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21 september 2022

The magic of theatrical play

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The magic of theatrical play

INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF CHILDRENS THEATRES SUBOTICA

I think that theater for children and youth is the only program today after which parents do not have to buy anything to their children. No merch (merchandise), no product placement (advertisement) in the performances. Even the tickets are free at the International Children's Theater Festival in Subotica, organized by the local Open University.

And the first play in the competition program, "The Great Factory of Words", was about shopping, directed by Morana Dolenc (Theatre "Mala Scena", Croatia) based on the work of Agnes de Lestrade, with the help of the playwright Bruno Margetić. This play tells about the friendship of boys and girls, and also the unobtrusive romantic affection at the youngest age, through the prism of neoliberal relations, in which pretty much everything is some folly and advertising. The metaphor for this is a large word factory, performed on a marionette stage within the play, which is wider in scope, almost Renaissance in form of a kind of traveling troupe, which includes actors as narrators, not only animators, and also live music.

It was the music, that is, the narrator of Buga, Marija Šimić, an opera singer by profession that captivated most attention, to such an extent that I heard spectators exchanging lines in the manner of opera arias after the performance.

How difficult and even scary growing up can be fairy tales have shown us, according to many theorists, initiating children into the reality of adult life. One of such fairy tales is Cinderella, which in the version seen at the Festival in Subotica really blew away the dust from the ancient tale and gave it a new guise as a horror story with happy end.

Luana Gramegna (dramaturgy and direction) and Francesco Givone (scenography and puppet design) at the "Zakes" Theater, brought Cinderella to life at first by the model of the bunraku puppet theater, which reinforced the experience of her being instrumentalized, so that her role would be taken over by an actress after her emancipation from her stepmother and evil sisters, shown through the transformation of three equally believably colorful raven puppets.

"Cinderella" from Italy is a performance that captivates with its atmosphere, visual stage effects and music, which further stimulate the senses and evoke all the magic of the theater.

"The Dream of Fairy Moll" by Réka Szűcs, with scenography and puppet design by Erzsébet Csonka, Puppet Theater "Harlequin" from Hungary, is a pure animated play, which is rarely seen on stages today, due to the development of modern theater and the ever-increasing combination of styles, genres and techniques, as well as due to the more frequent disclosure of the mechanisms inside the theater, "behind the curtain". However, "The Dream of Fairy Moll" proves that when a play is well done, it doesn't have to be in line with the latest trends at all costs.

Quite in accordance with what has been said, the Moll fairy looks and behaves like a moth, rummaging through the antiquities of the attic. When she tries to assemble the plane, she also reminds of Exipéry's Little Prince, and soon the caterpillar Durr begins to make her company. The two of them are a true musical and stage couple - Moll as a romantic, lyrical hero, and Durr as a jovial, epic character. The plot starts with a bird that flies around them in search for food for its young. With the richness of layers and meaning of the story, the main sign of the play is flying and metamorphosis, growing up, and the animators of stick puppets and gun puppets do an excellent job bringing them to life from the shadows.

From "Duško Radović" Little Theater (Belgrade), an almost purely acting play for children and youth, "The Stolen Prince and the Lost Princess" by Dan Totero, directed by Branislava Stefanović, was performed at the Festival in Subotica. Her story is subtle, almost movie-like – the twin heirs to the imperial throne in China are separated at birth and grew up with ordinary mortals. Male child with a fisherman and his wife, and female child with a robber, until they are reunited on the throne, defeating the laws that stipulate that throne is reserved for male children only.

The qualities of this play could be described as wit and subtle in the sense that in addition to telling a story, the play also shows the ways in which the theater works, through the characters of the Narrator, the Prop Maker and the Animator. By portraying another culture of great tradition, it could be said that in addition to attractive exoticism, especially used in the costume design and sound design of the play, it also provides distance, which sometimes makes universal human themes easier to comprehend. The possible clumsiness and superficiality of such a setting was refuted by the persistent applause of the audience.

Igor Burić

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Subotica International Festival of Children's Theatres