du Prato’ was the culmination of the workshops on verbal and situational humor in the art of theater and cabaret. If I am not wrong the Gilles Defacque and Jacques Motte with amateurs who took part in the workshops gave together a display of an actor improvisation. Gilles Defacque was giving instructions on-line and was directing the show up to the… event. The actor being famous of his best playing the role of the door played also some less important roles…
In the room of Leandre there are two magic things: an inconspicuous locker with drawers from which one can even take out a child and a mirror that leads into another dimension. During the show the comedian summoned some accidental persons from the nether world (this is the audience); and after this he offered a great deal of fickle things and unexpected events; because of this each could look different. I admit that that one I could watch did make me amused; in other words- Leandre did what he was expected to do!
Unfortunately, I was a little bit late for the performance of the Art-Obstrel Clowns & Comedy and I was, thus, not able to take a good seat allowing me to watch their performance, let alone taking good pictures. For this reason I am not able to say anything more about the group except of what I have read in a leaflet, this is, that it is an excellent Ukrainian clown theatre.
At the end of my adventure with the XXIV International Street Art Theater Festival I watched with real pleasure a truly successful performance of the Theatre – VOSKRESINNIA from Lvov being based on the last drama by Czechow.
Apart from the performances, show and gigs mentioned above one could also watch the new version of the spectacle - ‘Anakolut’ by the Krakow Dance Theater. Regrettably, I do not know how different it was in comparison to the last-year version since I was not able to schedule this point on my agenda due to limited time.
My general impressions after the Festival are positive although I missed one group which had won my heart in the former editions; besides there were fewer groups from the East than the title-‘Wind from the East’ suggested. The Street Art Festival is without a shadow of a doubt an event of great significance; during the festival the audience has the chance to watch several interesting performances and shows in one place within just a few days. It is a pity that there were less propositions this year and that they were not repeated more frequently. Because of this the streets were overcrowded during many performances which, in turn, aroused unnecessarily negative emotions among the audience who sometimes tried to force their access to the theatre groups violently. This might be surprising since the audience was really keen on culture. With this little paradox would like to finish my report. Right now, in my last words I would like to invite to the next, 25th Street Art Festival in July 2011! See you then!