They were trained to fight against the fascist colonial dictatorship in socialist Eastern Bloc countries like Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde. What impact did their time on the other side of the Iron Curtain, which sometimes lasted several years, have on their lives? Did it change their perception of communism? Portuguese production Eastern Loves is trying to answer these questions in the current programme of the thirteenth edition of the AKCENT International Festival of Documentary Theatre. With this year’s motto: “Be Yours!”, it will take place from 4 November to 12 December at the Archa Theatre in Prague. The festival will feature eight exceptional productions by international and local theatre companies.
In addition to two performances from Portugal, this year the festival will offer, for example, a production by Hamburg’s Thalia Doughnuts Theatre, directed by Japanese director Toshiki Okada. The Czech programme will present, for example, Vykouření out by Brno’s Husa na provázku Theatre, directed by Jiří Havelka, or Link by the Spielraum Kollektiv. Tickets are currently on sale on the Archa Theatre website.
“The AKCENT Festival was created 13 years ago to give Czech audiences an overview of what documentary theatre can be. Over the years we have presented the biggest stars of theatre that celebrates authenticity on stage. We have always been interested in what theatrical language the artists choose so that the moment of authenticity can be preserved in the artificial environment of the theatre,” says the festival’s artistic director Jana Svobodová, adding that AKCENT will be completing one of its milestones this year, as it will be held for the last time in the building of the outgoing Archa Theatre, where it originated.
Two productions will come to the festival from Portugal this year. The highly anticipated Eastern Loves by the Hotel Europa theatre company, which also has a Czech footprint. The main faces are Portuguese André Amálio and Tereza Havlíčková from the Czech Republic. The artists create documentary theatre productions that explore the boundaries between theatre, dance and performance. Their current work is based on authentic stories of citizens of former Portuguese colonies fighting against colonization, trained in the socialist states of Eastern Europe.
“The production is based on the testimonies of those who lived through these situations and the performers’ autobiographical stories about their families or their own past in the former Eastern Europe. The production questions the relationships between love, family ties and politics,” says Svobodová.
AKCENT’s next Portuguese contribution will be the feminist-involved Are You Coming? by Lobby Teatro. Based almost entirely on image and movement, it highlights the urgency of seeing a future where femininity is not synonymous with an inferior social identity. The lead role is created by the author herself, Mariana Fonseca. Through various artistic languages, she explores her alter-ego. She refuses to devalue herself as a Woman who is a victim of toxic and violent relationships.
From the Hamburg theatre comes a performance in German with Czech subtitles called Doughnuts. It likens the world to a doughnut with lots of edges and a hole in the middle.
“With the increasing erosion of all certainties, the void in the middle gets bigger and bigger, symbolizing a modern phenomenon: one species conquering an alien environment and causing havoc. The viewer encounters a bear in a supermarket, a mutating virus or social media without a heart. And then suddenly no one knows whether their own way of thinking is still correct,” says Ondřej Hrab, director of the Archa Theatre. The production is presented by AKCENT in cooperation with the German Language Festival.
The Czech artists will be represented by the production Vykouření by the Husa na provázku Theatre. It was directed and written by Jiří Havelka. It responds to a case where a theatre production ended up in the Constitutional Court. The prosecutor was Cardinal Dominik Duka. The furiously cathartic stage ceremony based on real events brings fragments of legal texts, internet articles and interviews, audience letters, witness statements and the New Testament to the Ark stage. In doing so, it will confront questions that still circulate today. For example, what devils tempt society to divide itself into warring camps, and why.
A subjective confrontation between members of two distant generations of the same family will bring the production The Legacy by Spielraum Kollektiv to the Archa, The theme is waiting for death and what is left behind.
“Never before in the known history of mankind has it happened that such different generations with different interests and outlooks on life have lived in the same period. The rapid progress of the times and the constant changes to which all generations are subjected daily cause mutual misunderstanding. The importance of the common man as an answer to the contemporary search for the meaning of existence is what this production is about,” says Hrab.
As part of ACENT, the Archa is also going to host the debut of the first successful Czech theatre installation with eleven (non-)actresses. Those Who Speak for Themselves … will transform the theatre hall into a huge gallery, whose exhibits will be the authentic life stories of eleven women. It will then be up to the audience to decide whether they will experience all the stories or only some parts, or in what order they will perceive the stories.
On the contrary, the theater will be turned into a laboratory by the next production Každý má v sobě dva vlky. She examines how young Vietnamese live in the Czech Republic. In it, the main protagonists Thang Ngo Xuan, Lili Phung and Thu Phuong Tran model from clay and tell stories. Their work is recorded in detail by a web camera and creates emotional landscapes on the canvas that influence the dialogues of the performers. In addition, the audience enters an unconventionally arranged theater hall defined by a movable projection screen, sound equipment, several mobile lights and a television screen.
“The production Každý má v sobě dva vlky was created during the year-long collaboration of the author, Hana Kokšalová’s project, with representatives of the second generation of Vietnamese living in the Czech Republic, who call themselves the Banana Children. All three performers did not know each other before, nor did they have any experience in theater production. During the preparation of the production, they went through a series of documentary theater workshops led by theater professionals,” concludes Jana Svobodová, dramaturg of the production, promising that AKCENT will take place next year as well.
Saturday, November 4, 8:00 p.m., Great Hall
Toshiki Okada/ Thalia Theater, Hamburg (Germany)
Performance in German with Czech subtitles
16 or 17/11, 20:00, large hall
André Amálio and Tereza Havlíčková, Hotel Europa (Portugal)
Czech, German, Portuguese, Russian and Changana (one of the languages of Mozambique) are spoken in the performance.
The performance is with Czech subtitles.
18.11., 20:00, small hall
Are You Coming?
Mariana Fonseca, Lobby Teatro (Portugal)
Performance in English, video with English subtitles
20.11., 20:00, small hall
Spielraum Kollektiv (Czech Republic)
Presentation in Czech
24/11, 18:00, small hall
Každý má v sobě dva vlky
Hana Kokšalová et al. (Czech Republic)
The performance is in Czech.
The performance is followed by a theater workshop.
The production is intended especially for young viewers aged 13 to 25.
25/11, 20:00, large hall
Jiří Havelka et al. / Goose on a String Theater (Czech Republic)
The performance is in Czech.
12/12, 20:00, large hall
Ti, kdo mluví sami za sebe
Jana Svobodová et al. (Czech Republic)
The performance is in Czech.
Much Better Now!
Sofía Vélez (Great Britain) Martin Krupa (Czech Republic)
Multimedia installation in the foyer of the Archa Theatre.