Photo: Jakov Simović
Photo: Jakov Simović

Radmila Petrović's verse "Strength, Don’t Let Yourself Be Anyone’s" was chosen as the slogan of this year's festival. How does it inspire you? Where do you think strength truly resides?

In our being. In thinking, in our attitude towards reality, towards ordinary, everyday life, towards overcoming all challenges, in faith in ourselves, in faith in others, in faith if not in a better, then in a different tomorrow. In education, in work on oneself, in the individual and the collective, in dignity and simplicity of life.

Erste Bank has been with Bitef for several years now, and our partnership is getting stronger. What does this cooperation look like from your perspective?

If I can quote Njegoš: "Without effort, a song is not sung, without effort, a sword is not sheathed." We started our association with Bitef in a year that, I believe, we all want to forget, a year of coronavirus pandemic, isolation, and fear, a year that for the 54th and 55th Bitef could not have happened, considering all the unfavourable circumstances that it was exposed to both in the organizational and financial sense.

We are glad that the On the Edge of the Future programme did happen after all and that we were with Bitef that endured, rising like a phoenix above everything and everyone. And it was spectacular. We, the Heroes of Our Labour again, as expected for Bitef, touched on some other social phenomena, the war in Ukraine, and the consequences of the pandemic - general and individual survival. We are grateful to Ivan Medenica, the artistic director of the 56th Bitef, for the brilliantly selected, relevant and prestigious performances after which we felt different, invigorated and encouraged. Because there still is hope, no matter how bad things are.

We are also looking forward to this edition, we are impatiently waiting for October, and we are especially glad that the programme of this year's Bitef was designed not only by the new artistic director Nikita Milivojević, but by two ladies as well.

What are your first thoughts at the mention of the Bitef Festival?

More than a half-century of duration. 57 years of magic, of the expected, and much more often of the unexpected, of the challenging, provocative, brave, different, one’s own. And of course, Mrs Mira Trailović. The volcano woman, the miracle of our theatre, forever the first lady of the past, present and future Bitef. When I heard this year's slogan, I immediately thought of Mira, it reminded me of her and all that she was made of and woven from. I believe she would have liked it.

Performances from all over the world are coming to Bitef again this year. Of the nine pieces that we will see in the main programme, which one would you recommend first?

It is hard to recommend any show without seeing it first. Luckily, I have read Dante's Divine Comedy several times and Maxim Gorky's Children of the Sun, so I'll definitely be watching those two plays. This latter one in particular, because the director set it in the 1960s, which I remember well, and I think it will be interesting. I won't miss the show from Greece, Goodbye, Lindita; I am always on the side of young authors, and beginners, especially if they bring us a new, different expression, a personal perspective. In fact, if I manage - I will watch all the plays.

To my great regret, Bitef is only once a year.