Subotica International Festival of Children's Theatres Subotica International Festival of Children's Theatres


24 september 2022

Human face behind a wolf mask

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Human face behind a wolf mask


The performance "SCOOOOOTCH!" by Amélie Poirier (Les Nouveax Ballets du Nord - Pas de Calais Lille) was very specific in the program of the 29 th International Festival of Children's Theater Subotica. The title itself is written in capital letters, indicating with a punctuation mark that it is an exclamation, as a warning. But there is no reason to fear. The play acted by the three girls from France is anything but dangerous.

"SCOOOOOTCH!" is almost the only word uttered in Amelie Poirier's play. It is being exclaimed, with different vowel lengths, different intonations and accents of the first and last consonants, shaping something like a singing version of speech. As if small children repeatedly say it in their well known persistence manner.

In terms of understanding, generations who had the opportunity to work or play with their parents in their offices, the word in the title irresistibly reminds of the well-known brand of office tape (Scotch), and in the play it is a prop that on stage and in the hands of the performer connects a series of objects, marks parts of the space for play, and sometimes its ungluing and gluing, makes a special experience - music. And the entire performance of the French artists is designed to function without narrative. It is an almost completely unrestrained play (except for its stage form which keeps it within the limits of the space and the audience, which in the end is even invited to it). The physical characteristics of the performance include many acrobatics and juggling with objects such as brooms and sticks of various lengths, which refers to the elements of the circus. As one of the more consistently used element of the theater is certainly music, which shape the sound of this unusually lively event, turning it into a real melody with its rhythmic and vocal matrices, making an ode to the childish game of growing up.

Tian Gombau - L'home Dibuixat from Spain, had a very notable performance at the 29 th International Children's Theater Festival Subotica. The play "New Shoes" by Jordi Palet i Puig, with ambient music by Òscar Roig, on several "boards" and boxes with a reduced scenography and shoe puppet design by Isa Soto, show a boy on his way to the river, but actually on his way to get to know the world around himself and his own life as an adventure. Tian Gombau, in the role of animator and narrator, from the first moment addressed the audience with a lot of immediacy, warmth, tenderness and spontaneity, developing the scenography, which, like a carpenter's yardstick, developed zigzag from a certain spot to the proscenium space. He also led a boy in the shape of shoes with a body made of boxes, which in other places were also houses and buildings, while on the way to the river trees "sprouted" in the form of "hair" in socks, so everything was almost meditative. The experience of the performance, played in the subtle intensity of the light and sound stimuli that brought peace to the theater hall, made me feel like a child in the shelter of a soft blanket listening to a voice reading me a story, brought me to the verge of falling asleep.

Borsszem Jankó by Sardar Tagirovsky, Béla Kövér Puppet Theatre from Hungary, is based on the folk tradition of Romanian Hungarians, upgraded through the genre of science fiction. The main character is little Janko, whose size is his main strength. At the level of particles and subatomic quanta, he searches for a passage between worlds and finds it, endlessly amused by encountering various creatures and conquering them, with the ingenuity and mobility of his body.

The play Borsszem Jankó is very ambitious in the sense that science fiction as a genre is based on effects that you believe in without questioning them. On the puppet stage, the actors-animators, although dressed in some kind of spacesuits and although they perform without hiding in the shadows (the opening scene exposes the theatrical mechanism, complicating the relationship with theatrical conventions - the illusion of the puppet's life, for example), they still are intermediary for the experience of the fantastic the saga of Janko Borsem.

The production of the Puppet Theater Béla Kövér is very dedicated to the details of the universe of the future, as it is seen when it comes to intergalactic travel, light and sound effects, music, animation of fights, stage space sometimes resembling the interior of a spaceship, sometimes resembling galaxies. However, the story remains very abstract in terms of conveyed meanings, metaphors that Janko used, I wasn't really on board with his emotions either, so this play remained distant for my personal experience, and I didn't really feel that the audience accepted it apart from mere sensual layer, so the play did not manage to communicate with the other viewers, too.

Before the play The Wolf Which Smelled of Berries by Tamara Kučinović, Children's Theater Republika Srpska, I almost fainted, it turned out that I got sick, so I am giving you a video of it. And let me say right away, yes, it's strange, I felt the distance and coolness that helped me see and evaluate the details. The reception of all those things that you get tucked into the theater lap, the noise in the audience and the possibility of looking around, was missing, which is not necessarily a quality of the performance, but of the experience shared with the performers on the stage and the people in the hall. That didn't happen, so I won't even write about it anymore.

Be that as it may, Tamara Kučinović's The Wolf Which Smelled of Berries is certainly one of the most beautiful plays for children that I have ever seen. Very complex and not without flaws, but let's go step by step.

I was wondering where the wolf on the stage came from. She-wolf. Thanks to the detailed fur costume, all with the ears and muzzle of Zdenka Lacina, the actress really seemed like a she-wolf. Alena Pavlović's scenography with a symmetrical arrangement of trees on both sides revealed this animal in the heart of the forest, intertwined with the autumn leaves that are still falling, with ambient lighting that suggested intimacy and a minimalist, piano composition by Marko Lucijan Hraščanec, a sonata I wish to hear apart from theatrical performance. So, a completely sensual, artistic, musical and stage work, the magic that, to put it somewhat crudely, did not stop until the end.

But let's return to the stream of thought, the question, why the she-wolf and why in the first scene she marveled at her paws and claws (with the remark that the narration, the voice-over, in many moments of the play was a redundant tool, reducing the stage action to illustration)? What was it like to get to know her origin, the nature of her transformation into a dangerous animal and what her society can say about all this - the past, human society, because of which she changed, and the present, forest society, because of which she began to feel accepted, and because of which she accepted herself? Why do friends are there not only to help us get to know something or someone else, but also ourselves? Can a wolf be a symbol of strength and freedom, without being a symbol of greed, beastly bloodthirstiness and danger? What happened to the pack? And what is the secret and how much does it mean to us in a life affected by a traumatic experience?

If I try to answer each of these questions, I would still not be exhausted with how much attention was given to them by the performance of the Children's Theater of the Republika Srpska, in a production that touched me in many ways. Bravo for the acting ensemble, "invisible" behind the wolf masks. What does it mean to show a human face, is another question that follows.

Igor Burić

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