Focus Silviu Purcărete. The National Theater Festival brings performances craved by the world’s greatest festivals to Bucharest
The star of the theatrical week that begins today with the one-act opera Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini and ends on Sunday 4 November with Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, via Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett and Gulliver’s Travels after Jonathan Swift, is, at first sight, a stage director that is as foreign to this status as can be. As generous and fertile in his art as he is reclusive and tight-lipped (his haste to withdraw into the shadow of his shows, leaving to others the task of “explaining” them, is legendary), Silviu Purcărete’s new and old productions undoubtedly deserved to be presented by the most important local theatrical reunion in a single “framework”, as they are all still fresh and wanted by an always numerous audience.
Mega-dimensional or miniature, sur- or hyper-realistic, ludic, gentle, comical and full of grace, or on the contrary, full of cruelty, the worlds created by Silviu Purcărete cannot be brought to the same denominator. If a Purcărete section is certainly a safe bet in any festival of the world, from Avignon to Edinburgh (where his shows have been acclaimed), the NTF can boast on its 22nd edition four reference points of his ample world. Watched in succession, they do not only compose the eloquent image of an unique artist, who moves with ease from Shakespeare to Beckett and from Giacomo Puccini to Jonathan Swift, but also highlight / and clarify / the poles of creativity in our theatrical movement. It is impossible to remember just one of Silviu Purcărete’s memorable shows staged at Marin Sorescu National Theater in Craiova, all of them invited to perform on major stages of the world, from Ubu Rex with Scenes from Macbeth by Alfred Jarry/William Shakespeare, Phaedra after Euripides and Seneca, The Danaids and Oresteia by Aeschylus, to Titus Andronicus and The Night at the End of the Fair (Twelfth Night), both by Shakespeare. Although discovered more recently, Purcărete’s affinity with the two troupes of Radu Stanca National Theater in Sibiu materialized in the memorable Pilafs and Donkey Perfume after Arabian Nights, Metamorphoses after Ovid, and especially the sublime Faust by J.W. Goethe, a huge success at the Edinburgh Festival in 2009. After Pantagruel’s Sister-in-law, inspired by Rabelais’s works, it is Silviu Purcărete’s second collaboration with the excellent actors of the Hungarian State Theater in Cluj, with an amazing result.
The section dedicated to the stage director in the National Theater Festival begins today at the Bucharest National Opera with two successive (at 17.00 and 20.00) performances of Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini (Hungarian State Theater in Cluj).
In Gianni Schicchi, Silviu Purcărete finds an occasion to unveil a comical and grotesque world, where drama is wrapped in bursts of laughter and cries succeeding one another at a quick pace.
Probably the most eagerly expected moment of the section, Gulliver’s Travels, subtitled “stage exercises inspired from Jonathan Swift’s works” (Radu Stanca National Theater in Sibiu), is also the first show commissioned by the Edinburgh International Festival to be produced in Romania, which also won the Herald Angel Award granted by the Bank of Scotland at the 2012 edition of the great theatrical event. Gulliver… will also be performed twice: Friday 2 November at 18.00 and 21.30 at the Grand Hall of the Bucharest National Theater.
Silviu Purcărete propounds an original approach to Swift’s novel, in which the imagination mingles with a harsh political, social and cultural satire of today’s world. Gulliver’s Travels crushes every childhood memory about the famous character. Those with only a superficial knowledge of Anglo-Irish Jonathan Swift’s (1667-1745) works will be very surprised by Purcărete’s production.
The same Radu Stanca National Theater in Sibiu presents Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett on Saturday 3 November at 21.30 and Sunday 4 November at 18.00, at Bulandra Theater’s Liviu Ciulei Hall.
In Purcărete’s show Samuel Beckett’s tramps Vladimir and Estragon, a kind of tragic Laurel and Hardy, are waiting anxiously. Estragon, an excessively fat man, has a rough time taking his shoes off and putting them on, while the gaunt Vladimir looks spent by illness and fear. A divine piece by Schubert accompanies the announcement made by a child: No, sir! Godot isn’t coming today…
A production of Marin Sorescu National Theater in Craiova, Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare will close the Festival with a single performance on Sunday 4 November at 21.30 on Bucharest National Theater’s Grand Hall stage.
