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Theatre Journal 52.2 (2000) 272-276
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The 11Th International Istanbul Theatre Festival
The 11Th International Istanbul Theatre Festival. Istanbul, Turkey. 19 May-4 June 1999.
In sunny, although unusually cold Istanbul, the Eleventh International Theatre Festival opened in an atmosphere of anxiety with the city still strangely dressed in banners and flags from the national sporting event called Youth Day. Several weeks before, a bomb had exploded in a department store in the theatrical center of Taksim Square, and the alarming unrest in the Kurdish South East, aggravated by the approaching trial of the infamous Ocalan, made the air thick with tension. Security systems in all public buildings kept a constant vigil during the Festival.
Against all external adversities, the organizers of the Festival made tremendous efforts to ensure that the program ran smoothly. The Festival's office, staffed mostly by women under the leadership of three personable and highly professional administrators (Director Dikmen Gurun, Personal Relations Director Nilgun Mirze, and Koza Gokbuget) provided superb guidance and extraordinary hospitality. The ambitious plan of showing seventeen [End Page 272] productions from nearly twenty theatres, six from outside Istanbul, proved very compelling. Although the foreign productions were the center of attention, for both Istanbul's audience and the Turkish media, palpable excitement surrounded the première of the first collaboration of Turkish and Greek companies. Their project was the Heracles trilogy directed by Theodoros Terzopoulos. The Festival also commemorated the 250th anniversary of Goethe's birth, celebrated by the presence of two recent European stage adaptations of Faust. The first, F@ust Version 3.0 [Theatre Journal 50.4: 511-13] performed by the Catalan company La Fura dels Baus from Barcelona, was well received by both spectators and critics. Another adaptation of Goethe's Faust, much appreciated by the Istanbul audiences, was the ninety-minute long German production of Dusseldorfer Schauspielhausound, directed and designed by Janusz Wisniewski. With its tone of dark mockery, this bold and unusually biting production utilized the aesthetics of Tadeusz Kantor's memorable Dead Class and Wielopole, Wielopole. Wisniewski orchestrated continuous somnambular processions around the stage, danced to the dreary music of Jerzy Satanowski, and used several characters and scenes quoted from Kantor's works.
However, three productions made the two weeks in Istanbul especially stimulating, each for different reasons. The Heracles trilogy exhibited yet another phase in the fascinating evolution of Theodoros Terzopoulos's "fusion" of Eastern and Western motifs in his innovative adaptations of ancient Greek tragedy. This production also initiated an important and visibly fruitful artistic alliance between the Greek and Turkish actors working in the ensemble. Another prominent work of the festival originated in Turkey. Deer's Curse, written by Murathan Mungan, a playwright and accomplished writer of fiction, and conceived by the Ankara-based company Devlet Tiyatrosu (directed by Mustafa Avkiran) employed Mesopotamian fairy tales and thought to generate its mesmerizing allure. Nearly four hours long, the uninterrupted performance, enacted by the cast of over two dozen, had an epic scale that could compete with the Mahabarata. The third outstanding piece belonged to the Brazilian Macunaima company of São Paulo. Their chilling and austere production of The Trojan Women, adapted and directed by Antunes Filho, Macunaima's long-term artistic leader, proved a forcible reminder of the heartbreaking war and homicide in Kosovo. [End Page 273]
Terzopoulos's Heracles, a trilogy loosely based on various texts of modern and ancient authors (primarily Heiner Müller's Heracles 5 and Heracles 13, Sophocles' Trachiniae, and Euripides' Madness of Heracles) was presented on three consecutive evenings. Each part was performed by either Greek actors of the Attis Theatre (Part I), Turkish actors from Istanbul (Part II), or the joined ensemble of both Greek and Turkish companies (Part III). The style of production and the method of acting in all parts of the trilogy demonstrated again Terzopoulos's fascination with Kabuki theatre and his affinity with the techniques of Tadashi Suzuki. The first play of Heracles was enacted by the five Greek performers on a...