One festival’s spring motifs

Mogilev hosts 7th International M@rt.Contact Youth Theatrical Forum
By Marina Semekhova

Mogilev’s Regional Drama Theatre’s recent street festival has seen mime artists performing, as the Regional Executive Committee’s Deputy Chairman, Valery Malashko, noted at the launch of the M@rt.Contact event. He explained, “This year, as the new cultural capital of Belarus and the CIS — a first for us — we’re hosting the Youth Theatrical Festival; it was one of the planned events which helped our city on the Dnieper River win this honour.”

Naturally, the event aroused much interest, with tickets to shows sold out in just three days. The Head of the Regional Executive Committee’s Cultural Department, Anatoly Sinkovets, noted “We’re already receiving proposals to extend the event, to cover district centres, and are planning more meetings between young people and the actors and directors they admire. We’ll definitely take all wishes into consideration!”

This year, the forum gathered troupes from eight countries: Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Armenia, Lithuania, Latvia and Moldova. Fourteen performances were staged across seven days, hosted by the Regional Drama Theatre, the Puppet Theatre and Mogilev Concert Hall. “Certain traditions have been formed since M@rt.Contact began but it’s good to break these and introduce something new,” admits the Mogilev Regional Drama Theatre’s Director, Andrey Novikov. “However, we’ll certainly continue following our key concept of aiming the festival at young people.”

This season has been characterised by open air performances and street drama, explains Mr. Novikov. “Our desire to attract as many people as possible, helping them to enjoy the breathtaking atmosphere of the event, has inspired this experiment. We’ve invited Polish Biuro Podrуży to perform by the Town Hall. For the past two decades, the troupe has been touring worldwide, participating in numerous festivals. These artistes are ‘expensive’ but they are dazzling and perform regardless of the weather. Their Carmen’s Burial was full of light and fire, featuring stilt acrobats. We fenced a space around the Town Hall with special handrails and entry was free to everyone.”

Puppet theatres took part for the first time this year; including Yerevan’s O. Tumanyan State Theatre, the Mogilev Regional Puppet Theatre and the Belarusian State Puppet Theatre. “Puppet theatres are sometimes stronger than traditional drama troupes and are staging an increasing number of shows for adults,” Mr. Novikov emphasises. “The Mogilev Regional Puppet Theatre is a good example, having recently staged its version of William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Hamlet.”

The organisers of the festival acted wisely in moving away from tradition, in allowing puppet performances to take part. In fact, the Grand Prix went to the Mogilev Regional Puppet Theatre’s experimental interpretation of Hamlet: hailed as a true gift for World Theatre Day. The original performance defied stereotypes that our theatre is predictable.

After the second day of the forum, guests from Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Armenia, Moldova and Poland were voicing their approval of puppetry, claiming that some of the performances were more powerful than traditional drama presentations. Another puppet theatre — from Yerevan — was awarded ‘For Original Scriptwriting’; its enchanting Flight over the City was full of lyricism, telling the story of a young blind girl, played by the director of the performance, Narine Grigoryan.

However, traditional drama theatres didn’t disappoint, with the prize for best direction being awarded to Galina Zhdanova — for her contemporary staging of Romeo and Juliet. Her performance, with the Theatre na Liteynom, also won the St. Petersburg Proryv (Breakthrough) Youth Theatre Prize in its native city. Meanwhile, a resident of northern Palmira, from the Comedian’s Refuge Drama Theatre, Yekaterina Zorina, was named best young actress at the forum for her role in Warsaw Melody: a famous lyrical drama by Leonid Zorin. Yekaterina played female student Helena — a Polish singer and would-be celebrity. Actor Anatoly Barannik, with Brest’s Academic Drama Theatre, took the title ‘Best Young Actor’ for playing Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye.

The ‘Bright Debut’ prize went to Yekaterina Yergulevich, of the Mogilev Regional Drama Theatre, for her portrayal of Empress Yekaterina I in Jester Balakirev, or The Court Comedy. Finally, Chernigov’s Regional Academic Music and Drama Theatre (named after Shevchenko) was awarded ‘For Preservation of Repertoire Traditions’.
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