Purcărete, a real Shakespeare specialist, proposes a clear, nuanced reading of the text, in which all the elements and details blend and interact in a stunningly beautiful, perfectly balanced tableau. Vasile Şirli’s music gives rhythm to the macabre dance of disturbing visions conjured by the show. A skeptical, sarcastic, bitter show. A show about man and people.
Two special moments, a film screening and a virtual book launch, complete the Focus: Silviu Purcărete, a stage director’s world section. In the absence of the stage director, presently honoring his professional commitments on other meridians, the National Theater Festival offers the audience an indiscreet, but the more seductive, peek into the creative lab of a great show. Thursday 1 November at 18.00, the documentary Island. In A Tempest: Silviu Purcărete (66 min.), both an exercise of admiration and a document, directed by Laurențiu Damian, will be screened at Bulandra Theater’s Liviu Ciulei Hall.
A Tempest is Silviu Purcărete’s third staging of Shakespeare’s play. It premiered this year at Marin Sorescu National Theater in Craiova.
“The Tempest is so rich and mysterious that, were I to stage it once again, I think I would find entirely different doors to enter through. It is a very strange labyrinth. There are straight ways, and there are tortuous ways, which every time take you to the same place, but you keep discovering new places all the time,” Silviu Purcărete affirmed in a recent interview.
“The film In A Tempest: Silviu Purcărete. Rehearsals is a film about what the audience does not see. It is about the effort behind the curtain. The magus-director works on a theatrical act with a group of wonderful actors. Then he remains in the wings and cannot intervene any more. The show is performed, and the magus turns into a spectator himself. After many years, this film will be a valuable document. Perhaps that is why I shot hours and hours with Silviu Purcărete (of all people), who hates cameras and publicity,” says the author of the film.
Saturday 3 November at 15.00 at Bastilia bookstore (Piața Romană nr.5), LiterNet publishers will launch the electronic book Measure for Measure, containing the text of the performance of Craiova, which demonstrates once again that Silviu Purcărete is one of the stage directors who are very faithful to the text they bring on stage.
Born in Bucharest in 1950. Graduated from the Institute of Theatrical and Cinematographic Art in Bucharest (class of Valeriu Moisescu, 1974). He worked in Piatra Neamţ, Constanţa, Bucharest and, from 1988, at the National Theater in Craiova, where he directed the shows that brought him worldwide renown after 1990: The Dwarf in the Summer Garden by Dumitru Radu Popescu (1989) and Ubu Rex with scenes from Macbeth by Alfred Jarry/William Shakespeare (1990), followed, at the same theater, by Titus Andronicus by Shakespeare, Phaedra after Euripides and Seneca, The Suppliants [The Danaids] and The Oresteia by Aeschylus, The Night at the End of the Fair (Twelfth Night) and Measure for Measure by Shakespeare. Other shows: Richard III by Shakespeare, The Decameron after Boccaccio, Three Sisters by Chekhov, Dom Juan by Molière, Troilus and Cressida by Shakespeare, Pilafs and Donkey Perfume after Arabian Nights, Pantagruel’s Sister-in-Law after Francois Rabelais, Faust by J.W. Goethe (2007, Radu Stanca National Theater of Sibiu, successfully presented at the Edinburgh Festival in 2009), Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, Metamorphoses after Ovid, and opera shows. He worked at theaters in Britain (Royal Shakespeare Company, Nottingham Playhouse), Austria (Burgtheater), France (Théâtre de l’Union), Norway (National Theater of Bergen, Det Norske Teatret in Oslo), Portugal (São João National Theater), Hungary (Katona József Theater in Budapest and Csokonai Theater in Debrecen), as well as the Opera theaters in Bonn, Cardiff, Vienna, Essen. In 1996 he became Director of the DramaCenter in Limoges, where he produced several shows and founded a school for young actors.
He is Commander of the Star of Romania Order and Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in France.
He received the Critics’ Prize and the Hamada Foundation Artistic Excellence Prize at the Edinburgh International Festival (1991), the Best Foreign Production Prize at the Festival of the Americas (Montreal, 1993), the Peter Brook Award for Best Staging in the Golden Globe award ceremony (1995), the Critics’ Award at the Dublin Theater Festival (1996), the Special Jury Award at the international Gdansk Shakespeare Festival (2006), the UNITER Best Director Award (1993 and 2005), and the UNITER Excellence Award (1997 and 2010, with the company of the show Faust from Radu Stanca National Theater in Sibiu).