Naj, naj, naj festival 2020


26.2. – 1.3.2020

#NAJ fight against peer violence (in Croatian: #naNAJjače protiv vršnjačkog nasilja)

The Naj, naj, naj festival was founded in 2001 by Marija Sekelez and it was supposed to be a festival where the very best children’s theatre plays from all over Croatia would be performed. In 2007 it became an international event. When that happened, the festival competition became enriched with new and different approaches to theatre art that each competing visiting country brings to the table. The international Naj, naj, naj festival has been on the map of cultural manifestations for children ever since.

At previous Naj, naj, naj festivals, the children of Zagreb enjoyed a total of 272 plays, 61 of which were performed by international guests: Japan, Yakutia, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Lithuania, Israel, Finland, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Uganda, Georgia and Austria. A total of 74 280 spectators came to see the plays.

The 20th jubilee of the Naj, naj, naj festival, which will be held from 26 February until 1 March 2020, is a special event, not just because of its special celebratory edition but also because of its humanitarian character, meaning that it is entirely dedicated to the fight against peer violence. The aim of our opening ceremony, which will be held on Wednesday, 26 February, at 11 a.m. and which includes the performance of the play Speak and You’re Dead! (in Croatian: Ako kažeš, gotov si!) that covers the topic of peer violence, is to commemorate the National Day of Fight Against Peer Violence and Pink Shirt Day in Croatia. Following the performance of plays that touch on the subject of peer violence, other activities will be organized, as well as workshops led by expert psychologists from the Child and Youth Protection Centre of Zagreb.

By buying a ticket at a very acceptable price, everyone will be able to participate in fundraising for anti-bullying school projects (workshops, school magazines, drama class plays, student art exhibitions). The money raised at each of the 8 festival plays will be given to pre-selected schools from different parts of Croatia, which proactively try to prevent peer violence in their environment.

The festival is a competition which doesn’t include puppet performances. An expert jury of eminent theatre professionals will select and give awards to the most successful plays in seven categories.

The awards ceremony will mark the end of the festival.


Foreword by the Selector of the Festival

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the renowned international Naj naj naj festival, produced by the theatre Žar ptica, assigns itself to an activist part in the theatre world for children under the aegis of #giveyourNAJbest against peer violence, illuminating this problem through pertinent performances and an accompanying programme.

On many occasions have I stressed the fact that the theatre for children educates, entertains and raises a future audience. In this case, following their humanitarian mission theatre performances and workshops will warn children and young adults about the problems of peer violence in their social environment, invoke the capacity for empathy and teach them about solidarity with those who are weaker and different.

The recent performance of the host theatre opens the festival, Say a Word and You’re Lost!, based on the engaging text by Dina Vukelić and directed by Krešimir Dolenčić. Dynamic and vehement, echoing teenage voices and showing their specific behaviour when it comes to the problem of peer violence on a scale from emotive to physical, the performance warns about a severe generation problem.

This is what the show Violence, there is no Excuse for Violence does as well, a performance by the independent theatre THE/ARTO projekt, by author and director Zijah Sokolović, which, although being out of competition, also deals with the same topic of violence among children.

Alongside the Festival performances, the accompanying programme is comprised of educational workshops on peer violence for children, led by experts, experienced psychologists in this domain.

Shows which deal with the problems of all those eternal topics occuring in childhood and young aduldthood of our youngest audience take turns in the Festival programme. Performances that speak about the communication problem with parents, estrangement and invisibility in the adult world and the resourcefulness of children are You’re lying, Melita by Ivan Kušan, directed by Ivan Plazibat and produced by the Puppet Theatre from Split and Twins by Nikolina Rafaj and director Lea Anastazija Flegar, produced by the Theatre Marin Držić from Dubrovnik. To that group I would like to add the topic of the ˝care home child˝, who ends up at a juvenile correctional institution, experiencing all those consequences of such life without warmth and love of a family home and presented in the monodrama Hooligan by Marina Pejnović, Paško Vukasović and Matija Šakoronja, produced by Mala scena and directed by Paško Vukasović.

Two performances are based on motifs of classical fairy tales, special for their innovative reading and modern original directing, which actualize the universality of the story, bringing it closer to the sensibility of the child of the 21st century. Set to motifs of the fairy tale The Three Little Pigs, the author Tanja Novak has written the slapstick comedy I’m Not Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, produced by the well-known theatre company Pinklec from Čakovec, with a skillful dramaturgy where narrative and acted parts of the tale, songs and dancing acts take turns, while Ana Prolić presents a minimalist direction of Pushkin’s 19th century tale, The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish, produced by Zorin dom, a story on intemperance, leading to the realization on the real values of life and how to relate to them.

Performances from abroad join us from Spain and Israel; the first one, Let’s Go Fishing, by the theatre El Gecko con Botas, concerns one of the current ecological issues, interpreting it with an innovative theatrical vocabulary, while The Academy of Magic Secrets, produced by Dina Telem Group from Israel is based on a dancing, non-verbal discourse, focusing on the diversity between the phenomenon of time in everyday life as opposed to that of imagination.

Sixty one performances from abroad applied this time, twenty six from Croatia; no easy job for the selector, but by all means very interesting, defined by given criteria for an innovative direction, an important and educational topic, a universal message and attractive presentation.

In my opinion it is of utmost importance for us to watch illuminating and comprehensive performances in theatres for children that entertain, but also make us reflect. We had better leave experimenting for later years when we have taught basics of the theatrical performance to the youngest audience; once we have already infected them with the theatre.

Enjoy the magic of the theatre, evoke your emotions and become better after that.

Željka Turčinović


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