400 companies from over 58 countries converge on Budapest for the tenth Theatre Olympics

From Easter to Midsummer’s night, Budapest and Hungary will become a celebratory meeting point for theatrical world as 400 companies from 58 countries converge to perform in the 10th International Theatre Olympics. Originally taking place in Greece in 1995, the event is theatrical gathering in the spirit of tradition, modernity, and the ancient Olympics. This year, companies from as far as Mexico and Japan will journey to the nation’s capital and venues around Hungary. With theatre, street theatre, dance, puppetry exhibitions and alternative arts, summer in Hungary will be packed with performance of all styles, shapes and sizes. The festival opening ceremony will take place on 15th April with street performances and concerts all over Budapest (further details TBA).

Representing the UK will be renowned theatre companies Complicité and Cheek by Jowl. Joining them are UK favourites such as Belgium’s Peeping Tom alongside a UkranianCaligula, a Chinese Faust and an Indian Macbeth. There will be a parade of giant puppets down the streets to open a two week programme of worldwide puppetry work in May, traditional Hungarian dance alongside ballet and contemporary, and a mass, international performance of Hungary’s The Tragedy of Man in dozens of language.

The slogan of the 2023 Theatre Olympics comes from The Tragedy of Man by Imre Madách: “O Man, strive on, strive on, have faith; and trust!” One of the Hungary’s greatest dramatists, born 200 years ago in 1823, the celebration of his bicentenary will be a centre point of the Hungarian Theatre Olympics.

Imre Madách’s, The Tragedy of Man, a masterpiece comparable to Goethe’s Faust, premiered 140 years ago. The work will be at the centre of special exhibition at theNational Theater of Hungary, with footage and photographs as well as visual design from award-winning set designer Mira János providing theatrical framework. Madách’s work will be presented throughout the festival in conferences and new books, culminating in a large-scale, international performance. Theatre school teams from all over the world will perform excerpts from The Tragedy of Man, and then put them together in an epic joint production, performed in dozens of languages, for the festival closing ceremony on 23rd June.

With festivals within the festival, a major part of the 10thTheatre Olympics will be played by MITEM – the 9thMadách International Theatre Meeting – Hungary’s largest theatre festival at the National Theatre in Budapest. Shows presented by MITEM classic texts from across the world, as well as new work, including:

  • Oscar winning actress Juliette Binoche performs reading The Matter of Light (7 June)
  • New and reimagined classic texts including Nora (16 – 17 April), based on Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and directed by Theodoros Terzopulos from Greece; The Tragedy of Faust (5 May) from China, and Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (12 May) from Ukraine.
  • Shakespearen tragedies including a GeorgianRichard III (26 April) and Othello (27 April), an Italian The Tempest (29 April) and an IndianMacbeth (3 – 4 May)
  • Sophocles’ Electra and Euripides’ The Trojan Women performed in Japanese (21 – 22 April)
  • Peeping Tom’s Triptych: The missing door, The lost room and The hidden floor (20 – 21 April)
  • From the UK, Complicité’s Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead (16 – 17 May), Cheek By Jowl’s Life is a Dream (2 – 3 June) and Slava’s Snow Show (16 – 18 June)

Running from 6 – 19 May, and opening with a parade of giant puppets in the streets, other highlights of the Theatre Olympics include ABSTRACT – 1st Budapest International Contemporary Puppet Festival. It will host some of the most exciting performances from France, Spain, Portugal, Mexico and beyond, as well as Dutch puppeteer Duda Paiva, Stephen Mottram from England, and German-born Ilka Schönbein. The Budapest Operetta Theatre, which is 100 years old this year, will also host a week long Csárdásfürstin Festival (3 – 11 June).

The theatres in Budapest and all over Hungary will join the Hungarian Olympics; and they will host one production from abroad and one from a transborder Hungarian theatre – the choice of which is up to them. In this way, the Hungarian-language theatres of Hungary’s neighbouring countries can be part of the Olympics, and the invitation of international companies can create long-term partnerships for Hungarian theatres.

Theodoros Terzopulos, Chairman of the International Committee of the Theatre Olympics, said, “Hungary, with its great and far-reaching theatrical traditions, has been taking an active part in the global developments in the field of theatre practice and theory. Budapest, a beautiful and unique monument of the world’s cultural heritage, is an international cultural metropolis ready to build bridges connecting other theatrical traditions. Well-staffed with talented and experienced artistic, technical and administrative experts, the National Theatre is the institutional hub of Hungarian theatre that is as open to avant-garde international theatrical proposals as it is to upholding the principles of tradition. Thus it is well-placed to build new bridges between different schools and stage languages. In this day and age when homogenization of the theatre is the prevailing trend, the National Theatre, whose motto is reconciliation and New Humanism, embraces diversity, tolerance and multiculturalism.”

The Theatre Olympics

A theatrical gathering created in Greece in 1995 in the spirit of tradition, modernity, and the ancient Olympics. The founders were renowned directors and playwrights from Greece, Japan, the USA, Spain, the UK, Russia, Germany and Brazil. From time to time, one of the largest and most prestigious events in world theatre finds a home in a particular city or country. The 2023 Olympics in Budapest will be the10th in the history of Theatre Olympics.

Olympic cities and messages

1995 – Delphoi (Greece): Crossing Millennia

1999 – Shizuoka (Japan): Creating Hope

2001 – Moscow (Russia): Theatre for the People

2006 – Istanbul (Turkey): Beyond Borders

2010 – Seoul (South Korea): Love and Humanity

2014 – Beijing (China): Dream

2016 – Wrocław (Poland): The World as a Place of Truth

2018 – New Delhi (India): Flag of Friendship

2019 – Saint Petersburg (Russia) – Toga (Japan): Creating Bridges

2023 – Budapest (Hungary): O Man, strive on, strive on, have faith; and trust!

Madách International Theatre Meeting, (MITEM)

The 9th Madách International Theatre Meeting, MITEM, will take place at the National Theatre in Budapest. The success of MITEM led the International Theatre Olympics Committee to entrust the National Theatre and Attila Vidnyánszky with the organisation of the 2023 Olympics. At Hungary’s largest theatre festival, Hungarian audiences will be able to experience the work of such theatre giants as Theodoros Terzopoulos, Suzuki Tadashi, Romeo Castellucci, Slava Polunin, Heiner Goebbels, Eugenio Barba, Alessandro Serra, Liu Libin and Declan Donnellan. Attila Vidnyánszky, director of National Theatre, Budapest, said “Since its foundation in 2014, MITEM has been organised in the spirit of dialogue, openness and curiosity. These times of crisis make it even more important to save our values via the imaginary ark of the theatre. Culture helps maintain the bridges of dialogue that politics destroys.”

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Written by Theatrefullstop