Sibiu International Theater Festival celebrated its 20th edition this year with great performances, from all cultural areas. It was a mixture of theater, music concerts, theater for children, dance, street performance and circus.  I was happy to be a part of all this and get the chance to see some great acts with great artists.

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We started with Incendies, a great theater play directed by Hugo Arrevillaga Serrano from Mexico. A very simple set design, but great actors that made an average subject become a masterpiece. A play that almost made me cry, that made me shiver, a play about war and love, about revenge and about returning to your origins.

Next was Hot Dog, which actually was the worst performance I saw during the festival. A dance performance made by Massimo Gerardi (a German – Italian co-production) which had actually nothing to say. Maybe too modern for my taste, but I saw it as an average performance about art, about what is and what isn’t art and about the day by day life of the modern consumer.

The Table is a musical journey around the world orchestrated by the Polish group Karbido. They use as an instrument a wooden table with many ultra-sensitive microphones that detect and amplify the most delicate vibrations. During one hour the four polish musicians performed on this unconventional instrument using their fingers, hands, sticks, brushes, coins and other things to generate sounds. They took us in a musical journey for Tibetan and meditation music to modern day pop-rock.

masa_Mihaela_Marinfoto Mihaela Marin

Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company had a very elegant and passionate performance at a fully booked Sala Thalia. And the audience was not at all disappointed. Their new show A Compás! Flamenco Vivo illustrates the wide range of flamenco rhythms from alboreá to buleríei. The artists, singers, instrumentalists and dancers are trying to transmit the rampant flamenco rhythm to the audience. During the performance the stage was flooded by tension taking the public to great emotional heights and ending in a see of applause.

flamenco_Sebastian_Marcovicifoto Sebastian Marcovici

Tuesday evening I went to see The Seagull by Chekhov. The play was directed by the Ukrainian director Yuri Kordonsky with the Timisoara German State Theater.  It was a classical interpretation of the play. The thing that seemed interesting to me was the design set. The actors were in the meddle of a rectangular shaped room with the audience around them and often walking, sitting and talking with the audience. The feeling was that you are an observer of the play, but also you are involved in it.

The Dance of the Magnetic Ballerina was one of the best dance performances I have seen in quite a while. This was absolutely spectacular. In only 40 minutes Andrea Miltnerová managed to mesmerize the crowd with her perfect moves. A simple set up, a couple of light bulbs and her, perfectly moving in accordance with the music.

Old Transylvanian Music Concert was something that I enjoyed and that relaxed me on a Thursday afternoon, on the 7th day of the Festival. Ursula Philippi had a very nice pipe organ concert, with Transylvanian and European old songs. The concert took place in the ‘Saint John Evangelical Church in Sibiu, the perfect place for this kind of instrument and music.  More about Ursula Philippi can be found here.

‘Don’t Lose Your Song’ was my first gospel music concert so far and it turned out to be exactly what I saw in American movies. A group of joyful people, singing with real pleasure and enjoying every moment of the show. The crowd reacted really well to the concert, everybody was singing and clapping hands and the acoustics of the Ursulinelor Church where the concert took place was just perfect for the event.

Then it was time for Lear’s Songs. I wasn’t expecting too much from this performance, just like Andreea said, what can a Shakespeare play bring new to the public? But when you think that there’s no way you can make an old theater play attractive, you get to see Lear’s Songs and just change your opinion immediately. This play was launched in the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe Festival where it won 3 prizes: Scotsman Fringe First, Herald Archangel and Musical Theatre Matters Special Award. It also won first prize as best performance of the festival. The ensemble members have chosen crucial scenes from King Lear to weave a story out of gestures, words and music. Each song emerges as a starting point for another ‘dramatic poem’. Songs of Lear is a constantly evolving creative research project, where the music becomes character, relationships and events.

Friday, we started with a very nice puppet play, called Sophie and the Giant. A simple story about a little girl who lived in an orphanage and one night a giant kidnaps her and takes her to his world. Only that the Giant is a good Giant and they become friends. It’s a simple story, but I just loved to see children react to the play. Some of them started crying when they saw the Giant, some of the laughed, some of the got scared.

Woyzeck was our next play, but unfortunately it didn’t manage to impress me too much. I found the set design very well made, and very creative, but the play itself lacked the sparkle that would have turned it into a success.

Mineblindness saved Friday night tough and made me laugh to tears as it was the best comedy theater play I have seen in years. Produced by the National Theater of Targu Mures, this play was absolutely brilliant. The characters, the dialogue, the set design, everything was built perfectly, not too shy, but not too pushy either. For a Romanian it was easier to understand what the play is all about, as it touches the very sensitive subject of the relations between Romanians and Hungarians living in Transylvania. But even if this is seen sometimes as a taboo subject, the play manages to explain the whole context in a very natural and relaxed manner, making fun of stereotypes and misconceptions.

Saturday was the big Japanese night and we started with an excellent play made by the Tokyo Metropolitan Theater, called The Bee. A man comes home one evening to find that his wife and son are kept hostages by a criminal who escaped prison. His decision is to go to the criminal’s wife and son house and to convince her to talk to her husband. The play happens fast, it gives you a quick and powerful shock and then it suddenly ends with the good becoming the bad.

The last play of the Festival for us was another great Japanese play, Dojo-ji. A very powerful play, using the two traditional Japanese theater styles, noh and kabuki. The play is based on a Japanese legend that says that one day, a handsome visiting priest named Anchin fell in love with a beautiful woman named Kiyohime, but after a time he overcame his passions and refrained from further meetings. Kiyohime became furious at the sudden change of heart and pursued him in rage. The priest and Kiyohime met at the edge of the Hidaka River, where the priest asked a boatman to help him to cross the river, but told him not to let her cross with his boat. When Kiyohime saw that Anchin was escaping her, she jumped into the river and started to swim after him. While swimming in the torrent of the Hidaka River, she transformed into a large serpent because of her rage. When Anchin saw her coming after him in the form of a huge serpent, he ran into the temple called Dōjō-ji. He asked the priests of Dōjōji for help and they hid him under the bell of temple. However, the serpent smelled him hiding inside the bell and started to coil around it. It banged the bell loudly several times with its tail, and then gave a great belch of fire that melted the bell, killing the priest.

dojoji_Mihaela_Marinfoto Mihaela Marin

Brilliant set design, excellent costumes, amazing acting. This play, as it was the last one I saw in this year’s Festival, left me a sweet taste of this year’s edition, happy with everything I experienced and happy with all the passion and the talent that the artists shared with us.

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