Naj, naj, naj festival 2019


City theatre Zar ptica Zagreb organizes 19th International Naj,naj,naj festival from April 24. – 28. 2019.

The festival was founded in 2001 with the idea to present the very best productions of professional theatres for children in Croatia to the young Zagreb audience during the spring holidays.

The specialty of the festival is that all performances are for free, enabling the children to spend their spring holidays enjoying the very best theaters can offer. This way they fall in love with the theater on a life-long basis.

The best evidence for the success of „Naj,naj,naj“ festivals so far is the fact that it became international in 2007. The festival competition is enriched by different views on theater art for children which every visiting theatre from Europe and the world shares as something specific with the rest of the participants.

An amazing number of visitors- more than 4000 of them; the joy both the viewers and the visiting performers feel- ensured “The Naj,naj,naj festival” a renowned status in Croatia and wider region.

The festival is a competition of non-puppet perfomaneces, where an expert jury, composed of eminent theatrical critics, selects and awards the best performances with the sculpture of the Golden Žar ptica (Firebird).


Foreword by the Selector of the Festival

After being present for nineteen years, we may rest assured that the Naj, naj, naj festival, produced by the ‘City Theatre Žar ptica’, has been firmly positioned on the map of theatrical and cultural events in the city of Zagreb as a site of celebrating the theatre for children, as well as a chance for the young audience to watch new performances from Croatia and the world in a single city within a limited time; to discover new stories and new tendencies of directing shows, that offer insight into social, ecological, cultural and community problems apart from bringing amusement and the joy of sharing.

It is an old and well-known truth that theatres for children create a future adult audience, for whom the theatre will play an inevitable part in their mature years, where they would feast on the spiritual substance and form their personality traits within the culture of their surroundings. The theatre teaches and entertains at the same time, it forms our taste and creates experience, encouraging us to always go back to the theatre after seeing a performance. Shows for children teach dialoguing with the audience; they develop a tolerance toward diversity, inspire positive passions like love, empathy, friendship…

Having these criteria in mind, I selected nine performances, three international shows and six Croatian ones. The fact that the organizers reduced the possible number of selected shows needs to be mentioned though. The abundant offer of performances which applied for the festival was very interesting.

The mention of figures alone would suffice for everyone to see that it has not been an easy decission to choose among 62 international and 25 national performances, although I hope that both little and grown-up visitors would be pleased with the choice of selected performances that are innovative, visually attractive; with stories and themes that matter to all of us.

Our international shows come from exotic Uganda, fascinating Georgia and Austria, from our close surrounding. They belong to the non – verbal and dance type of theatre, which I think, is  of greatest importance for a very young audience at international festivals, who would need the additional assistance of mostly their parents to read the Croatian subtitles to them or  explain the contents of the story of the show in a foreign language.

Plastic from Uganda, by the ‘Blac Anthem Theatre Company’ presents the ecological topic of dealing with the problem of plastic waste in the seas and on the continent, employing songs, dancing and movement.

The ‘Nodar Dumbadze State Youth Theatre’ from Tbilisi present their show The Flea and the Ant, based on a folk tale to deal with the topic of friendship among living beings, while the dance theatre for children performance Jumping by the ‘Dschungel Theatre for the Young’ from Vienna send their message ‘My heart jumps for joy’.

The Croatian theatres for children mostly create performances based on dramatizations, then there are author projects that are primarily not founded on literary texts and finally original texts for children that are the least represented. I am merely mentioning this fact here, the possible reasons as to why this is the case, should be discussed at some other point.

Out of this year’s selection, the most represented are author projects – three of them. Two shows are produced by the well-known tandem dramaturge – director, Jelena Kovačić and Anica Tomić and one by the doublet Ivana Đula and Milica Sinkauz.

Let us introduce Jelena and Anica’s author projects first: the first one is produced by the ‘Theatre company Pinklec’ from Čakovec, entitled Across seven Seas, over seven Mountains, and the second one by the ‘City Puppet theatre’ from Split, called My Class of 2. b.

The performance of  Across seven Seas, over seven Mountains, deals with the life of refugee children, whose childhood was interrupted by the war and the migrant crisis; its special value being the authenticity of the stories from the points of view of wise children and their emotions.  My Class of 2. b. also offers insight into the difficulties of childhood and growing up of a generation at a particular point of time, however, that childhood turns out to be idyllic, normal and funny, also thanks to a very special teacher. Two shows – two sides of childhood, one is sad, the other is happy, both dependent on and created by adults.

‘The City puppet theatre Rijeka’ present the Adventures of little Juju, the well-known song for children, which is theatricalized into a successful theatre performance by the author team.  

The only original text written for children at this festival is Ivana Francišković’s Woody, the Weirdo, co-produced by ‘Kotar theatre Delnice’ and ‘Mala scena Zagreb’, based on the legend about Woody, focused on ecological issues.

The Festival’s host, ‘City theatre Žar ptica’, is represented with the dramatization of the story of Gulliver in the land of the Lilliputanians, thematically emphasizing the phenomenon of accepting diversity among us.

In the production of the ‘Puppet theatre Zadar’ we will be watching the performance of Can’t Please the whole World, dramatized after the motifs of a folk tale, problematizing the constant compromizing toward the environment and society on the expense of restraining one’s own personality, our identity. The versatility of topics, the variety of styles and poetics of directing, the audiovisual attraction of shows will, I hope, delight the youngest, please the grown-ups and provide us all with new admirers of the art of theatre for children following this festival.

Let your ‘heart jump for joy’ while you are watching the performances of the 19th Naj, naj, naj festival at the Žar ptica theatre!

Željka Turčinović


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