On the kind invitation of the Romanian Cultural Institute, Theatre of Europe’s Artistic Director, Henriette Morrison, was able to attend this year’s National Theatre Festival in Bucharest.My first stop on arrival was the Odeon Theatre to meet with Dorina Lazar, the theatre’s beloved director and also one of Romania’s leading actresses. A warm, generous and charismatic introduction and an exquisite three-hundred seat Italian theatre. I was also there to meet with theatre director Radu Afrim and to see the Bucharest premiere of his latest play When the Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell. It was a stunning production and fascinating to watch the sensitive portrayal of British and Australian characters spanning two centuries in Romanian. Then I had to make a dash with Radu Afrim over the road to the National Theatre for his next play that evening, a production of Ion Luca Caragiale’s Napasta. Caragiale is perhaps Romania’s best-known playwright – he wrote Napasta (‘Injustice’ in translation) in 1890, a tragicomedy that tells the story of a widow, Anca, who remarries the man who killed her husband. The play deals with Anca’s revenge and Afrim staged his present-day production in the high-pressured and sometimes seedy world of fashion, an idea which I felt worked extremely well. I was glad too of the opportunity to then discuss both plays with Radu Afrim over a bite to eat that night.
The next morning I met with another well-respected theatre maker, Vlad Massaci, who came to London a few years ago with the Nottara Theatre and his production of Festen at the Barbican. We sipped our cups of tea basking in the warm sunshine, disbelieving the fact that storms were raging back in the UK. It was very interesting for me to hear Vlad’s experience of London.
Later that afternoon I was interviewed on Romanian national television and discovered through the process another attention-grabbing theatre maker, Crista Bilciu, director of Teatrul de Foc (Theatre of Fire). She happened to be my interpreter and we found we had a lot to talk about. Her show is one of the National Theatre Festival’s recommendations and it is one of the few site-specific pieces to exist in Bucharest. Based on the short stories of Mircea Cartarescu, Nostalgia 53 takes place in one of the city’s many deserted houses, abandoned since Ceausescu’s dictatorship.
That evening I saw Silviu Purcarete’s production of The Italian Straw Hat at the very splendid National Opera House, followed by The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui starring Dorina Lazar at the Odeon Theatre and rounded off with Gianina Carbunariu’s Solitaritate. It was quite a roller coaster but I was delighted to have seen it all, especially to experience Gianina Curbunariu’s topical and polemic work in Romania – at times you really could cut the atmosphere with a knife.
Two days was short but thanks to my action packed programme I have returned with a good understanding of the Romanian theatre scene and I am certainly excited by what I have seen.
- Henriette Morrison