THE SLOVAK capital Bratislava this year becomes the hub of the European theatre scene. In hosting the prestigious EuroThalia festival, which has been held about every second year in a different European country since 1989, Slovakia becomes the first post-communist state to organise the event within its borders.
EuroThalia is a project by the European Theatre Convention, a pan-European institution grouping 34 theatres from 22 European countries with headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Established in 1988, the Convention has so far created 3,472 productions and organised numerous festivals to bring European theatres together.
"The festival is an excellent opportunity for the institution and us to finally begin co-operation and exchanges," said Dušan Jamrich, the director of both the Slovak National Theatre and the EuroThalia 2002 festival.
The sixth holding of the festival comes to Bratislava after touring European theatre centres such as Nice in 1999, Stockholm in 1997 and Luxembourg in 1995. Each festival honours one of its 22 member countries, and along with the artistic quality of the plays also discusses important aspects of European politics. This year the event will focus on refugees and immigration as hot issues in Europe today.
The number of plays and the way they are divided symbolise the new borders of Europe, which now reach as far east as the Caucasus state of Georgia. Five plays come from western and five from eastern Europe, with Slovakia in between.
The British play The Censor is a scandalous story about a young movie director who faces censorship problems because of too much sex in her movie. In the Slovene version of Beckett's drama Waiting For Godot, two clowns deliver the desperate story through witty dialogues and acting.
Political changes and contemporary Slovak history are the themes of the Slovak play Le Bal, which features lonely dancers performing in a salon, oblivious to the turbulent events happening just outside the window.
"Dance brings the play closer to our colleagues and the public from abroad without their needing to know the language," said Jamrich.
Except for the theatres from Hamburg and Tbilisi, all others are visiting Slovakia for the first time. The organisers hope that after the festival, Slovak theatres will be given more chances to perform on European stages.
"Our opera and drama works have received awards in Edinburgh and Israel, and they regularly travel to Hungary and the Czech Republic. This festival has to be a continuation of those successes," said Jamrich.
What: EuroThalia theatre festival
Where: Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav Theatre, Laurinská 21, and Malá Scéna Theatre, Dostojevského rad 7.
When: June 24-30
For more information see www.snd.sk/thalia/thalia_a.html