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Maribor Theatre Festival — Archive 2010 - 2016

Jury Report

Monday, 7 December 2015

The expert jury of the 50th Maribor Theatre Festival judged the ten productions in the Competition Programme. Only one of those productions was created in co-production with a non-government organisation, all the others were representives of Slovenian institutional theatres, with the Slovenian National Theatre Drama Ljubljana participating with the most productions. A rough analysis shows that the content of the competing performances flows in two directions: on the one side, towards engaged theatre which reflects, addresses and, through various directorial principles, exposes the situation of today’s society or questions the problematic memory of the experience of war; on the other, we were witness to a powerful tendency of reinterpretation, appearing in the form of dramatisations or adapations of well-known literary works. The productions of The Castle; Hedda Gabler and Madame Bovary drew upon the enthusiasm of the classic works, in which they effectively and through distinct production methods mapped out the universality of the selected content, which remains relevant even today. Then we have Europe, a Monologue for Mother Courage and Her Children; The Serfs and George Kaplan, which revealed a reflection on the contemporary political-cultural position and through diverse directorial concepts and without restraint addressed the living present, here and now. Trieste, A City in War; The Iliad; Yugoslavia, My Country and Magic Mountain touched upon the phenomena of wars, historical milestones and intimate and national identity, covering some motifs directly and with a documentary note, and others through metaphor or myth.

Genres were widely represented, with the smallest place allotted to comedy; the performances otherwise stuck especially to serious and sombre tales. If we exclude dramatisations, the Competition Programme offered only one Slovenian original dramatic writing (Madame Bovary), something we can certainly understand as rather alarming. Although the selector’s choice, as well as the entire season itself, focused considerably on engaged themes, the jury missed more boldness of content and risk-taking in the use of the theatre language in the stagings and directorial-performing concepts. The aesthetic level of the performances often without reason exceeded the sharpness of the content, thereby depriving it of an authentic and organic dramatic/performative vitality, stripping away the opportunity of forming more striking characters or roles. The jury of this year’s selection could not get past the feeling that also the theatre field is permeated with some type of fear of change and clear opinions, a consequence of which was evident in the prevalence of previously acknowledged production forms, which – we hope – will be avoided as much as possible in the upcoming theatre season.

The jury of experts:
Krištof Jacek Kozak
Nina Mitrović
Katja Perat
Mikko Roiha
Zala Dobovšek, president

Maribor, 25 October 2015



  • The Grand Prix for the Best Production of the Maribor Theatre Festival

HEDDA GABLER directed by Mateja Koležnik performed by the Drama of the Slovene National Theatre Maribor

The production of Hedda Gabler exudes excellence on many levels: from the text, distilled to its essence, through the effective restrictive stage design and sophisticated costume design to the aesthetic yet persuasive acting presence. In this way the production reveals itself to us as a laboratory of emotions, where it is possible to distinctly follow the microscopic positioning of details. It proves that under the icy surface bubbles a molten interior, emotions are exposed to such potent, almost tectonic, pressures that they approach the breaking point. The production of Hedda Gabler is a relevant, refined, aquarium display of the petite bourgeoisie and its problems, so characteristic of our time.


  • Borštnik Award for Direction

Yulia Roschina for the direction of MADAME BOVARY performed by the Slovene National Theatre Nova Gorica

In this staging of Madame Bovary, Yulia Roschina carries out a directorial approach that is unique both in aesthetics and content. She enters the story passionately and with a strong stance in which she bravely and innovatively focuses on the diversity and depth of the stage language. She consciously equally invests both her common sense and her heart in the staging, the climate of the stage action especially distinguishes her personal, sincere and confident relation to the content. The directorial concept exquisitely balances the sensibility and brutality and critically poses the questions about the historical and contemporary situations and the (dis)empowerment of women as well as men. In this the theatre mechanisms are "laid bare”, before us is a stage event that seemingly hides nothing, yet despite that remains attractive and unpredictable to the last moment.


  • Borštnik Award for Dramaturgical Concept

Goran Ferčec, Mateja Koležnik, Metka Damjan for the dramaturgical concept of the production HEDDA GABLER performed by the Drama of the Slovene National Theatre Maribor

Although this version of Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen has been substantially abridged, the creators have maintained the core of the author’s dramatic and philosophical points. The dramaturgical concept is contemporary and communicative, it offers a new, updated reading of the drama, exposing with full force the psychological profiles of the characters who, despite the time distance (from the creation of the original), achieve the unique effect of emotional and moral universality. The design of the dramaturgical arch is one of the cornerstones that cuts through the production with its purity and dynamics as well as offers a fresh understanding and depiction of Ibsen’s drama.


  • Borštnik Award for Lighting Design

Pascal Mérat for lighting design in the production of THE ILIAD performed by Ljubljana City Theatre and the Slovenian National Theatre Drama Ljubljana in co-production with Cankarjev dom

Pascal Mérat’s lighting design concept enters this staging of The Iliad exceptionally organically, functioning as and having the effect of a dramaturgical tool. The dramaturgy of the lighting gains its own independent role and appears as an indispensable, equivalent moment within the theatrical whole. It goes beyond supporting the stage design and the action as such, but for an interplay between its role and function, which nevertheless remains measured, unaggressive, yet still suggestive and constantly active. In line with the theme of the production, it is like a weapon that can slice through the air and challenge through its wealth of symbolism.


