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Maribor Theatre Festival — Archive 2010 - 2016

Borštnik 2014 Awards!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Borštnik Jury Report

Amelia Kraigher, the selector of the 49th Maribor Theatre Festival chose eleven productions for the Competition Programme. Due to force majeure, we saw only ten at the festival. Apart from one co-production, no productions from independent theatres or producers were selected for the Competition Programme. On the other hand, the programme featured almost all of the Slovene public theatres.

We can also perceive four directors whose names appeared last year, when the programme was selected by another selector. Directors Jernej Lorenci and Mateja Koležnik took part in this year’s Competition Programme with two productions each, while Igor Pison, Kaja Tokuhisa and Natalija Manojlović, directors of younger generation, were presented at the festival for the first time. Compared to last year, there was a surprisingly high number of young actresses and actors (those younger than 30) – we counted thirteen of them in sixteen roles.

We encountered extremely diverse dramatic and textual sources for productions: an actor’s monoplay self-portrait (Backstage of Champions); three Slovene classical plays (The Wedding, The King of Betajnova and The Dead Man Comes for his Sweetheart), a post-dramatic text built out of two monologues (The Closing of Love), a fragmentary philosophical essay (The Education of the Stoic), American classical dramatic literature (Our Town), an adaptation of a contemporary German-Slovenian novel (The Angel of Oblivion) and two dramatic texts coming from Japan (Friends and Modern Nô Plays).

The genre diversity of productions was also noticeable, yet with the predominance of a more reflexive, serious and sombre spirit. This year we have not seen any whole-hearted comedy.

The Competition Programme of the Maribor Theatre Festival features the most relevant productions and overall the best of what has been produced on Slovene stages in a season. It is only natural that the yearly production oscillates in quality – there are richer and poorer harvests. Compared to last year, this year’s selection is somewhat more modest although, in spite of that fact, it demonstrates stability and vitality.

One of the essential missions of theatre is to develop and boost national dramatic production. That is why we were pleased to see in the Competition Programme five productions based on Slovene dramatic texts. Slovene plays thus made up half of the Competition Programme, which is the best tally in years. We may therefore conclude that Slovene dramatic literature, both classical and contemporary, is successfully addressing the time in which we live.

The jury members:
Tea Rogelj, President
Jasen Boko
Tomasz Kubikowski
Barbara Orel
Petra Vidali

In Maribor, 26 October 2014

The Grand Prix for the Best Performance of the Maribor Theatre Festival

Rudi Šeligo: The Wedding, directed by Jernej Lorenci and performed by the Slovene National Theatre Drama Ljubljana

The staging of The Wedding radically transposes Šeligo’s blend of absurdity and poetry to our time. While adopting the inner logic of the text and thoroughly grounding it, the production undermines the order of causality, which is then repeatedly restored in each new scene of the production. The dramaturgy and the directing of contrasts force us to jump from easy-going laughter to bloody conflicts. The uneasiness of our disintegrating present awaits us at every turn around the corner. Executioners are no longer just empty, cynical and miserable people – they are banal destroyers who enjoy the spectacle, while the victims are even more hurt and debased. Here, the theatre of cruelty slips almost out of control. Everything is different and yet the same: once again, the community vents its frustration through violence over the helpless individual. The entire ensemble enacts the director’s idea both as a collective and as convincing individuals, creating a dense and stable atmosphere.

Borštnik Award for Directing

Mateja Koležnik

for directing Modern Nô Plays performed by the Slovene Permanent Theatre, Trieste, and for Friends performed by the Slovene National Theatre Drama Ljubljana

Directing is an art of amalgamating various elements of the production with the intention to create a convincing theatrical whole. It is an art of inspiring and guiding actors, both the individual and the collective; an art of transposing situations from those encompassed by the dramatic source into those that begin to live on stage and make up a unique performing universe. In this year’s competition selection, the directing of Mateja Koležnik is unrivalled. She was confronted with two very demanding and utterly different dramatic materials, both coming from the Japanese culture: Yukio Mishima’s oneiric and poetic "mini-plays” and Kobo Abe’s play positioned in the obsessive vicinity of the theatre of the absurd. We award her for the minute, refined and utterly disciplined weaving of the performing net, which creates its own stage poetics while remaining connected to theatre traditions of the Far East.

