Photo: Matthias Horn
Photo: Matthias Horn

Created in 1905 after the workers protests in St. Petersburg, known as "Bloody Sunday", the play "Children of the Sun" follows the members of the Protasov family, whose home, a kind of ivory tower, slowly begins to collapse while cholera rages around them.

Maxim Gorky wrote this work while imprisoned in the notorious Peter and Paul Fortress after he was arrested for speaking openly against the Russian Tsar. In order to avoid censorship, he moved the plot several decades back, at a time when a cholera epidemic spread around the lower Volga, followed by famine and numerous riots.

He thus focuses on a group of idealist intellectuals and artists completely detached from the harsh reality of the outside world. As the story progresses, they increasingly struggle with their own internal contradictions, while the world around them undergoes significant social and political changes, i.e., the revolution.

Photo: Matthias Horn
Photo: Matthias Horn

"Slovenian director Mateja Koležnik places her Children of the Sun in a time a little closer to us, and in the context of a kind of revolution, i.e., in the sixties of the 20th century, doing precise and detailed portraits of the characters, in an equally very detailed, precise and hyper-realistic depiction of the stage," says the selector team of this year's Bitef. "At first glance, this play seems like a museum artefact, a theatrical exhibit from a bygone era. However, what Koležnik is really doing is bringing Gorky's characters closer to us, the people of today, who live in a world defined by crises again and again."

Koležnik (Metlika, 1962) studied comparative literature and literary theory at the University of Ljubljana, as well as theater direction at the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television. She is one of the most famous directors of the contemporary Slovenian theater scene, and apart from the ex-Yugoslav region, she has also achieved great success in German-speaking countries. Her performances have been awarded at numerous European and international festivals, and in 2018 she won the prestigious Austrian Theater Prize Nestroy for the adaptation of Chekhov's play "Ivanov".

Return to Great Theatrical Values

After the initial censorship, "Children of the Sun" by Maxim Gorky premiered in October 1905 in Moscow. Schauspielhaus Bochum staged the play directed by Mateja Koležnik last October, and the performance soon became a great success.

The daily Westfälischer Anzeiger wrote that it is an adaptation that "illuminates each individual role in order to make the personal dimension of political change tangible", while the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung assessed that it is "an extraordinary return to the great theatrical values".

Watch the trailer here
Watch the trailer here

The critics appraised not only the direction itself but also the cast led by the famous Dutch theater and television actor Guy Clemens and a rising Dutch theater star Anna Rietmeyer.

"The casting is so perfect that almost every single role is performed a shade better, more dynamic, or more refined than one might imagine when reading the play." And, of course, not every theater can do that," wrote Martin Krumbholz in his review published on the portal.

The award-winning Austrian stage designer Raimund Orfeo Voigt, with whom Koležnik has been collaborating for many years, is responsible for the impressive stage design. The costumes were made by Ana Savić-Gecan from Zagreb, who is recognized for her work both in the theater and in film - she has so far won as many as three Golden Arenas at the Film Festival in Pula.

Strength, Don't Let Yourself Be Anyone's

This year's edition of Bitef, the 57th, will be held between 3rd and 10th October. Under the slogan "Strength, Don't Let Yourself Be Anyone's", the festival audience will have the opportunity to watch nine plays in the main programme that come from Germany, Lithuania, Hungary, Sweden, Greece, Burkina Faso, Belgium, and Serbia.

The festival has traditionally been supported by the Secretariat for Culture of the City of Belgrade and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia, as well as the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Goethe Institute. New Moment New Ideas Company, the festival's creative agency, is a partner and friend of Bitef. Festival partners this year are Generali Insurance Srbija, Erste Bank a.d. Novi Sad, as well as the friends of the Coca-Cola Hellenic Serbia festival, 1664 Blanc and Somersby, Rajićeva Shopping Center, and the Halo Creative team.