The Gavella Evenings, as a theatre festival with an undeniably rich tradition, have had an indicatively dual role through a clearly determined subtext since their very beginnings. The first one is definitely to gather the finest Croatian productions of the past season and the second one, equally important, is to show that quality theatre is also present in other theatre centres outside Zagreb, which can be seen in the importance that non-Zagreb theatre centres attach to their participation in this Festival. Having that in mind, the main task that I have set to myself as the selector of the 26thGavella Evenings was to try and play on all fronts, which would make this selection an overview of the finest performances in the whole Croatian theatrical production indeed.
Of course, I have to mention it right away, the somewhat shortened duration of the Festival has forced me to choose particularly careful. Thus, my selection is merely my on personal view on the theatrical achievements in the past season and I have approached it with only one premise, which lies in the quest for quality theatre. I think that any determined concept-setting assumed in advance when it comes to the selection, or an additional selection based on any key or matrix, is radically limitating in its essence. Also, I firmly believe that a narrowed number of quality Croatian productions in a season prevents that kind of selection, or stretches it to a point of possible break.
My task, as I understood it, was to find and recognize the theatrical language of each individual performance and from that on start to judge the quality, the consistence and the originality of the performance. The result which is now in front of you is a collection of different theatrical poetics and thoughts, which have in common the quality in the consistent stating of their own poetical expression.
This kind of thinking has led me to this year's selections for the Gavella Evenings, which include seven titles. It is my great joy that in the year when we mark the 30th anniversary of Miroslav Krleža's death, two of his plays are in the Festival programme. Gospoda Glembajevi (The Glembays) by the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb, directed by Vito Taufer is a production of long, precise, focused moves, which in great style returns this Zagreb theatre to the very top of Croatian theatre production. The second Krleža's play is Leda by the Croatian National Theatre in Osijek, directed by Ivan Leo Lemo. Bravely envisioned in the timeless space of an arcadia, this performance, completely by the standards of the ensemble in Osijek, has become the best production of this theatre in the past several seasons.
&TD Theatre presents itself with an authorial project by Oliver Frljić, It Wasn't Like That! Oliver Frljić Hates the Truth, where Frljić returns to form and, with the help of a great cast, masterfully plays the levels of (his own) truth in the text on the one hand as well as the semantic modes of its performative execution on the other. The Cyclops by Gorica Scene is the definite coda of this theatre's frutiful period. However, it would be completely wrong to perceive it from the standpoint of a failed cultural politics' decision. As an extremely authorial perception of the ancient satire play, this high-risk production is always on the cutting edge in finally just the right amount of Buljan's authorial expression and the frame it is installed in.
The co-production of Dubrovnik Summer Festival and Zagreb Youth Theatre has resulted in Gogol's The Inspector General, by all standards a great festival production, which easily leaves the same impression when put into the closed confines of a theatre. The director, Jernej Lorenci has boldly, consitently and holding nothing back, brought his own perception of this classical text, which resulted in an uncompromising production ranging high by all standards. With a production based on the prose by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, David Doiashvilli offered the equal amount of passion, only from a completely different, this time poetical, perspective. Fool's Life captures from the very beginning with its ludist imagination in a not-the-least-pretentious quest for truth in life and art.
And finally the host production, The River Takes Us, by Elvis Bošnjak, directed by Krešimir Dolenčić is a proof of quality of contemporary Croatian drama, which in a precise Dolenčić's direction allows the great ensemble to cut deeply into the intimate which never crosses the line of pathos or good taste.
All of these productions approach theatre play from different focal points at first sight, but always from the same starting position of strong playwriting and its consitent execution which will make this year's Gavella Evenings, I am sure, a space of exciting and high-quality theatre.
Zagreb, June 10, 2011