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European Theatre Convention: Renaissance and Rinaxximent

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

 Writers and Directors: Sean Buhagiar and Vlad Troitskyi

As theatres in the UK begin to reopen once more, the European Theatre Convention’s Renaissance Festival enters its second week with the release of a new selection of short films created by and celebrating the work of venues throughout the continent. Given a brief to create a piece that represents the work of the theatre, the various creative and inventive ways in which that directive has been interpreted has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of this European theatre showcase.

The two short movies created by Dakh Theatre in the Ukraine and Teatru Malta could not be more different – one offering a child’s-eye view of a youth programme frustrated by the pandemic and the other an abstract piece based on a Shakespearean sonnet and original composition that has the visual impact of an art installation.

The Trikki Trakki Youth Theatre Festival is the focus of Rinaxximent created by Sean Buhagiar for Teatru Malta and released on 24 May. It follows Leah a young participant who experiences the curtailing of the programme and, in lockdown, must remain at home. How much Leah misses Teatur Malta and her daily routine is charmingly told in Buhagiar’s film and while we see relatively little of the venue, its much wider social impact on the community that rely on it is felt clearly throughout.

This charmingly light-hearted story opens in Leah’s beloved theatre as a disembodied Official announces the closure of public spaces and her drama teacher says that next week’s class will take place online as a masked Leah scrunches her face in disappointment. For the rest of the film she must fill her time with an adult-free experience of home schooling and self-education, exploring a world of books and information on theatre, even running riot in a deserted printing press – shown in montage style cuts by Buhgaiar – s she waits for the next chapter in her theatre life to begin.

Vlad Troitskyi’s one-take film for Dakh Theatre, Ukraine is completely different, using the screen to create patterns of replicated sound and image to think about the nature and meaning of Renaissance. ‘Why is the world so unfair and cruel’ it begins, ‘do we like it that way and what can we do about it, as a breathy soundtrack accompanies on screen images of reflective fabrics shot in semi-shadow to create a patchwork impression of light and glow into which hands slowly clutch at the material.

These are soon replaced by disembodied statue heads lit in sinister fashion shot from below, overlooked by a giant woman, before the pouring of pebbles partially buries the scene which are then scraped away. This speaks to the rediscovery of art and culture, while words from a Shakespeare sonnet are given a rock soundtrack overhaul by DakhaBrakha. The whole piece, released on 19 May, is delightfully bizarre, a video art advert for the Dakh Theatre Centre of Contemporary Arts that is compelling.

With new films released everyday until the Festival concludes on 4 June these very different films from Malta and the Ukraine channel the breadth of work taking place in European Theatres. So, as the UK resumes live in-person performances, this timely and eclectic festival provides a platform for the rebirth of international theatre influences as well.

Runs here until 4 June

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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