"Theatre and drama either affect us immediately or they don't affect us at all", said Branko Gavella in his inspired essay from 1934 and I believe that the twelve selected performances that will participate in his Evenings this year will affect us in precisely the same way.
Because, Gavella Evenings are no ordinary theatre festival, a fair or an opportunity to show off well constructed repertorial tasks. I strongly believe that this manifestation is the place to show the most active, the boldest and the deepest insights into our contemporariness through the magic of the universal, that is: the gavellian theatrical act.
Using the slogan "Instantly and Strongly!" as their motto, the selected performances, through the classics of dramatic literature: Shakespeare, Krleža and Brecht, are posing difficult and often unsettling questions and trying to give even more unsettling and more truthful answers with the help of our contemporaries: Rakovec, Štivičić and the younger but strong authorial forces: Balenović, Medvešek, Anočić and Frljić.
All of the selected performances are passionate and strong, especially in the actor department and all have directors who are not afraid to cut deep into the social fabric of a transition reality which is filled with media imperatives as the first and irrefutable criterion of the time in which we live in. Being provocative here is not a superficial and empty category but a necessity woven into the strong, dramatic and authorial fabric. As many as three performances are, each in its own way, inspired by Krleža, two of them by Brecht and one by Shakespeare. Three are, on the other hand, based on a contemporary text, and three performances are bona fide authorial projects of their directors.
Aesthetically, these performances are reflections of strong and healthy theatre "collectives", thus their wholes are raised above any exhibitionism – actors' as well as directors'. While some of them explore the deepest pores of our society and time, others view the theatre as a space for continuous dialogue with the audience and criticism. Although they vary stylistically, each "like the tiny pieces of a broken mirror reflects a world of entropy and its changing face, its mask and the grinning, grotesque snout of man" , which is – if we start from the basics, in this case Shakespeare – the very essence of the universal theatrical action since Thespis.
From a contemporary point of view, all of the selected performances strive towards an active relationship with reality, drawing the viewer – through the universality of paradigms about the time and place in which we live in – into an active relationship with Croatian reality and our close as well as more remote "neighbourhoods" of today. And, as we all know, these parts have always been places of unrest, of conflict, wars, false unities and frequent implacability, political and party-arbitration, of humour that generates from pain and the dark(ness) and, above all, the eternal quest for the space of unrestrained artistic expression.
Thus we come to yet another perspective on this year's selection: all of the selected performances are characterized by strong directorial personalities and "individuals" (Gavella) who in my opinion challenge the ones who claim that Croatian directing doesn't exist (anymore) or that it is inexpertly and traditionally, therefore harmfully, guided. From the autoreferential veteran Paro, through the provocatively-inspired Magelli, amazingly-inspired Medvešek, through the sophisticated yet blunt Franka Perković, to the youngest and the most radical of Croatian directors Oliver Frljić, the selected performances offer diverse styles of directing justifying in that way another of Gavella's axioms: "There are as many styles of directing as there are true directors."
This year's Gavella Evenings will repeat what dr. Branko Gavella himself always represented during his rich activity in Croatian and European theatre – "an active, fighting spirit that fills the theatre temple" .
This is the spirit that also carries – along with the pleasure of the theatrical act – the belief in the theatre as the always new, irrefutable and indispensable fact of human creation and human evolution.
Snježana Banović, June 2008.