Special Borštnik Jury Award

Modern Nô Plays, performed by Slovene Permanent Theatre in Trieste – for visual and sound design

The visual and sound design of Modern Nô Plays derives out of the basic dramaturgical-directorial concept. Playing with dualism, which is an inseparable part of Nô plays, results in the merging of inventive visual and sound elements of the production. Stage, costume and lighting design as well as stage movement harmoniously intertwine with sound elements, from sound effects and the aesthetics of the radio play to the discreet yet omnipresent music. Visual and sound design is an equally creative factor within the dramaturgical-directorial concept. It successfully unites the traditional and the contemporary in a coherent stage vision.

Three Borštnik Awards for Actors

Nina Ivanišin

for the role of Lenka in the production of The Wedding performed by the Slovene National Theatre Drama Ljubljana

To play a mentally disabled person as the main character and a lyrical heroine presents an actress with numerous challenges and even more dangers as the task may easily lead either to exaggeration or to a lack of expression. It requires a sharpened sensitivity hidden behind the inability to communicate and yet with the urge to address. Such performing should be neither too grotesque nor over-sentimental, neither trivial nor schematic. It should arouse sympathy and yet the actress should be able to break it at times in order to establish a clearly distinct world of the character. Nina Ivanišin managed to avoid all those traps and created an unforgettable figure of a woman-child with big eyes full of wonder. One minute she blooms in joy, another one she falls into despair; and it is through this shift of moods that she establishes her own rhythm of intellectual and emotional understanding of the world.

Janez Škof

for the role of Father in The Angel of Oblivion performed by the Slovene National Theatre Drama Ljubljana

Besides the outstanding textual basis, The Angel of Oblivion owes its power mainly to the angelic contribution of the actors. The adaptation of the novel features the reduction of characters by merging the figures of grandmother and mother in one actress, thus emphasising the role of the "indivisible” Father, a helpless and traumatised authority. Touchingly interweaving madness, pain and grace, Janez Škof’s Father evokes a haunting testimony, both intimate and against the war. With incessant manic oscillations and the utmost intensity in both tragic and comic moments he dictates the rhythm of the performance and draws probably one of the most powerful weak fathers of Slovene literature, dramatic literature and stage.

Barbara Cerar

for the role of She in the production of The Angel of Oblivion performed by the Slovene National Theatre Drama Ljubljana

As She, the central character in The Angel of Oblivion, Barbara Cerar is faced with a demanding role – to build a dramaturgical arch from a little girl bewildered by the world and striving to understand it, to a young woman deciding to go her own way and carrying out that decision, to a poetess discovering her own language and her own expression.
Barbara Cerar does not enact the little girl with external, physical signs of childhood but with the bewilderment and amazement of the discovery of tastes, smells, colours, nature and grandmother’s pagan mysticism. She enacts her with a frankness of a child grasping the world, all along absorbing and echoing but also distancing herself from the personal traumas of her parents and grandmother as well as from the traumas of the environment marked with the stigma of minority. She grows and matures onstage in front of us, holding us in grip with her ardour, mesmerising and moving us all along.

Borštnik Award for Young Actress

Ana Urbanc

for the role of the First Micika in the production of The Dead Man Comes for his Sweetheart* performed by Prešeren Theatre Kranj and Ptuj City Theatre

Ana Urbanc inhabits the world of Svetlana Makarovič’s poetic drama as an embodiment of the ideal of romantic love that does not abide compromises and can be fulfilled only through a radical decision to die together with the loved one. As she steps out of the realm of acting, she comments her character with controlled gestures. Yet this is not a swerve from the role but a perspective beyond, one that opens the door to the mystery, to the knowledge and the magic beyond the earthly life. Ana Urbanc takes the First Micika to the world beyond the games of power, a world in which yearning and anxiety take each other’s hands, in which the actress illuminates her choice of love through a fantastic touch with the sublime and the beauty of horror.

* The title of this play was originally translated as Dead Man Comes for His Mistress in the 2014 Almanac of the Maribor Theatre Festival. The title has now been adjusted to match the title of the recently published English translation of the play by Erica Johnson Debeljak.