  • Borštnik Award for Stage Design

Numen and Ivana Jonke for stage design in the production of THE CASTLE performed by the Slovenian National Theatre Drama Ljubljana

With its small details on a clean stage, the stage design concept of The Castle seemingly effortlessly recreates the atmosphere of the novel and the taste of the period in which it was written. Its greatest innovation, however, is that – contrary to expectations – it doesn’t invite the viewer onto the stage, but simply stretches the stage across the audience, in the form of a net, thus informing us that, regardless of our possible objections, we all populate the Kafkaesque universe of eternal existential constraint.


  • Borštnik Award for Costume Design

Anda Savić Gecan for costume design in the production YUGOSLAVIA, MY COUNTRY performed by the Slovenian National Theatre Drama Ljubljana

The costumes of Ana Savić Gecan immerse us in the 1990s, succeeding not only in creating the external image and spirit onstage, but also in convincingly bringing the smell, taste and touch of that time. Such perfect costumes do not present the era to us, rather, they transport us in a surprising way to that era. A broad spectrum, an identification with the period that extends into the subconscious, in addition to the necessary verism, without a doubt express the exceptional artistic talent of Ana Savić Gecan.


  • Borštnik Young Actor Award

Vito Weis for the roles of Léon and Rodolphe in the production of MADAME BOVARY performed by by the Slovene National Theatre Nova Gorica

In the production of Madame Bovary, Vito Weis embodies the two lovers of Emma Bovary, Léon and Rodolphe, and in his interpretation brings numerous shades of the male temperament. His roles carry distinct layers that are full of the effectively captured paradoxes; he is measured and prudent in dispersing gentleness, cruelty, instinct. His performance is integrated, solidly saturated both physically and mentally, with which it elicits its own erotic energy that does not need nudity and excess in order to shock and move, but penetrates through the actor’s clear thought and a deep awareness of his own body.


  • Four Borštnik Awards for Acting

Jernej Šugman for the role of Emir in the production YUGOSLAVIA, MY COUNTRY performed by the Slovenian National Theatre Drama Ljubljana

In the role of Emir, Jernej Šugman sensitively yet clearly, convincingly and in the correct measure succeeds to combine distinct contrasts: he is brutally macho, cold and calculating, and at the same time sensitive, devoted, unhappy and emotionally "soft”. In this way Šugman creates an emotionally layered, complementary, complete stage persona, in which he persuasively interplays with and merges the opposite sides of an emotional fan, and in doing so spontaneously and unsurpassably personifies profound humanity. Šugman’s character is a real person, an everyman, perhaps even our neighbour, not a drama character from the theatre dressing room.


Polona Juh for the role of Frieda in the production of THE CASTLE performed by the Slovenian National Theatre Drama Ljubljana

With the role of Frieda in The Castle, Polona Juh once again shows how much intelligence emotion requires and the resulting rewards when it is carefully structured. Juh effortlessly reshapes Frieda, whom we know as a mere breathtaking object of desire, into a subject, to whom she enables complete personal development and with her assets shows the spectator that she is able to be gentle in order not to become weak. With her stage presence she enlivens every scene in which she enters, regardless of how dark the corner of Kafka’s soul in which it was conceived.


Nataša Matjašec Rošker for the role of Hedda Gabler in the production of HEDDA GABLER performed by the Drama of the Slovene National Theatre Maribor

Nataša Matjašec Rošker in the role of Hedda Gabler demonstrates that by merely changing facial expression and body posture she is able to play the entire drama of the mental pressure under which a woman finds herself when she wants to and must at every price remain perfect. She succeeds in putting together a female role that is cold and cruel and yet remains human throughout. Her composure, discipline and precision in the purified – to minute detail – sterile environment of the performance, in which there are no elements for her to hide behind and no time for her to stop, are maintained until the bitter end.


Jette Ostan Vejrup for the role of Hera in the production of THE ILIAD performed by Ljubljana City Theatre and the Slovenian National Theatre Drama Ljubljana in co-production with Cankarjev dom

As Hera, Jette Ostan Vejrup in the best extent humanly possible succeeded to embody the ancient figure, who can be herself without fear and sensitively and totally present herself outwardly while at the same time controlling herself inwardly. As a simultaneous double of her own self, it is distinctly possible to also recognise her luxurious presence as an ancient Greek goddess, assured of herself and her power. Jette Ostan Vejrup perfectly succeeds in intertwining the godliness and the humanness of the character, her absoluteness and contingency. Yet that power does not seduce the actress, on the contrary, she exquisitely curbs herself and in doing so holds a necessary mirror to today’s decadent world.


  • Borštnik Jury Award

The Performing Ensemble of THE ILIAD for its collective performance in the production  performed by Ljubljana City Theatre and the Slovenian National Theatre Drama Ljubljana in co-production with Cankarjev dom

The performing ensemble of The Iliad deserves this award for its unity, commitment and breathtaking ability to work as one body, as a live organism who in its furious harmony physically co-creates onstage the mythical past about which it is telling. It deserves this award because its members have polished to the utmost that which we otherwise expect from an acting ensemble, yet rarely encounter in practice, thus proving that it is possible to go beyond today’s omnipresent force of hyper-individualisation.

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