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Thoughts on Finisterra

Finisterra Festival

Author: Gábor Tompa

Two years ago, right at the outburst of the pandemic, the Union des Théâtres de l’Europe celebrated 30 years since its foundation. A year later, another important anniversary followed: the centenary of the birth of Giorgio Strehler, the visionary theatre director and European humanist, who along with Jack Lang, then French Minister of Culture, founded this outstanding international community, bringing together some of our continent’s most influential theatres. Strehler’s dream was to create a network of committed and exceptional artists and theatres, which through their permanent collaboration and artistic exchange would establish a bridge between different cultures and make theatre the ambassador of high cultural, moral, ethical and human values. For many years, one of the Union’s most important achievements was the UTE annual festival, alternately hosted by each of its member theatres, an occasion for showing the latest and best productions of the Union’s members, as well as some of the most powerful new tendencies in European theatre. This event was held for more than 15 years, and then, due to the 2008 economic crisis, as well as to tensions within the organization, it came to a sudden halt. In 2019, after a 11-year hiatus with overly negative effects on the Union’s collaborative projects, we decided to revive this important and ambitious festival in Cluj, Romania, featuring performances from 14 of our 15 member theatres, and set about to resume the annual periodicity of this vital event. Unfortunately, the global pandemic prevented the festival from happening in the last two years. As the crisis in Europe and the entire world deepened with the outburst of the devastating war in Ukraine, in addition to more than two dozen other ongoing wars in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, we felt the responsibility to reconsider the place and role of the theatre and its stance in safeguarding human values worldwide, and to send a strong message for peace and solidarity. Therefore, as the result of the efforts of the entire Board of Directors and especially of two of its leading members, Vice-President Nuno Cardoso and Secretary Florian Hirsch, we launched Catastrophe, the Union’s largest project since 2019, which comprises five co-productions involving the participation of twelve theatres from all over Europe. The starting point was Greek drama, as the root of European theatre – plays from ancient times adapted for contemporary situations. It is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the meaning of theatre-making and on how this endangered art form can awaken our conscience and raise our awareness of the urgent need to act while we still have time to avoid a global catastrophe.

However, Finisterra – the showcase where all these works will be presented thanks to Teatro Nacional São João – is not the end of the world. In fact, it is a new beginning for the hope that artists from different parts of the Old Continent may work together and wholeheartedly to fulfil the mission that both Hamlet and Strehler have entrusted to us as a weighty legacy: to hold up a mirror to nature and make this world a better place to live in.

GÁBOR TOMPA President of the Union des Théâtres de l’Europe