B is for... Bratislava

Feature in Issue 8-4 | Winter 1996

The EMF (European Mime Federation) Conference and MAPA (Moving Academy of Performing Arts) Forum on Young Artists in Europe took place in Slovakia last October, bringing together young artists from East and West Europe to explore cooperation and co-production. Phil Gunderson was there to attend the event which accompanied Bratislava’s first ever festival of mime.

B is for… Butterflies

We are gathered in the Zichy Palace. 51 delegates from fourteen European countries. No one has entered the hall as we cluster over thick black coffees in tiny cups. How do you describe these few days where everything is condensed into a short span of hyperexperience; conversations left in mid-sentence where every question begs another? Eugenio Barba writes in The Paper Canoe that every language has a different word for Butterfly. I try this theory out and become a Butterfly collector. In our conversations we don’t aim to define what the artform is, but marvel at the range and rich variety of patterns and colours. As we talk we also find many similarities and perhaps new solutions to old problems. Ineke Austen who is chair of the EMF talks about a ‘fundamental orientation with respect to one’s presence in the playing space’. I feel inspired.

B is for… Bogner

It’s 8 O’clock in the evening at the Arena Theatre and F.J. Bogner has begun his Dada like anti-performance clown show by showing two cables lying on the ground which supposedly control the lights via a switch until he shows you that one of them is not really attached at all. He alternates his performance between performing and not performing. It is at one and the same time riveting and frustrating. The evening ends with the audience being told that they can go, but nobody dares to in case they miss something. The festival includes well-known performers from around the world including Stibor Ruba (Czech Republic), Yllana (Spain), Yayoi Hirano (Japan) and from Britain Nole Rae with Elizabeth’s Last Stand. Her show is an enormous hit and she fills the vast space with her compelling presence and brilliant timing.

B is for… Broccoli

After the show we look for somewhere to eat and find a very impressively decorated restaurant complete with chandeliers. It seems it is the only restaurant open, perhaps it has something to do with the casino which is open next door, hoping to attract foreign currency. The menu is really good value for those of us from the West and comes in a choice of Slovakian, German or English. We talk animatedly about the theatre and I continue to explore the other European words for butterfly that I have missed earlier. Then someone asks what Broccoli is in Slovakian. It is, apparently, the same in every language.

The MAPA Caravan is a training and performance project between East and West Europe. It will travel between Antwerp, Bratislava, Budapest, Amsterdam and Berlin between February and October 1997. For information contact European Mime Federation and MAPA in Amsterdam.

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TT 8-4
Issue 8-4
p. 17