Naj, naj, naj festival 2018

The Festival’s Coming of Age

This year the Naj naj naj Festival is coming of age which is an opportunity for all of us who took part in its creating and organizing to thank its founder, former general manager of the City Theatre Žar ptica (Firebird), Marija Sekelez, who shaped and profiled it in such a way it became a relevant image and criterion for the theatrical vocation due to its effective professionalism. These years prove it was no ‘coincidence’, rather that it was and still remains a necessity in our theatrical community. In the first 6 years the Festival brought a selection of the best Croatian performances for children while for the past 12 years it has had an international attribute that, among other things, makes it possible for Croatian shows to be compared within an international context and for the audience to get informed about the newest stand of whatever is good and current in theatres for children abroad.

During these eighteen festival years we have witnessed diverse approaches to the theatrical practice, treatment of text or literary source, new performing expressions and acting skills in classical and multimedial shows brought about by a new era of technological progress. Still all along, festival performances have presented their primary important function: To educate and form some kind of a future audience, teaching children and young people about the theatre as a place of  dialogue, where you are being taught about beauty, ethics, tolerance and art. Keeping these ideas and criteria in mind, I chose thirteen performances: Four shows from abroad and nine Croatian ones.

Each year there are more and more shows and artists who would like to take part in the Festival. A great number of performances from abroad entered this year’s pre-selection phase but compared to last year they were less suited to the Festival’s form. One third of performances were of an ambient character; they were staged outside in open space, on playgrounds and in parks. The other third of offered performances were based on communicating and interacting with spectators where language posed an insurmountable barrier.

The Croatian productions on offer this year were of high value, making my job of selecting them much harder. What needs to be added here is that, following the Festival’s proposition rules, puppet shows applying for the Festival were excluded as they were not following its rules and regulations.

The selected performances present a choice of diverse directing poetics, different in their approach to the text itself, ranging from originals to dramatizations to the so-called author’s theatre or the ‘conjointly created theatre’, a new syntagm introduced into the theatrical terminology by Višnja Kačić Rogošić in her new book with the same title.

The Festival opens with the host theatre Žar ptica’s performance of Grumpy – Little Loves with the first ever dramatization of a comic book (by Ivica Bednjanec) in Croatian theatres. The theme of the show is friendship, shown in a dynamic comic book like director’s trade mark.

The show White Deer comes from Osijek, based on the motifs of Vladimir Nazor’s fairy tale with the same title. It offers a theatrical research of the animal world of the forest which turns into a ‘childhood metaphor’ thanks to its main protagonist, the girl Anka.

The theatre Boško Buha from Belgrade presents a classical piece for children, Cinderella, with the director’s interpretation of Evil theatericalized as a caricature which is presented as a total opposite to Good in the character of Cinderella, making it easy for the little spectators to identify with the message brought by this performance.

A coproduction of the Theatre company Pinklec from Čakovec and The Puppet Organisation We Need for sure – LOFT from Zagreb is named With a Reason problematizing life as a path of suffering, obstacles, challenges and love. An innovative show, abundant with onomatopoetic dialogue and a powerful visualization.

We will be watching another production of the Theatre company Pinklec, Across the seven Seas, over seven Mountains, by the renowned dramaturge – director tandem, Jelena Kovačić and Anica Tomić, and the painful theme very much present nowadays – interrupted lives of children in the recent migrant crisis.

The City Theatre Trešnja presents the performance Zora, the Redhead, the theme of which opens a burning issue of social inequality mirrored in problematic destinies of abandoned children.

The coproduction of the Culture home Crystal Cube of Merriment, City theatre Sisak and Zorin dom from Karlovac will be performing the show Whoever Misses the whole Caboodle, Should Google, an urban romantic comedy for the young where the winner is a book, the Internet or something else…? You guess!

The performance of Pinocchio by the Roseland Musical theatre from Barcelona presents to us the character of Pinocchio of the 21st century, inspired by Collodi’s tale written almost 200 years ago. The show, done in the genre of a spectacle, combines dancing, music, visual arts and new technologies, creating an amazing world close to our times.

Saint Petersburg State Drama theatre for children from Saint Petersburg (Theatre at Narva gates) will perform their show of The Ghost of Canterville where an American family staying at an old English castle fights a ghost. A bizarre, multimedia shadow play relates creatively with the realistic atmosphere of the English countryside

The second performance at the Festival from abroad is The Boat and the Moon by the La Baracca − Testoni Ragazzi Theatre, meant for the youngest audience. Simple words and actions interpreted by a young actress create an image of the world made of light, sound and movement.

The production of the Zagreb Youth Theatre will be showing us their Alice in Wonderland, a classical piece on the topic od growing up, told in a visually, musically and artistically attractive way.

You will also be watching the performance of The Invisible, a coproduction of the Theatre Virovitica and Puppet theatre Zadar that presents the misunderstanding between generations in a comical and charming manner with parents and children as main protagonists.

The Theatre Prijatelj presents their performance of The Story of a PoorThing or It’s no Shame Being poor at the Festival. Social discrimination occurs quite often in today’s cruel capitalist society, a fact that incites this show to discuss real values like friendship and love and to affirm them on stage.

At the end let me congratulate everyone in the theatre Žar ptica once again whose credit it is for keeping the Naj naj naj Festival going and profiling it into an important and prestigious festival for children of high quality.

It is my honour and my privilege to be a part of it.

Željka Turčinović


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