Photo by Jakov Simović
Photo by Jakov Simović

Good evening!

The Butterfly Effect

I wish to congratulate you on this important celebration: 1967 - 2023. In a few minutes the holy spectator and the holy actor will start their prayer.

Holy, the adjective used by Jerzy Grotowski, naturally does not belong to classic religion. This metaphor may be interpreted as a definition of a person ready to sacrifice. 

A group of young people, together with Apollinaire, believe that theatre is not the same thing as life, just as a wheel is not a leg; the result of their constant dissatisfaction with the entire reality transformed itself into a celebration of a new theatre, whose poetics was mostly captured by the three Belgrade Grand Prix-winning plays:

The Constant Prince (Calderón-Słowacki), Wrocław, Poland; 

Troilus and Cressida (Shakespeare), Bucharest, Romania;

Three Sisters (Chekhov), Prague, Czechoslovakia, directed by Jerzy Grotowski, David Esrig, Otomar Krejča!

The fruitful endeavour continued over the next years through inspirational formulas, with imagination and incitement: Classics in the manner of the 70s, Free forms 71, Director of a new reality 72 and Roots, Theatricalism 74, Between Myth and Reality (1975).

There is less and less misunderstanding, the aesthetics and the ethic of BITEF are ever more acceptable, and already the tenth celebration is on its way: Deuxieme saison mondiale - Theatre des nations Bitef. 

The grand opening of the Theatre of Nations, with Madeleine Renaud and Jean-Louis Barrault. The City Hall became a theatre for the first time. 

There is no end to great, world-renowned names: Lybimov, Wajda, Brook, Chéreau, Wilson, Bergman, Beckett... New spaces for imagination... A constant influx of new spectators... A bridge to playing together…

The country opened up, the world came closer, new actors were on board, all titles, both old and new, in new arenas, with new interpretations, a yet undiscovered meaning is looked for... The labyrinth, the mirror, the paradox… 

All the languages and all the epochs serve as a building material... The past coexists with the present and in a new genre, there is a glimpse of the future…

En attendant Godot, Waiting for Godot was performed even in the infamous State Prison San Quentin, which had never seen a play performed... All meaning is contained in a single piece. Waiting at the end of the century and millennium. In Budva’s City-Theatre, Beckett’s tragicomedy was performed as a single play with a double cast of actors - a male, combative one at the Citadel, and a female, peace-bearing one by the sea on Mogren beach... Trying to interpret his own piece at Schiller Theatre, Beckett got to as many as 105 pages in his Book of Directions. In search of even more profound interpretations, at the end of his life, Beckett wrote an essay titled I Do Not Know Who Godot Is.

Where will theatre go after Beckett? It’s not an unexpected question to be posed by connoisseurs. 

At the crossroads between the 20th and 21st centuries, in BITEF’s time-space, it seems clear that Planet Earth has become a single stage. The world repertoire is being performed to show off new forms unlike those from the past. 

The Globe is an indivisible whole, down to its last bit. 

Criss-crossed stages make it an even more attractive, fulfilling and unique place. 

Always in BITEF’s peculiar manner: in the middle of Australia at a performance staged by the aboriginal community members, Mahabharata at Brook’s Theatre, Hamlet at the Globe or New Fortress Theatre (Nova Tvrđava teatar), at the “Changes” Theatre or Sarajevo’s Eastwest Centre... Your children and then your grandchildren will be watching plays even on the Moon...

But always in a different fashion!

The interplay between life and art is secretive and elusive. Theatre keeps changing, but remains the same at its core?!

Can theatre change the audience? No doubt about that. Every spectator is a witness. How come then that there are so many theatres and the world has never been worse, with post-truth and growing evils?!
Anyway, without art, life would be much harsher.

Legend has it that the first performance of the tragedy Persians, was watched by the victorious soldiers, only eight years after the naval battle depicted in the play; the soldiers were standing on the remains of the sunken Persian galleys, hauled from Salamina to the slopes of the Acropolis (where the ruins of the theatre of Dionysus lie). The writer Aeschylus himself fought in the battle which he then eternalised on stage.

This summer Nikita Milivojević set the plot of the oldest remaining Greek tragedy on the battlefield of this historic battle. He took the audience down the historically empty spaces of real Salamina, the actors-descendants followed the traces of their ancestors.

Life and art equally compellingly embody the Chinese saying that Everything is interconnected. A butterfly flaps its wings in Madagascar and is causes a storm in Belgrade, or at least on stage.

Life is a dream, says BITEF’s ingenious bard. Is not a play any different?! Tonight a girl, wearing a shirt with the inscription Do not forget to dream, will come to watch The Children of the Sun at the Yugoslav Drama Theatre.

Thank you for coming. Let us pray!