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A laboratory of memory and of the future

Finisterra Festival

Author: Nuno Cardoso

The theatre, just like Europe, can be defined in many ways. Europe, just like the theatre, contains multitudes. Thirty years ago, the Union des Théâtres de l’Europe was founded on this belief and built as a “multinational house”. A Théâtre sans Frontières. So, how to rekindle that drive, how to affirm those objectives in the third decade of the 21st century, amidst a world trauma, a catastrophe called Covid-19, that painfully reminded us of our differences and distances, of our fragility and our mortality? How to build mutual relationships, how to make agreement and disagreement (and whatever may lie in between) the cornerstone of a new beginning, when Europe faces yet again the violence of war? What is the way forward for us, for the UTE? One thing seems clear: we must not be afraid to tackle the most pressing issues, questions and themes of our times. Issues that may inspire us all – citizens, artists, audiences – to develop, to grow stronger and to reflect upon ourselves and our everyday actions. Such is the main objective of the Catastrophe project that reaches its fruition with Finisterra – International Productions Showcase: the (re)construction of something bigger than each one of the member theatres alone. A roof, a port, a meeting point, a place of freedom and imagination, enabling us to reactivate our interrelations, our solidarity, instilling new energy and purpose into our institution, the Union – and, essentially, allowing us yet again “[…] to contribute to the building of the European Union through culture and theatre, to encourage a collective cultural movement that breaks through language barriers in order to develop an art theatre which is seen as a vector of fraternity among people.” (Jack Lang) In 2023, the pandemic, the war and our everyday strife give us a picture of Europe that seems very far away from the words of Jack Lang. The fragility of the social, cultural and economic experiment we call Europe is an open wound that must be dealt with. A wound that festers with the politics of fear and hostility, and with divisive issues such as gender, migration, welfare, identity, environment, wealth, etc. A wound that affords an opportunity for charlatans to peddle the false remedies of populism and alternate realities through an overdose of media and a deluge of opinion rather than fact. Finisterra is the beginning of a possible response to these afflictions. The theatre as a laboratory for debating the political and social agenda of our cities, our communities. The theatre as a catalyst of thought, paving the way for discussion through artistic creation and partnership, the fusion of horizons. Finisterra is also the beginning of a possible way to rediscover the prime objective of the UTE: the establishment of a network of theatres that jointly set out to create a theatre of Europe based on diversity, democracy, humanism, solidarity and sustainability. The Teatro Nacional São João is fully committed to Finisterra, not because of its UTE membership, not because of the diktat of internationalization, but because we believe that the creation of a theatre forum, where exchange and debate based on the individual cultural heritage of each participant is fostered, remains as one of the most important aspects of our mission as a National Theatre. In other words: to become a meeting point, a turning point, to bring together different generations and backgrounds through artistic creation, should be the foundation of our House. The theatre, as a laboratory of memory and of the future, able to contain multitudes, is still, therefore, one of the best vaccines against the fear and fury of the present.

NUNO CARDOSO Artistic Director of Teatro Nacional São João