Borštnik Award for Dramaturgy

Goran Ferčec

for the dramaturgy of the production of Modern Nô Plays performed by Slovene Permanent Theatre in Trieste

The dramaturgical concept of Mishima’s five one-act plays, based on the source from Nô plays, comes out of the decision that the most complex of them, Hanjo, takes over the role of the connecting story. Being based on such a premise, the production enters a creative dialogue with the tradition of Nô plays and builds a new version seen through Mishima’s interpretation of tradition. Instead of five separate units, Modern Nô Plays became a dramatic whole thanks to the inventive dramaturgical intervention, at once preserving the dualism of the classical Nô play. The dramaturgy establishes a resourceful debate with the classical concept thus creating a new and original dramatic structure.

Borštnik Award for Stage Design

Branko Hojnik

for the stage designs in the productions of The Wedding performed by the Slovene National Theatre Drama Ljubljana and The King of Betajnova performed by the Slovene National Theatre Drama Ljubljana and the Drama of the Slovene National Theatre Maribor

The stage design of Branko Hojnik enters a genuine creative dialogue with the dramatic text and establishes a world in which individual semiotic stage systems come to life in a convincing way, always fully intertwining with the director’s idea, stimulating each other, not merely conceiving but alternately leading the play. The stage designer of Rudi Šeligo’s The Wedding, directed by Jernej Lorenci, establishes the ground for the ritual of repressive submission of the individual to coercive social mechanisms. The rite of passage is integrated between realism and mythological poetic world, leading from the lifelike situation of a Socialist mid-eighties pub to our reality. In Cankar’s The King of Betajnova, directed by Eduard Miler, Hojnik expressively outlines the sombre atmosphere of the common arena – at once home, inn and church – in which stage realities, from oneiric to surrealist, nourish each other disclosing the still very relevant political dramas as a universal space.


Borštnik Award for Music

Branko Rožman

for the music in the production of The Dead Man Comes for His Sweetheart performed by Kranj Prešeren Theatre and City Theatre Ptuj

The music of the composer Branko Rožman in the production of The Dead Man Comes for His Sweetheart reaches far beyond the function of the accompaniment or merely of the creator of atmosphere or the mood emphasiser: it is one of the key actors of the production. The orchestra, consisting of the actors and two musicians, creates a new language of sorts, built out of words and music. The music evokes the archetypal, which is also the primal source of the dramatic text; it follows the play’s rhythmical patterns, at once creating it. The actors do not merely use words to communicate among themselves – as well as with the musicians and the audience – but they also use instruments, the accordions. The music also enters the dialogue with actors, flirts with them, consoles them, dictates their moods, while commenting on the stage action and giving the rhythm to the performance.


Borštnik Award for Visual Contribution

Gašper Brezovar

for the video design in the production of The Education of the Stoic performed by the Anton Podbevšek Theatre

Gašper Brezovar’s video design follows the duality of thoughts of the Portuguese poet and writer Fernando Pessoa: on the one hand, it visualises the "disorder” of the main hero; on the other hand, it outlines the rational, analytical stream of his thoughts. At times, when enacting the writer’s lucid mental patterns, the video images are meaningful in a recognisable way. At other times, when they take a peak into his emotional world, they are of a more associative nature. Yet what is constant is the fact that they are visually polished. Gašper Brezovar’s video complements the concept and the direction of the production The Education of the Stoic, at once faithfully following the trademark aesthetics of the Anton Podbevšek Theatre.



The Award of the Association of Theatre Critics and Researchers of Slovenia for the Best Production of the Past Season (2013/14)

The Dead Man Comes for His Sweetheart

by Svetlana Makarovič, directed by Jernej Lorenci and performed by Prešeren Theatre Kranj and Ptuj City Theatre

The production of The Dead Man Comes for His Sweetheart is essentially marked with duality, which is set up already in the schism within the main heroine. This schism cracks open the space between the cruel land and the silent sky. The insurmountable abyss between the banality of life and the fragile ideals is revealed onstage as a dispelled world in which the authors of the production manage to find seemingly simple yet carefully weighed and precise theatrical solutions for all central thematic accents. This harmony of elements overlaps into a moving fresco determinately marked with naïve graciousness and subdued monstrosity – the two poles between which human existence is constantly swinging.

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