UK vs Serbia


Last week national Serbian TV news asked me about the future of Serbian Theatre and it’s qualities in comparison to theatre in the UK. I am clearly in a weak position to opine about UK theatre as I see so little of it, but to be asked about Serbian theatre was frankly absurd. However, with a microphone in my face and the camera rolling “I don’t know” didn’t seem a reasonable answer. Fortunately, in the panic stricken moment during which I was processing the question I realised that although I didn’t “know” I did have an opinion.

In Britain there is a wide spread cultural complacency about our theatre: Shakespeare was ‘ours’, the West End is internationally acclaimed and actors from the British stage regularly turn up in American films so ‘job done – our theatre’s obviously the best in the world’. Yet as a culture do we truly care about theatre?

In Novi Sad we were guests of Sterijino Pozorje, a sixty year old theatre festival that hosted 23 theatre shows in 8 days, supported by a 200 page catalogue in Serbian and English with critical essays about each show, which was then followed up a roundtable discussion.

The festival had a half hour nightly slot on what I think was a regional TV channel (see previous blog post). Our performances were well attended and passionately received. People were happy to engage in discussions about theatre, politics and history. A handful of national theatre critics watch our performance and I was interviewed by two newspaper journalists after the show.

Oh yes, and in a month or so the festival focused on more experimental theatre kicks off.

And oh yes, again, the waiter at the hotel said he’d seen another theatre show the previous night. It was about political corruption and a local MP was in the audience.

Serbia seems like a culture that values theatre.

If Shakespeare were to be born today of course he could find subjects to write about in the UK but how much richer his material would be in Serbia. That’s was the opinion I shared – in a truncated form – with Serbian TV viewers, so now they know and so do you.

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