Sunday, 13 June 2010

ARENA Festival - 20 Years

Back in 1999 we took our show Shallow Water to the Arena Festival in Erlangen, having been seen at the Diskurs Festival in Geissen the previous year. Both are international theatre festivals produced by students, and my experience of both, particularly considering that the team that runs each festival changes each year, is that they are fantastic. Both festivals boast an impressive alumni of international theatre makers.

In 2001 I was invited back to Arena as a member of the jury, which was a great experience. The 20th edition of Arena opens this week, and I was asked to contribute something to a book of memories of the festival. Here's what I sent them:
I remember that it was hot that week – and the hotel staff thought I was mad to want to go in the sauna after I had been out for a run. The evenings were warm, and our jury discussions were usually outside.

I remember that every show we saw was distinct – a different genre and a different venue. I remember that I liked all of the shows. I remember the five – I think it was five? - of us sitting around a high cafĂ© bar table, wondering how on earth we could choose a “winner” out of such a varied selection. We decided that our criteria would be the show that best passed the test it had set itself. We wondered if we were “allowed” to give the prize to the co-production between Akhe and the Arena team. But we had been sent to see it, and, by the criteria we had chosen, and in fact by most criteria we could come up with, it was the “winner”. And it was a great show. I still remember the thrill of the moment the seating bank moved for the first time, and realising that this weird Russian welding show we were watching was just the first part of something much bigger.

I think back on that week fondly. A great festival.

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